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The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.

(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)
Pierce Lyden

Full name:
Pierce William Lyden

1908 - 1998

Special thanks to Donn Moyer for the following narrative and background info on Pierce Lyden. We updated the biography in December, 2016 with new information that wasn't available when Donn wrote the original profile on Lyden.

(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)

Above - Pierce's whiskers and grime look.

Below - smooth shaven and without his usual 'stache.

(From Old Corral collection)
Movie baddie Pierce Lyden passed away at age 90 on October 10, 1998, at the CareHouse Convalescent Center, Santa Ana, California, after a battle with cancer. He was on the Hospice program at the time. The handsome, mustached Lyden was the oldest and one of the last living B western and serial villains.

Pierce was born January 8, 1908 in Nebraska, on a farm in a sod house. Parents were Albert C. Lyden (1882 - 1983) and Ida Lavina Pearson (1881 - 1968). In a 1978 interview, Pierce mentioned that his dad was a buyer of horses for the Army. However, the census for 1910, 1920 and 1930 and World War I draft registration have father Albert as a farmer.

Pierce was on horseback from boyhood but the magnetism of show business pulled him away from home to the University School of Music at Lincoln, Nebraska. He was able to get stage work which eventually led to roles on radio. After a few years on stage he migrated to sunny California circa 1931 and soon found work in the legitimate theatre where he performed a variety of roles from rogue to leading man. This led to his first movie job and over the years Pierce appeared with about every cowboy star in the business.

The talented gentleman was groomed by Paramount for stardom but the studio bosses decided not to try and promote an unknown into a starring role as the depression years were not a time to try someone new. Pierce, undaunted, did hair raising stunts, specialized in fight scenes and used his excellence in horsemanship to keep from getting killed while stunting. Cast mainly as a villain, the mustached Lyden was awarded the title of "Villain of the Year" in 1944 by the Photo Press Fan Poll.

Pierce worked in about 175 films and many television programs and his movie and TV career spanned 25+ years, from about 1935 - 1962. Following are a few highlights:

In 1962, Pierce called it quits. He was always surprised that in years to come he would receive fan mail and be considered an honored guest at western fan get togethers. Pierce said there was an unwritten law that western stars were not to fraternize with the actors but he found close, lasting friendships with Johnny Mack Brown and others. Pierce was grateful for his friends, fans and life as a cowboy baddie in the movies. What adulation he did receive was his treasure. Although Pierce was finished with the movies, he had a lot to contribute left in him. With the help of the prolific artist and writer Mario De Marco, he authored several books on his life. He also found time to get involved with the "Meals on Wheels" program in 1978 and was on their Advisory Board as its president. Besides being active in the Elks Club, he also was involved in various religious venues.

Beginning in the late 1970s and continuing in the 1980s, Pierce reminisced about his Hollywood years in a semi-regular column titled 'Action Shots' which ran in the Sunday Leisuretime section of the Santa Ana Orange County Register newspaper. In his September 7, 1980 'Action Shots', he wrote about the coin flip which led to his movie career. He's a leading man with a stock company in Des Moines, Iowa, was running low on money, and arrived at the theater to find a notice on the bulletin board - "Company Closing!" A few quotes from that article:

"The end of an era in the theater, of the resident stock company that made up the entertainment life of so many people ..."
"The finest training ground for actors to perfect their craft was no more."
"Everyone was flocking to the theater to hear movie stars talk!"
"It was time to move on. My money was running out. I flipped a coin. Heads I would go to New York, tails to Hollywood."
"Tails ... I buttoned my coat up and headed for the freight yards."

Pierce Lyden was presented with a Golden Boot award at the 1992 awards ceremony. Shortly thereafter, the city of Orange, California declared August 15, 1992 as Pierce Lyden Day. In 1996, he was awarded a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. And the Nebraska State Historical Society notes that Lyden was the 1997 recipient of Nebraska's Buffalo Bill Award for "outstanding contributions to quality family entertainment in the Cody tradition." Pierce was also surprised - and delighted - by the fans and positive response he received as a guest at several 1980s nostalgia/western film conventions.

There was turmoil and sadness in his personal / family life. Pierce's first two marriages ended in divorce. With second wife Helen (nee) Hittson, son Donald Pierce Lyden was born in 1934. Helen passed in 1982 and son Donald in 1988. Pierce tied the knot with Audrey Sears in 1943 and they were together through her death in 1985. Fourth wife Hazel (see photos below) died in 1994.

(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)

Above - Dave Twomey (Happy the Clown) with movie bad guy Pierce Lyden and his wife Hazel.

