George Glenn Strange (August 16, 1899 – September 20, 1973) was an American actor who mostly appeared in Western films and was billed as Glenn Strange. He is best remembered for playing Frankenstein's monster in three Universal films during the 1940s and for his role as Sam Noonan, the bartender on CBS's Gunsmoke television series.
George Glenn Strange
August 16, 1899
|Died||September 20, 1973 (aged 74)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.|
|Spouse(s)||Flora Hooper Strange |
(m. 1920; div. 19??)
|Relatives||Rex Allen (cousin)|
Strange grew up in the West Texas town of Cross Cut. His father was a bartender and later a rancher. Strange learned by ear how to play the fiddle and guitar. By the time he was 12, he was performing at cowboy dances. By 1928, he was on radio in El Paso, Texas. He was a young rancher, but in 1930, he came to Hollywood as a member of the radio singing group Arizona Wranglers. Strange joined the singers after having appeared at a rodeo in Prescott, Arizona.
In 1932, Strange had a minor role as part of the Wrecker's gang in a 12-part serial, The Hurricane Express, starring John Wayne. He gained his first motion picture role in 1932, and appeared in hundreds of films during his lifetime. He played numerous small parts in Paramount's popular Hopalong Cassidy film series, usually cast as a member of an outlaw's gang and occasionally as a local sheriff. In 1943, he played a badman in the Hopalong Cassidy movie False Colors. Beginning in 1949, he portrayed Butch Cavendish, the villain responsible for killing all of the Texas Rangers except one in the long-running television series The Lone Ranger.
Strange appeared twice as Jim Wade on Bill Williams's syndicated Western series geared to juvenile audiences The Adventures of Kit Carson. He also appeared twice as Blake in the syndicated Western The Cisco Kid. In 1952, he was cast in the role of Chief Black Cloud in the episode "Indian War Party" of the syndicated The Range Rider. In 1954, Strange played Sheriff Billy Rowland in Jim Davis's syndicated Western series Stories of the Century. Strange appeared six times in 1956 in multiple roles on Edgar Buchanan's syndicated Judge Roy Bean. That same year, Strange appeared in an uncredited role as the sheriff in Silver Rapids in the Western movie The Fastest Gun Alive starring Glenn Ford. In 1958, he had a minor part in an episode of John Payne's The Restless Gun, and had an important role in the 1958 episode "Chain Gang" of the Western series 26 Men, true stories about the Arizona Rangers. That same year, he played rancher Pat Cafferty, who faces the threat of anthrax, in the episode "Queen of the Cimarron" of the syndicated Western series, Frontier Doctor. Strange appeared in six episodes of The Rifleman playing the same role in different variations: Cole, the stagecoach driver, in "Duel of Honor"; a stagecoach shotgun guard in "The Dead-eye Kid"; Joey, a stagecoach driver in "The Woman"; and an unnamed stagecoach driver in "The Blowout", "The Spiked Rifle", and "Miss Bertie".
Strange was cast in five episodes of the ABC Western The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and three segments of the syndicated Annie Oakley. In 1959, he appeared in another Western syndicated series, Mackenzie's Raiders, in the episode entitled "Apache Boy". Strange was cast twice on Kirby Grant's Western aviation adventure series, Sky King, as Rip Owen in Stage Coach Robbers (1952), and as Link in Dead Giveaway (1958).
He first appeared on Gunsmoke in 1959 and assumed several roles on the long-running program before he was permanently cast as stolid bartender Sam Noonan, a role he played from 1961 until 1973, though rarely involved with any character definition beyond fetching a drink or the Marshal. .
In 1942, he appeared in The Mad Monster for PRC, a poverty row studio. In 1944, while Strange was being made up for an action film at Universal, make-up artist Jack Pierce noticed that Strange's facial features and 6'5" height would be appropriate for the role of Frankenstein's monster. Strange was cast in 1944 film House of Frankenstein in the role created by Boris Karloff in Frankenstein (1931), coached by Karloff personally after hours.
Strange recounted a personal anecdote in Ted Newsom's documentary, 100 Years of Horror (1996). On the set of House of Dracula (1945), Lon Chaney, Jr., got him extremely inebriated. In the scene in which the Monster is discovered in a cave, Strange lay immersed for hours in "faked quicksand" (actually cold mud) waiting for the cameras to roll. As Glenn began to get a serious chill, Chaney recommended that alcohol would keep Strange warm. Strange could barely walk straight after the day's shooting.
