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Chapter One Hundred Thirteen

Remembering Frances Gifford

Newspaper article about Frances Gifford.

Frances Gifford as Nyoka.Born in Long Beach, CA, a talent scout brought her to the Goldwyn Studio. After minor roles she moved to RKO. In 1938, at 18, she married actor James Dunn and co-starred with him in “Mercy Plane”. Republic cast her as Nyoka in “Jungle Girl”, the first time since Pearl White in the silent era that an actress had played the lead in a serial. Unavailable for the sequel, “Perils of Nyoka”, the part went to Kay Aldridge.

Gifford’s marriage to Dunn failed in ‘42 due to his alcoholism but Gifford went on to work in A-films like “The Glass Key”, “Tarzan Triumphs”, “Our Vines Have Tender Grapes”, “She Went to the Races”, among others.

Tragedy struck on December 31, 1947 when she sustained a fractured leg and severe head injuries which resulted in a drastic change in her personality. She began to lose confidence in her abilities but did attempt a comeback in a couple of ‘50s films.

Her mental health declined to the point where she was placed in Camarillo State Mental Hospital in ‘58. She spent nearly 25 years in and out of various institutions. She spent her final years in quiet obscurity and died at 73 of emphysema in a Pasadena Convalescent Center. To serial devotees, she will always be remembered as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Nyoka, “Jungle Girl”.

Leonard Penn

Newspaper article on Leonard Penn.

Penn was born November 13, 1907 in Springfield, Mass. He worked in six plays on Broadway from ‘34 to ‘41, supplementing his income with bit parts in films beginning in ‘37.

In 1946 he committed himself to movies co-starring in “Chick Carter, Detective” at Columbia. The die was cast. Although he worked in B-Westerns, TV shows and bits in A-films, he became a Sam Katzman serial regular. Besides “Chick Carter” he was in “Son of the Guardsman” (‘46), “Brick Bradford” (‘47), “Superman” (‘48), “Congo Bill” (‘48), “Batman and Robin” (‘49), “Adventures of Sir Galahad” (‘49), “Mysterious Island” (‘51), “King of the Congo” (‘52) and “The Lost Planet” (‘53).

Penn is gangster Vasky (center) in "Chick Carter, Detective" ('46 Columbia).

"Son of the Guardsman" ('46 Columbia) with Robert Shaw, Leonard Penn and Robert Barron.

As a treacherous Byrus, Penn time-traveled in :Brick Bradford" ('47 Columbia) with Pierre Watkin, Linda Johnson, Rick Vallin, Kane Richmond and Wheeler Oakman.

 

Villanous slave trader Andre Bocar and his henchies Rusty Wescoatt and Fred Graham hold guns on (L-R) I. Stanford Jolley and Hugh Prosser in Chapter 12 of Columbia's "Congo Bill" ('47). Anthony Warde is beside Penn.

Married to actress Gladys George from ‘35 to ‘44, his final screen work was a bit as a garrison officer in “Spartacus” (‘60). He died at 67 on May 20, 1975 in L.A.

 

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