Serial watchers distrusted Anthony Warde on sight. Under a snap-brim hat, with thin lips, roughly dimpled, firmly set chin and cold steely eyes, he was the perfect henchman, appearing in 23 serials at Republic, Universal and Columbia from 1937’s “Tim Tyler’s Luck” (as Spider Webb’s
henchman Garry Drake) to 1950’s “Radar Patrol Vs. Spy
Born November 4, 1908, in Pennsylvania, he was trained as a stage actor. Although he preferred comedy and found it easier to do (unlike many actors) he did a play, “Blind Alley” where he portrayed a neurotic killer which led to film roles, forever cast as a heavy.
In “Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars” in ‘38 Warde was King Fir of the Forest People. He’s well remembered as Killer Kane, arch enemy of Buster Crabbe’s “Buck
Warde told interviewer Greg Jackson in 1974 that he preferred working at Universal because, “…generally speaking, Universal spent more money on their serials. Columbia was the cheapest. But it was a matter of the personalities you worked with at the time. We had fun in those days wherever we were.”
Having been likened to a new Paul Muni in stage productions, Warde said he only did serials “as a livelihood. I wasn’t given the opportunity…the time…to do anything of a serious nature. I always felt self conscious playing a heavy. I’m really a nice guy. (Laughs)”
Warde recalls “Masked Marvel” as a horrible experience because the four leading men, hired because of their similar appearance, could not act or remember their lines. Warde also offered up great praise for the stuntmen… “Duke Green was really the mentor. Dale Van Sickel would double for me for obvious reasons, if he was available.”
Warde called it quits in 1956 (except for a small role in “The Carpetbaggers” in ‘64) and opened a successful clothing store in Hollywood. One of the best serial heavies died January 8, 1975, of cancer.
Q: I am a big fan of Myron Healey. When he made “Panther Girl of the Kongo” was he pleased he was the good guy for a change after portraying so many villains? I have always felt the mark of a good actor was the ability to be able to play both the good and the bad on screen. I liked “Panther Girl” because he and Phyllis Coates made it work.
Myron Healey: “Actually, Phyllis did all the work. She made it easy as evidenced by the show. Just as the title implies, it’s about her. She needed someone to bounce a few lines off, things like that. So they had to put a character in there, I think his name was Larry…and that’s all I did. Very few heroic moments…I think I got to save her twice out of 12 chapters. The rest of the time she was always saving me. In fact, that was next to the last serial made (at Republic). Harry Lauter made the last one.”
“There’s much more leeway in playing a heavy, you can get more out of the role. With the existing dialogue, you get more of a chance to pull things out of it…character and personality. Leads, unless they’re written for A-pictures, are usually, in serials, written in such a stock way that there’s no imagination to speak of and you can’t do much with it. It’s just bland. But with a heavy, you just play it straight and it’s just plain interesting, the fact that you’re not a nice guy. (Laughs) I enjoyed that much more than playing a hero. I actually didn’t play a hero that often.”
“‘Panther Girl’ was fun ‘cause we got to board and ride an elephant…and wrestle a crocodile…that sort of thing was exciting, it was fun. The elephant helps you a lot, you just stand there and he holds his trunk up and helps you get up there. Like having an elevator. He gets down on the ground before you climb aboard anyway. It was an exciting thing! How many people get to ride on an elephant?”
“Everything was uncomfortable…they had constant changes of wardrobe for us ‘cause we got dumped in so much slush. Then they had to match it up, ‘cause you couldn’t sit around in a soaking wardrobe, you’d have pneumonia in no time!”
“The greatest thing about ‘Panther Girl’ was getting a chance to really work and be with Phyllis. She was one hell of a gal! And we had a few guys on the show I’d worked with before—Holly Bane…I knew everybody on it. It was like a kid running out in the yard playing.”