Strange played the monster a third time in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), with Chaney, Jr. as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi in his second screen appearance as Count Dracula. Strange also appeared in character with Lou Costello in a haunted house skit on The Colgate Comedy Hour and made a gag publicity appearance as a masked flagpole-sitter for a local Los Angeles TV show in the 1950s. After weeks of the station teasing the public about the sitter's identity, Strange removed his mask and revealed himself as Frankenstein's monster (actually, yet another mask.) Strange also played a monster in the Bowery Boys horror-comedy Master Minds in 1949, mimicking the brain-transplanted Huntz Hall's frantic comedy movements, with Hall providing his own dubbed voice.
During the wave of monster-related merchandising in the late 1950s and 1960s, Glenn Strange's iconic image often was used for the monster on toys, games, and paraphernalia, most often from his appearance in the Abbott and Costello film. In 1969, The New York Times mistakenly published Boris Karloff's obituary with Glenn Strange's picture as the Frankenstein monster.
Strange was 6 ft 5 in tall and weighed 220 lbs. His first wife was Flora Hooper of Duncan, Oklahoma. They had two daughters, Wynema and Juanita. Strange was married from 1937 to his death in 1973 to his second wife, Minnie Thompson (1911–2004). The couple had one child, Janine Laraine Strange (born 1939). He had Irish and Cherokee descent through his father. In addition, Strange was an eighth-generation great-grandson of John Rolfe and Pocahontas through his maternal grandfather.
On September 20, 1973, at age 74, Strange died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California. Singer Eddie Dean, with whom Strange had collaborated on various songs and opening themes for films, sang at Strange's funeral service as a final tribute. Strange is interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. In 1975, two years after Strange's death, his Gunsmoke costar Buck Taylor named his third son Cooper Glenn Taylor after Strange.
- Shotgun Pass (1931) - Pee Wee (uncredited)
- Cavalier of the West (1931) - Trooper (uncredited)
- The Gay Buckaroo (1931) - Barfly (uncredited)
- Single-Handed Sanders (1932) - Gang Leader (uncredited)
- The Texas Tornado (1932) - Rustler (uncredited)
- Riders of the Desert (1932) - Singing Ranger (uncredited)
- Cowboy Counsellor (1932) - Stage Driver (uncredited)
- Five Bad Men (1935) - Radio Buckaroo (uncredited)
- Cyclone of the Saddle (1935) - Singer / Fiddler / Townsman (uncredited)
- His Fighting Blood (1935) - Singing Constable (uncredited)
- Suicide Squad (1935) - Singing Fireman (uncredited)
- Flash Gordon (1936) - Robot / Ming's Soldier / Gocko (uncredited)
- Trailin' West (1936) - Tim - Henchman / Trooper (uncredited)
- A Tenderfoot Goes West (1936) - Cowhand Butch
- Song of the Gringo (1936) - Henchman Blackie (uncredited)
- Guns of the Pecos (1937) - Wedding Groom / Rustler (uncredited)
- Arizona Days (1937) - Henchman Pete
- Trouble in Texas (1937) - Middleton Sheriff
- The Cherokee Strip (1937) - Harry, Fiddle Player and Band Leader (uncredited)
- The Fighting Texan (1937) - Brand-Changing Henchman (uncredited)
- Blazing Sixes (1937) - Peewee Jones
- Mountain Music (1937) - Singing Hillbilly (uncredited)
- Empty Holsters (1937) - Tex Roberts
- Riders of the Dawn (1937) - Posse Member (uncredited)
- The Devil's Saddle Legion (1937) - Peewee
- God's Country and the Man (1937) - Sheriff Joe (uncredited)
- Stars Over Arizona (1937) - Bruce Cole (uncredited)
- Danger Valley (1937) - Marshal Dale (uncredited)
- The Painted Trail (1938) - Sheriff Ed
- The Last Stand (1938) - Henchman Joe
- Whirlwind Horseman (1938) - Bull - Henchman
- Six Shootin' Sheriff (1938) - Kendal Henchman (uncredited)
