The Law of Contact

Bob Livingston

by Frank M. Roberts

Once again - hi 'cowpokes' and - er - 'cowpokettes' it's time once more to take a look at one of your favorite western actors from the golden days of western movies, circa 1930s to the 1950s.

This guy - well - his name may not be too familiar but, it's a safe bet you've seen him many a Saturday afternoon. I'm talking about Bob Livingston who was born Dec. 9, 1904 in Quincy, IL. Actually, his birth certificate reads Robert E. Randall. He borrowed his mom's maiden name for the screen.

He began doing bit and extra work (there is a difference - I guess) around the mid 1920s. When talkies became a fact of film life he went to work with Tiffany Pictures - using his real name. Then, there was a long spell at that most prestigious of studios - MGM. Five years there, a pretty good record. The years were 1931 to '36.

In 1936 - for who knows what reason - he signed with Republic the 'A' studio of the 'B'studios. He made three - count 'em, three - entire movies. And, here's a tad of movie history: He became the first sound era Zorro. Yep, he made his mark. Yet, more movie history. He starred in that studio's first color film, "The Bold Caballero."

Soon afterwards, as any true cowboy movie fan prob'ly knows, he became one of The Three Mesquiteers. The other two 'muskies' were Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune (dummy included -- no, not the producer). If you must know there were more'n 50 Mesquiteer movies and, our hero was in 29 of them - the mostest.

They began in 1932 with the ominous title, "Riders Of the Whistling Skull." (No, not a Disney flick - if you're thinking of a skull whistling, "Whistle While You Work.") And, dig this- when he left the series he was replaced by John Wayne who portrayed Stony Brooke. (Sounds like a place with water and rocks).

BUT - later, Livingston returned to the series. However, afore that he made the serial, "The Lone Ranger Rides Again." That was in 1939. Talk about an in-demand cowboy -- .

Livingston was all over the place for awhile. He did series work at good, ole PRC (the studio that once paid a portion of my dad's writing skills - a publicist, not a scripter). Cowboy 'L' worked, again, at Republic, replacing Eddie Dew (who will say 'who? first) in a short-lived series about John Paul Revere. In the last piece, for some reason, the studio changed the hero's last name from Revere to Rapidan - an odd-ish name. His co-star was my old friend, Smiley Burnette. It was after that - he re-joined the three 'you know who's. I guess it's a case of 'once-a-Mesquiteer-almost-always-a-Mesquiteer'.

When the sun was beginning to set, his starring days did the same. Then, hero Bob became villain Bob playing alongside Autry, Rogers, and Holt. He was a 'good' bad guy, a grey-haired dude. He retired from films in 1975 but, before he passed away, he slid a little downhill, making three weird films. Get this: "Naughty Stewardesses" and, even crazier, "Blazing Stewardesses." (Fly United - heh-heh). Worse still, the former cowboy hero also appeared in - gulp!- "I Spit On Your Corpse." Jeez. He 'spat' in '75.

Livingston's private life was quite quiet. He married Margaret Roach in 1947. Her dad was noted Hollywood producer, Hal Roach. She appeared in a couple of pics. They had a son, Randall. The marriage ended in 1951. He died in 1989. A quick note about his brother, Jack Randall. He appeared in a few movies. I told you it was a quick note.

In 1943, Bob Livingston starred in "Pistol Packin' Mama." Remember the ole song by Al Dexter And His Troopers? It was a big, big hit on the country charts and, even though it was pure country it slid onto the pop charts. As for Dexter, he had some success but, following his biggie, he faded from the scene.

A look at some of Livingston's movies: "The Trail Blazers" co-starred Robert Livingston, Bob Steele, and another ole friend of mine, Rufe Davis. In the old cowboy movies there were lots of 'range' titles including this one - "Range Defenders." It starred all three Mesquiteers. Another Livingston flick was "The Kansas Terrors." (Certainly not the A's). Livingston also appeared as "The Lone Rider," in "Raiders Of Red Gap," which featured Al (Fuzzy) St. John. Watch Robert Livingston Movies —»

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I always wind up these 'cow-bios' with a look at the performers who loaned a helping hand to the hero du-jour. Russell Simpson is certainly not a 'cow-person, but he's appeared in enough westerns to at least qualify as a backup actor in 'our' kind of movie.

He was born in 1889 in Frisco. Adventurous? You could say that. Jeez - at 18 he was part of the Alaska goldrush. I don't know what, if anything, he discovered, but I do know he gave it up for acting school in Seattle. Then, he joined touring companies and, then he took off for Broadway, eventually becoming allied with famed impresario, David Belasco.

Then, off to - where else? - Hollywood. He got there in 1917 - made a movie then, for whatever reason - he skipped town. Next year, back he came. Ultimately, Simpson appeared in more than 500 movies so, if you don't recognize the name, it's a cinch you've seen the face.

Movies - television shows -- he was everywhere. Film credits include, "The Grapes of Wrath," "Girl Of the Golden West," "My Darling Clementine," "Romance Of Rosy Ridge," "Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Blonde," "Saddle Tramp," "7 Brides For 7 Brothers," Last Command," and "Friendly Persuasion."

So - to repeat - you probably didn't recognize the name but, it's safe to say, you've seen the facee -- time and time again. Watch Russell Simpson Movies —»

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