(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Evelyn Ruth Finley
1916 - 1989
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above - Evelyn Finley, soaking up the sun in a two-piece swimsuit, circa 1940s.
Above - 1940 Albuquerque theater ad for "Albuquerque's Own" Evelyn Finley doing personal appearances with Tex Ritter's ARIZONA FRONTIER (Monogram, 1940) which is among the lost / missing westerns.
Born in Douglas, Arizona in 1916 to Fitzhugh and Amelia Finley, Evelyn learned to ride on her father's dairy farm. The family went through several moves, and in the 1930s, settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Pursuing a degree in Physical Education, Evelyn (briefly) attended the University of New Mexico but did not graduate. In July, 1935, nineteen year old Finley won the "Miss Albuquerque" title in a local beauty pageant. And there was a 1936 marriage and 1939 divorce from her first husband, George J. Lyman.
Her connection with the movie business began with the King Vidor production, THE TEXAS RANGERS (Paramount, 1936). Exterior filming was in New Mexico and Evelyn was hired as the riding double for leading lady Jean Parker.
Evelyn's Hollywood career spanned about thirty years - from that 1936 TEXAS RANGERS film through SILVERADO (Columbia, 1985). Sometimes she was a stand-in for an A list star; sometimes stunt work; sometimes as a riding double (such as doubling for Loretta Young in the Gary Cooper ALONG CAME JONES (1945)); and sometimes portraying the heroine in 1940s low budget cowboy programmers.
B western fans remember Evelyn as the femme lead - and often showing off her amazing riding skills - in about a dozen 1940s oaters with Tex Ritter, Tom Keene, Johnny Mack Brown and the Range Busters at Monogram, and with Buster Crabbe at PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation). Her first job as a leading lady was Tex Ritter's ARIZONA FRONTIER (Monogram, 1940) which was filmed in Prescott, Arizona.
Evelyn was generally regarded as Hollywood's top female equestrian and trick rider.
A few trade and newspaper mentions of Evelyn's Hollywood days:
- 1940 trade articles note that producer Edward Finney hired Evelyn as the leading lady to Tex Ritter in ARIZONA FRONTIER (Monogram, 1940).
- Newspaper article from late 1942 was about Robert Armstrong working in a Richard Dix movie ... and Finley is teaching him to ride.
- From the March 17, 1943 issue of Variety: "Shortage of male help on the western scene is being filled by Monogram with a femme prairie star, Evelyn Finley, former rodeo performer, who has been coached in acting for five months ..." ; "Gal will do three pictures in the Range Busters oater series before starting out on her own. Her next job is in 'Cowboy Commandos.' "
- Louella Parson's gossip column from July, 1943 notes that "Evelyn Finley, rodeo queen, has been engaged by Johnny Weissmuller to teach him to ride ..."
- Jimmie Fidler's Hollywood column from 1944 reported that Evelyn doubled Ella Raines in her riding scenes in John Wayne's TALL IN THE SADDLE (RKO, 1944).
Evelyn also did some circus performances including an act with Betty Miles with the S. L. Cronin Circus in 1944.
Circa late 1945 - mid 1948, she exited Hollywood and newspapers had an explanation:
She continued doing stuntwork and riding for many years, frequently doubling the femme lead in various films. As the B-western faded away, she worked in early TV shows and can be spotted in a few programs such as THE ADVENTURES OF KIT CARSON and the ROY ROGERS SHOW. Wearing a blonde wig - and billed as 'Eve Anderson' - Evelyn was the heroine in the Sam Katzman produced serial PERILS OF THE WILDERNESS (Columbia, 1956). And circa 1970, Evelyn was working for noted horse trainer Glenn Randall at his ranch and stable in Newhall, California.
- Louella Parson's Hollywood column from March, 1946 reported that "Evelyn Finley, former world champion cowgirl, and Captain William George, her husband, are expecting a baby this summer."
- Jimmie Fidler's In Hollywood column in July, 1948 newspapers mentioned that "... Evelyn Finley, former western gal star who 'retired' when she married a wealthy Arizona rancher some years ago, has divorced him and will resume screen work as Johnny Mack Brown's leading lady ..." (Her return was in THE SHERIFF OF MEDICINE BOW (Monogram, 1948).)
Les Adams has Finley doing ACTING jobs in about two dozen films and that includes 16 westerns and one cliffhanger. Les adds: "in Paramount's TAKE IT BIG (1944), Evelyn Finley has a short but pivotal role as cowgirl 'Violet Thompson' and helps Harriett Hilliard organize a group of cowgirls to save the old Bar X."
There were four marriages: to George J. Lyman from 1936 - 1939; in the 1940s to World War II Army Captain William George; to movie actor Lee Roberts in 1955; and lastly, to Albert Milton Elvin in 1979.
In her later years, Evelyn lived at Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino County, California and passed away there from a heart attack on April 7, 1989.
The newspaper death notice on Evelyn noted that survivors were daughter Barbara Wiener of Big Bear City and son William George of Folsom. And that "In recent years she worked for the Glenn Randall Ranch where she helped train riders for the 'Arabian Nights' equestrian show."