Rex, King of Wild Horses
Rex, the King of Wild Horses, starred in four sound serials (“Vanishing Legion”—‘31 , “Law of the Wild”—‘35, “Adventures of Rex and Rinty”—‘35, “Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island”—‘36) and many features. And I do mean starred: he had top billing in three of those serials.
His career started with silent films in ‘24 (“King of the Wild Horses”) and, like most movie stars, his past was reconstructed by Hollywood. Here’s how Rex was promoted in ‘28 for an article in UNIVERSAL WEEKLY. Rex is positioned as somewhat of a “mystery horse” by his trainer, Jack Lindell. No one knows anything about Rex’s pedigree although it’s certain he’s a Morgan horse. “Lindell speaks with authority when he states only one Texas ranch raised Morgan horses at the time Rex was born. It’s probable Rex was foaled in captivity and ran away at an early age to join a band of wild horses.” (I love the “probable.”) “He became leader of the band and was captured by the late Chick Morrison and Lindell.” They allegedly sold him to the state of Colorado, remaining with him as trainers. “Rex was used for breeding purposes and has done much to improve the strain of Colorado horses.” The article goes on to say Morrison and Lindell turned Rex into a “remarkably well-trained horse, even obeying orders at a distance. He’ll join a wild horse herd and return to his trainer at the word, all of which makes him exceedingly valuable for screen work. Hal Roach purchased Rex from the state of Colorado and made four pictures with him.” (“The King of Wild Horses”, “Devil Horse” with Yakima Canutt, “Black Cyclone” and “No Man’s Law”.) “Carl Laemmle purchased Rex from Roach several months ago at a price said to be the highest ever paid for a horse (I lovethe “said to be”) and plans to make a series of pictures with the wonderful equine actor.”
Amusingly, the article claims many Hollywood actors are jealous because Mme. Elinor Glyn (author of the best-selling IT!) declared “Rex has ‘it.’ He is not just a horse. He has personality and exudes something beyond all this, and that is the spirit of romance.” The article goes on to mention Rex’s first Universal film will be “Wild Beauty” (‘27) and “Henry MacRae, who gave up the position as general manager of Universal City to return to directing, holds the megaphone.”
As to Rex’s origins, probably closer to the truth is Raymond Lee’s claim in NOT SO DUMB (Castle Books, ‘70) that Rex was the product of Clarence “Fat” Jones’ ranch, which later also produced Flicka, and King (of TV). Lee says “Rex was the first horse to be starred on his own without the help of a big name. A vicious bay stallion, he was mistreated as a colt and never forgot it.” Jones is quoted as saying, “Rex made plenty of money for Hal Roach and was quite a personality. But he never got to where you could trust him. Rex was a mean horse to the end.”
According to research, Rex, a black bay stallion, was apparently foaled at the Morgan Farm in Texas [circa 1920] and as a colt was sold to the Colorado State Boys’ Reformatory where he was possibly abused. Story has it he went loco one day, threw his young rider and dragged him to death. Confined to a box stall for two years, Rex was discovered by noted Hollywood trainer, Chick Morrison (brother of silent star Pete Morrison but not to be confused with heavy Chuck Morrison) on a ranch near Golden, CO. Morrison told “Fat” Jones he thought the horse would make a great equine star. At that time Jones owned the largest stable in Hollywood for movie rental horses. Jones sent Jack Lindell, one of Hollywood’s greatest horse trainers, to help Morrison bring Rex back. The price paid for the magnificent stallion was reportedly $150.
After appearing in movies for Hal Roach, the NY TIMES reported on 1/27/27 that Rex was sold to Universal, the first transfer of an animal in movies, and appeared in several Jack Perrin Universal silents. Rex was so wild, horse doubles had to be used for close-up scenes with the actors. Rex romped for about 15 years and reportedly made over $100,000 for his various owners.
According to Yakima Canutt, rancher Lee Doyle of near Flagstaff, AZ, bought Rex in the mid ‘30s with his last film work being in “King of the Sierras” (‘39 Grand National) and “Gentleman From Arizona” (‘39 Monogram), filmed in Arizona.