- Black Bandit (1938) - Luke Johnson
- Guilty Trails (1938) - New Sheriff
- Prairie Justice (1938) - Hank Haynes - Express Agent
- Gun Packer (1938) - Sheriff
- The Phantom Stage (1939) - Sheriff
- The Night Riders (1939) - Angry Riverboat Gambler (uncredited)
- Blue Montana Skies (1939) - Bob Causer
- Across the Plains (1939) - Jeff Masters
- Oklahoma Terror (1939) - Ross Haddon
- Overland Mail (1939) - Sheriff Dawson
- Pioneer Days (1940) - Sheriff
- Rhythm of the Rio Grande (1940) - Sheriff Hays
- Covered Wagon Trails (1940) - Henchman Fletcher
- Pals of the Silver Sage (1940) - Vic Insley
- The Cowboy from Sundown (1940) - Bret Stockton
- Land of the Six Guns (1940) - Manny
- Three Men from Texas (1940) - Ben Stokes
- The San Francisco Docks (1940) - Mike
- The Bandit Trail (1941) - gang member (uncredited)
- The Kid's Last Ride (1941) - Bart Gill, aka Ike Breeden
- Fugitive Valley (1941) - Gray
- Billy the Kid Wanted (1941) - Matt Brawley
- The Driftin' Kid (1941) - Jeff Payson
- Lone Star Law Men (1941) - Marshal Scott
- Billy the Kid's Round-Up (1941) - Vic Landreau
- The Lone Rider and the Bandit (1942) - Luke Miller
- Overland Stagecoach (1942) - Harlen Kent
- Western Mail (1942) - Sheriff Big Bill Collins
- Stagecoach Buckaroo (1942) - Breck Braddock
- Raiders of the West (1942) - Hank Reynolds
- Sundown Jim (1942) - Henchman (uncredited)
- Sunset on the Desert (1942) - Deputy Louie Meade
- Rolling Down the Great Divide (1942) - Joe Duncan
- Boot Hill Bandits (1942) - The Maverick
- Romance on the Range (1942) - Stokes
- Texas Trouble Shooters (1942) - Roger Denby
- Overland Stagecoach (1942) - Harlen Kent
- Billy the Kid Trapped (1942) - Boss Stanton
- Army Surgeon (1942) - Soldier Having Discussion with Brooklyn (uncredited)
- Little Joe, the Wrangler (1942) - Jeff Corey
- The Kid Rides Again (1943) - Henchman Tom Slade
- Haunted Ranch (1943) - Rance Austin
- Black Market Rustlers (1943) - Corbin
- Cattle Stampede (1943) - Stone
- Bullets and Saddles (1943) - Jack Hammond
- Western Cyclone (1943) - Dirk Randall
- Valley of Vengeance (1944) - Marshal Barker
- Harmony Trail (1944) - Marshal Taylor
- House of Frankenstein (1944) - Frankenstein Monster
- House of Dracula (1945) - Frankenstein Monster
- The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947) - Lefty
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) - Frankenstein Monster
- Comin' Round the Mountain (1951) - Devil Dan Winfield
- Raw, Laurence (2012). "Glenn Strange", Character Actors in Horror and Science Fiction Films, 1930–1960 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2012), p. 175. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
- Hathorn, Billy (2013). "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review (Abilene, Texas: West Texas Historical Association, 2013), Vol. 89, p. 103.
- "Secrets Of TV's The Rifleman: More Than Just Guns And Good Times: Stagecoach Driver (Glenn Strange)", TrendChaser. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
- Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946 – Present (Seventh Edition), Ballantine Books, 1999, page 262
- Mank, Gregory William (2009). Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: The Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009), p. 610. ISBN 0-7864-3480-5.
- "Glenn Strange".
- "Glenn Strange, Actor, Dies; Was 'Gunsmoke' Bartender", digital archives of The New York Times, September 22, 1973. Retrieved February 23, 2019.
- Glenn Strange at IMDb
- Glenn Strange, the B western villain
- TV.com biography
- "United States Social Security Death Index," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JT41-TQ9 : 19 May 2014), Glenn Strange, Sep 1973; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
- Glenn Strange appears on Abbott and Costello's television program
- on YouTube