In his book Sweethearts of the Sage (McFarland, 1992), Buck Rainey described Evelyn Finley as "The reckless female equivalent to Yak Canutt". Pretty apt description.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Evelyn Finley: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0278035/
Sunset Carson and producer/director/friend Jerry Whittington were developing a TV series when Sunset passed away. They did dozens of interviews with B western personalities and most were filmed circa 1982 at Movieland Frontier Town, Colton, California. The Sunset interview with Evelyn Finley is on YouTube and will open in a separate window / tab: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-23QXkmaa0
Stunt work and ridin' the range.
Evelyn's acting / leading lady roles:
ARIZONA FRONTIER (Monogram, 1940) with Tex Ritter
DYNAMITE CANYON (Monogram, 1941) with Tom Keene (and moppet Sugar Dawn)
TRAIL RIDERS (Monogram, 1942) with the Range Busters
COWBOY COMMANDOS (Monogram, 1943) with the Range Busters
BLACK MARKET RUSTLERS (Monogram, 1943) with the Range Busters
SUNDOWN RIDERS with Russell Wade, Jay Kirby, and Andy Clyde (independent cheapie filmed in 16mm and color in 1944 and released by Astor in 1948)
GHOST GUNS (Monogram, 1944) with Johnny Mack Brown
VALLEY OF VENGEANCE (PRC, 1944) with Buster Crabbe
PRAIRIE RUSTLERS (PRC, 1945) with Buster Crabbe
THE SHERIFF OF MEDICINE BOW (Monogram, 1948) with Johnny Mack Brown
GUNNING FOR JUSTICE (Monogram, 1948) with Johnny Mack Brown
PERILS OF THE WILDERNESS (Columbia, 1956) 15 chapter serial starring Dennis Moore, and Finley credited as "Eve Anderson"
A few highlights:
Apparently Monogram needed to fill out some time on the Johnny Mack Brown GHOST GUNS (Monogram, 1944), so they included several minutes of Evelyn's trick riding as well as JMB's amazing gun twirling routine.
The opening of the Range Busters COWBOY COMMANDOS (Monogram, 1943) features some fancy trick riding by Evelyn. She then rides toward the screen with an American flag and does a pitch to buy War Bonds and Stamps.
On the trail of Evelyn Finley.
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), newspapers, Arizona Government website, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), and the California Death Index provide more on Evelyn Finley and family:
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has records on two of Evelyn's husbands:
- Arizona birth certificate for Evelyn Ruth Finley, born March 11, 1916 in Douglas, Cochise County, Arizona to 30 year old F. C. Finley (born Texas) and 25 year old Amelia Osborn Finley (born Colorado). Her birth certificate is available at the Arizona Government website. When you get to the website, enter her name in the birth certificate search boxes: http://genealogy.az.gov/
- 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - 34 year old Fitzhugh C. Finley (born Texas; occupation "Dairyman - Ranch"), his 31 year old wife Amelia (born Colorado), 7 year old son Edley (born Texas), 4 year old daughter Eveline [sic] (born Arizona), and two "hired men" are renting in Douglas, Cochise County, Arizona: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCRX-RNJ
- 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - 44 year old F. C. Finley (born Texas; occupation "Salesman - Scales"), his 40 year old wife Ann (born Texas), 17 year old son E. Finley (born Texas), 14 year old daughter Evyln [sic] (born Texas), and 3 year old daughter Rojena (born New Mexico) are renting in Roswell, Chaves County, New Mexico: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XH1Y-GBN
- 1936 Colorado Marriage Index - 20 year old Evelyn Ruth Finley and 23 year old George J. Lyman were married on September 16, 1936 in Pueblo, Colorado: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KNQD-V12
- She was Evelyn Finley Lyman in November, 1938 when she filed her Social Security application.
- Newspaper Archive had the November 26, 1939 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal newspaper. Excerpt: "Evelyn Ruth Lyman given divorce from George J. Lyman ..."
- 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 24 year old Evelyn Finley (born Arizona) is renting at unit #168 at 11337 Ventura, Los Angeles, California. She is single; completed one year of college; lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1935; occupation is "Actor - Motion Pictures", and in 1935, she worked 52 weeks and earned $700.00: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9H2-2FB
- Husband number two was Captain William George, and they married in the 1940s. Newspaper articles at the top of this webpage noted that they were expecting a child in 1946, and they divorced in 1948. However, I've found no records on this pairing or children. Ancestry.com has a couple family trees with George and wife Evelyn, and I've asked the family tree owners for more info.