(Courtesy of Ancel Cook)

Above from L-to-R are Iron Eyes Cody, movie baddie Pierce Lyden and his wife Hazel Lyden. The photo was taken May, 1992 inside a limo on the way to a parade in Monrovia, California.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Johnny Mack Brown, an older Jack Perrin, John Merton and Pierce Lyden in SHADOWS ON THE RANGE (Monogram, 1946).

(From Old Corral collection)

From L-to-R are Tom London, Allan Lane with Peggy Stewart in his arms, whiskered Emmett Lynn, Pierce Lyden, and in the front is Bobby Blake as Little Beaver. Lobby card from RUSTLERS OF DEVIL'S CANYON (Republic, 1947), one of the Red Ryder adventures.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Pierce Lyden:

The Internet Movie Database has a "people working together" search function. Low budget producer Sam Katzman had a stable of regulars in his features and serials. Included were familar villains Jack Ingram, Terry Frost, Gene Roth/Stutenroth ... and Pierce Lyden. Pierce worked for Katzman in about two dozen films and cliffhangers:,nm0441947

The Nebraska Historical Society has a biography on Lyden (and Nebraska's Buffalo Bill Award in 1997):

Pierce Lyden was a recipient of a Golden Boot award at the 1992 awards program. To view a complete listing of all the Golden Boot award winners, go back to the Old Corral homepage, and then to the Golden Boot Award menu item.

There's 1986 and 1993 articles / interviews with Pierce Lyden at the Los Angeles Times newspaper website:

In 1996, Lyden was awarded a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. You can see the complete list of movie personalities at:

The University School of Music at Lincoln, Nebraska, was acquired by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1930:

On the trail of Pierce Lyden.
Ye Old Corral webmeister did some further research in the census, marriage records, trade publications, newspapers, etc.

Pierce was married four times:

Margerie Ann Lyden (unknown maiden name) from 1929 - 1931 divorce.
Helen Hittson from 1933 - 1940? divorce.
Audrey Sears from 1943 - her death in 1985.
Hazel Eloise Gilbert (nee Blagg) - unknown marriage date through her death in 1994.

College and early stage work:

  • The Newspaper Archive had 1926 and 1927 issues of The Lincoln (Nebraska) Sunday Star newspaper which had articles on University School of Music student Pierce Lyden doing plays, readings and songs.
  • There's a link further down this webpage with a May 22, 1927 article and photo from The Lincoln (Nebraska) Star newspaper of a very young Pierce Lyden. He's a graduate of the University School of Music and was leaving to join the United Chautauqua System (stock theater company) in Topeka, Kansas. Based on Pierce's January 1, 1908 birth date, he would have been about 19 years and 4 months old. That indicates his college time was a one or two year program.
  • The December 10, 1932 issue of Hollywood Filmograph had a review of the play "King Henry VIII" at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. Directing was Morris Ankrum who would become a frequent nemesis to Hopalong Cassidy. And in a minor role was Pierce Lyden.
  • In a February, 1937 issue of Variety, Pierce Lyden has the lead in the "Roaring Girl" play at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles.

The Family Search (free), (subscription), California Death Index, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), Rootsweb, newspaper articles, and the death certificate provide more on Pierce Lyden and family.

