Ray "Crash" Corrigan

Ray "Crash" Corrigan
Born Raymond Benard
February 14, 1902(1902-02-14)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Died August 10, 1976(1976-08-10) (aged 74)
Brookings, Oregon, United States
Other names Raymond Benard
Ray Benard
Ray Corrigan
Crash Corrigan
Gorilla
Years active 1932–1958
Spouse Elaine DuPont
Rita Jane Smeal (?-1954)

Ray "Crash" Corrigan (February 14, 1902 – August 10, 1976), born Raymond Benard, was an American actor most famous for appearing in B-Western movies. He also performed stunts and frequently appeared in a gorilla costume at both the beginning and end of his film career; Corrigan owned his own ape costume.

In 1937, Corrigan purchased land in the Santa Susana Mountains foothills in Simi Valley and developed it into a movie ranch called "Corriganville." The movie ranch was used for location filming in film serials, feature films and television shows, as well as for the performance of live western shows for tourists. Bob Hope bought the ranch in 1966 and renamed it 'Hopetown,' it is now a Regional Park and nature preserve.[1]

Contents

Film career

His career in Hollywood began as a physical fitness instructor and physical culture trainer to the stars. In the early 1930s he did stunts and bit-parts. Many of his early roles were in ape costumes - for example, as a Gorilla in Tarzan and His Mate (1934) and an "Orangopoid" in the original Flash Gordon serial. In 1936 he got his break with roles in two Republic serials, The Vigilantes Are Coming and Undersea Kingdom in the main starring role where Benaud adopted his character's name "Crash Corrigan" (that evoked memories of "Flash Gordon") as his own.[2]

On the basis of this, Republic signed him to a Term Player Contract, running from May 25, 1936 to May 24, 1938. He was cast as one the trio in the Three Mesquiteers series of films and starred in 24 in all. He left Republic in 1938 in a dispute over pay.

At Monogram Pictures, he began a new series of films - The Range Busters (a cheap copy of the Three Mesquiteers) - with a character of his own name. Ray starred in 20 of the 24 films in this series between 1940 and 1943.

Following this, his on screen work largely returned to appearing in ape costumes - for example, the title roles in Nabonga (1944), White Pongo (1945) and as a prehistoric sloth in Unknown Island (1948). The original gorilla "mask" seen in films like The Ape (1940) was replaced with a subtler design with a more mobile jaw. In 1948 he sold his gorilla suits and provided training to Steve Calvert a Ciro's bartender. Calvert stepped in Corrigan's pawprints beginning with a Jungle Jim film. Despite reports to the contrary, Calvert and Corrigan never appeared together in ape costume. Since both Corrigan and Calvert eschewed screen credit as gorillas, credits are often confused. Any appearance of the "Corrigan suit" after 1948 is Calvert.

In 1950 Corrigan had a television show called Crash Corrigan's Ranch and was planning a television series with his old associate Max Terhune called Buckskin Rangers.[3]

Corrigan's last film was playing the title role of It! The Terror from Beyond Space. According to bio information given to visitors at the Thousand Oaks, California Corrigan Steak House and Bar that he once owned, the origin of his "Crash" nickname is from his stunt work where he would often crash through saloon windows onto the street outside.

Corriganville

In 1937, Corrigan was on a hunting trip with Clark Gable when he had the idea to purchase the land in Simi Valley, California as his own Western ranch similar to Iverson Movie Ranch. He paid $1,000 down payment, then a thousand dollars a month until the $11,354 price was paid.[4] He developed this into Corriganville, a location used for many Western movies and TV shows. The location featured many different types of terrain for producers such as lakes, mountains, and caves.[5] As opposed to merely set fronts, Corriganville contained actual buildings where film crews could live[6] and store their equipment to save time and expense wasted in daily travelling from studios to an outdoor location.

Corrigan made a lot of money from renting out this location and from paying visitors - it was opened to the public for Western-themed shows in 1949.

Examples of movies and shows filmed at Corriganville:

Corriganville was eventually sold to Bob Hope in 1966, at which point, it became Hopetown.

Nickname

The origin of the "Crash" nickname is not clear. It may refer to Corrigan's physical size or grew from his poor horse riding skills. His first starring role using the name professionally was in the serial Undersea Kingdom, in which his character was also named "Crash Corrigan." The serial was created to capitalize on the popularity of the Flash Gordon serials and the name may have been created by the Republic publicity department to create similarly named hero.[7]

According to Corrigan himself in an episode of You Bet Your Life (June 11, 1959) he was monikered "Crash" from the way he tackled other players in football and the way he fought.

After his August 10, 1976 death from a heart attack in Brookings Harbor, Oregon, Crash Corrigan was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California. Sadly, three decades later, his grave remains unmarked.

References

  1. ^ http://www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=99 Corriganville Park
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0181003/ www.imdb. IMDB: Ray Corrigan. access date: 5/15/2010.
  3. ^ http://www.jjonz.us/RadioLogs/pagesnfiles/logs_files_RH/1950s_RH/50-54/1950/50rh_10Oct/50-10-08-(Sun)_%5BLBP%5D.pdf
  4. ^ p.202 Gilpatrick, Kristen Famous Wisconsin Film Stars 2002 Badger Books
  5. ^ http://www.phantomranch.net/bwestern/corrigan.htm
  6. ^ p.21 Schneider, Jerry L. Corriganville Movie Ranch 2007 Lulu.com
  7. ^ Anderson, Chuck. "Ray 'Crash' Corrigan". B-Westerns. http://www.b-westerns.com/crash.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 

External links


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