- August 30, 1955 marriage license of 42 year old Robert Lee Allen (born Texas) and 39 year old Evelyn Ruth Finley George in Santa Barbara, California. Was his first marriage and her second. Her maiden name was Evelyn Ruth Finley and parents were Fitzhugh C. Finley and Amelia Osburn. His parents were Howard Allen (born Georgia) and Bertha Fitzpatrick (born Alabama). Robert Lee Allen is actor Lee Roberts: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8X3-1LS
- 1979 Nevada Marriage Index - California residents Albert Milton Elvin and Evelyn Ruth Finley were married February 17, 1979 in Clark County, Nevada: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VVK7-3KS
- California Death Index for Evelyn Ruth Finley, born March 11, 1916 in Arizona, mother's maiden of Osborne, and she passed away April 7, 1989 in the San Bernardino, California area. The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) has her birth location as New Mexico:
- Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website notes that Evelyn was cremated: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6700057
- Death / funeral notice for Evelyn Ruth Finley from the May 23, 1989 Santa Clarita, California Signal newspaper. Survivors were daughter Barbara Wiener and son William George: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/59886087/the-signal/
Evelyn's actor husband Lee Roberts, real name: Robert Lee Allen (1913 - 1993).
(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)Above - Lee Roberts |B western villain and supporting player Lee Roberts is shown in the photo on the left.
He and Evelyn Finley were briefly married. Buck Rainey, in his book Sweethearts of the Sage (McFarland, 1992), noted that Roberts and Finley met while working together on the serial PERILS OF THE WILDERNESS (Columbia, 1956), and their marriage lasted about six years.
Roberts played a hero once - he had the starring role in the last serial production, BLAZING THE OVERLAND TRAIL (Columbia, 1956).
Circa 1959 - early 1960s, he vanished and Finley said: "One day he left. We have never heard from him again. He was without a doubt one of the finest, most clean-minded men, a gentleman at all times. I can't put my finger on the reason Lee wasn't successful in motion pictures - unless he just didn't care that much about acting."
Miss Finley was unable to discover what happened to Lee Roberts.
Some biographies have Lee Roberts born Robert R. Allen on June 17, 1913 in Ohio and passing on April 24, 1989 in Stockton, San Joaquin County, California. That's incorrect.
Evelyn's 1955 marriage license to Robert Lee Allen led to other records:
- August 30, 1955 marriage license of 42 year old Robert Lee Allen (born Texas) and 39 year old Evelyn Ruth Finley George in Santa Barbara, California. Was his first marriage and her second. Her parents were Fitzhugh C. Finley and Amelia Osburn. His parents were Howard Allen (born Georgia) and Bertha Fitzpatrick (born Alabama): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8X3-1LS
- Texas birth record for Robert Lee Allen, born March 10, 1913 in Taft, San Patricio County, Texas. Parents were Howard Richardson Allen (occupation "Bookeeper") and Annie Roberta Fitzpatrick, and the family lived in Gregory, San Patricio County, Texas. If you sign up for a free account at Family Search, you can view the (brief) birth certificate: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XL7Z-49J
- California Death Index for Robert Lee Allen, born March 10, 1913 in Texas, mother's maiden name of Fitzpatrick, and he passed away May 18, 1993 in the San Diego, California area: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPZY-CST
- Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a record on Robert L. Allen (1913 - 1993) who is interred at Eternal Hills Memorial Park, Oceanside, San Diego County, California: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=104324231
There's more on Lee Roberts in the Villains & Supporting Players section on the Old Corral.
|(Courtesy of Gene Blottner)
Wearing Indian dress are Evelyn Finley (left) and Betty Miles (right) during their brief time working on the S. L. Cronin Circus circa 1944.
(Courtesy of Dale Crawford)
Above - Dale Crawford and Evelyn Finley at The Masquers' Club in Hollywood circa 1983-85.
(From Old Corral collection)
From left to right are Dave Sharpe, Evelyn Finley and John "Dusty" King in a lobby card from the Range Busters adventure TRAIL RIDERS (Monogram, 1942).
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above from left to right are Evelyn Finley, John "Dusty" King, Max Terhune and Dave Sharpe in a scene from TRAIL RIDERS (Monogram, 1942). Appears that Sharpe doesn't approve of King's romantic interest in Finley.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above from left to right are Max Terhune, John King, Dave Sharpe, Forrest Taylor and Evelyn Finley in another still from the Range Busters TRAIL RIDERS (Monogram, 1942).
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above from left to right are Max Terhune, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Evelyn Finley and Dennis Moore in COWBOY COMMANDOS (Monogram, 1943), one of the last of the Range Busters westerns.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above are Evelyn Finley and the final three members of the Range Busters taking a break on their trusty steeds during the filming of COWBOY COMMANDOS (Monogram, 1943). Finley is riding 'Lucky/Tex', which was ridden by Jack Randall, John 'Dusty' King, Raymond Hatton, Jimmy Wakely and others. From left to right are Finley, Max Terhune, Ray Corrigan and Dennis Moore.
Above is the pressbook cover for SUNDOWN RIDERS. Filmed in 1944 in color and 16mm for the non-theatrical market, this ultra low budget oater wound up being released to theaters in 1948 by Astor. Jay Kirby and Andy Clyde are pictured at the top. And Evelyn Finley and Russell Wade are shown at the bottom.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above are Johnny Mack Brown and Evelyn Finley in a pressbook ad cut from THE SHERIFF OF MEDICINE BOW (Monogram, 1948). This marked her return to film work after a 3+ year absence.