  • 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - owning a farm in Salem Township, Franklin County, Nebraska are 28 year old A. C. Lyden (born Nebraska; occupation "Farmer"), his 28 year old wife Ida (born Iowa), 2 year old son Peirce [sic] (born Nebraska) and newborn son Burgal (born Nebraska):
  • World War I draft registration dated September 12, 1918 for Pierce's father, Albert Charlie Lyden. He was born March 18, 1882; he and wife Ida live in Hildreth, Franklin County, Nebraska; and his occupation is "Farmer":
  • 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - owning a farm in Salem Township, Franklin County, Nebraska are 37 year old Albert C. Lyden (born Nebraska; occupation "Farmer"), his 37 year old wife Ida L. (born Iowa), 11 year old son Pierce W. (born Nebraska), 10 year old son Burgil (born Nebraska), and 4 year old son Cletis D. (born Nebraska):
  • Clipping from the May 22, 1927 The Lincoln (Nebraska) Star newspaper has a photo of a very young Pierce Lyden. He's a graduate of the University School of Music and was leaving to join the United Chautauqua System (stock theater company) in Topeka, Kansas:
  • 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - Pierce is not with his parents and family. Owning a farm in Turkey Creek Township, Franklin County, Nebraska are Albert, wife Ida, and three children:
  • Clipping from the March 18, 1931 issue of the Lincoln (Nebraska) Evening Journal. Headline: "PIERCE LYDEN GIVEN ANNULMENT." Article excerpts: "Omaha ... Pierce W. Lyden, Naponee, Neb. stock company actor, was granted a divorce ..." ; "... married Margerie Ann Lyden, Boston, Jan. 29, 1929, in New York ...":
  • September 29, 1933 Los Angeles marriage license of 25 year old Pierce William Lyden (born Nebraska; occupation "Theatrical") to 19 year old Helen Hittson (born New Mexico; occupation "Theatrical"). He was divorced and this was his second marriage. Was first marriage for Helen. His parents were Albert C. Lyden and Ida L. Pearson:
  • California Birth Index for Pierce and Helen's son, Donald Pierce Lyden. He was born October 29, 1934 in Los Angeles and mother's maiden name was Hittson:
  • Ancestry had 1937 and 1938 Los Angeles City Directories:
    1937 - Pierce Lyden resides at 672 S. Rampart Boulevard, Los Angeles.
    1938 - Pierce W. (occupation actor) and Helen Lyden reside at 3202 W. 17th, Los Angeles.
  • 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 32 year old Pierce W. Lyden (born Nebraska) and his 24 year old brother Cletis D. Lyden (born Nebraska) are lodgers living at 847 1/2 North Seward, Los Angeles. The head of household is Pierce's wife Helen (who is listed as Helen Hittson not Helen Lyden). Pierce has two years of college, occupation is "Actor Narrator - Radio project Educational Program", and in 1939, he worked 52 weeks and earned $1120.00. Brother Cletis' occupation is "Laborer - Transmission Line Construction". Both Helen and Pierce were listed as married but the marriage designation is crossed out:
    Son Donald P. Lyden is "lodger's son" and on a separate 1940 census worksheet:
  • Genealogy research and family trees at Ancestry. com and Rootsweb indicates that Pierce Lyden married Audrey S. on May 15, 1943. Audrey Sears was born April 10, 1921:
  • had the World War II draft registration dated December 16, 1940 for 32 year old Pierce William Lyden. He was born January 8, 1908 in Minden, Nebraska; lives at 2002 Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles; occupation is "employed part time motion picture studios"; he's 5 feet, 10 1/2 inches tall and weighs 170 pounds; contact is father Elbert [sic] C. Lyden in Naponee, Nebraska.
  • June 17, 1953 Los Angeles marriage license of Pierce's 18 year old son Donald Pierce Lyden (born California) to 20 year old Kathleen Carol Myhre (born California). His parents were Pierce W. Lyden (born Nebraska) and Helen Hittson (born New Mexico):
  • California Death Index and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) have records on Helen Hittson, born October 14, 1913, mother's maiden name of Hancock, and she passed away March 2, 1982 in the Los Angeles area:
  • California Death Index has a record on Audrey Lyden. She was born April 10, 1921 in Pennsylvania, father's last name was Sears, mother's maiden name was Robertson, and she passed away in Orange County, California on May 17, 1985:
  • California Death Index has a record on Pierce's son Donald Pierce Lyden. He was born October 29, 1934, mother's maiden name of Hittson, and he passed away July 7, 1988 in the Los Angeles area:
  • California Death Index has multiple records for Hazel Eloise Lyden and Hazel Eloise Gilbert. She was born October 8, 1914 in Oklahoma, father's last name of Blagg and mother's last name of Hamilton. She passed away November 16, 1994 in Orange, California:
  • Death certificate: Pierce William Lyden was born January 8, 1908 in Nebraska to Albert Lyden and Ida Pearson; was widowed; and occupation was "Actor - Motion Picture & T. V. Industry". Home address was Orange, California but he was hospitalized at the CareHouse Conv. Center, Santa Ana, California, and he passed away there on October 10, 1998 from cardiac arrest due to metastatic melanoma, forehead. Death certificate informant was Dave Snowden-Executor. Burial at Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, California.
    (The Los Angeles (California) Times death notice in the link below notes that Dave Snowden was the Costa Mesa, California Chief of Police and a close friend of Pierce.)
  • Social Security Death Index (SSDI) has a record on Pierce William Lyden, born January 8, 1908 in Nebraska, mother's maiden name of Pearson, and he passed away in Orange County, California on October 10, 1998.

The Los Angeles Times newspaper has a death notice / obituary on Lyden:

Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Pierce Lyden at Fairhaven Memorial Park, Santa Ana, California:

Find A Grave has a photo of the marker for Audrey S. Lyden (1921 - 1985) who is interred at Naponee Cemetery, Naponee, Franklin County, Nebraska. The marker also includes Pierce Lyden's name - perhaps the original plan was for Pierce to be interred there:

Find A Grave has Hazel Gilbert Lyden (1914 - 1994) interred at Westminster Memorial Park, Westminster, Orange County, California:

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