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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.

(From Old Corral collection)
Morris Ankrum

AKA "Stephen Morris"

Real name:
Morris Winslow Ankrum

1897 - 1964

Nickname: "Morrie"

(From Old Corral collection)
Morris Ankrum was born in Danville, Illinois on August 27, 1897 to Horace Lee Ankrum (1869 - 1908) and Carrie B. Gregory Ankram (1868 - 1944). He became a well known and respected actor in nearly 300 films and TV programs, but his first love was the legitimate theater. His prolific stage career amounted to thousands of performances.

Father Horace passed away in 1908, and a couple years later, the Ankrums moved to Los Angeles. There's newspaper articles about Morris on the debate team at Los Angeles High School, and in September, 1915, he was elected president of the student body. And 1918 - 1923 college yearbooks verify his attendance at the University of Southern California (USC) and University of California. And his full name was Morris Winslow Ankrum on his World War I and World War II draft registrations and Army records.

Ankrum did many plays in college and early professional (paid) roles were in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His first major stage work occurred In 1922 - 1923 when he toured with the play "The Green Goddess" which starred George Arliss.

In 1923, he was selected as the first director of the "Little Theater" drama group at the University of California. Soon after, he was in New York doing many Broadway plays. He also co-wrote "The Mystery Man" comedy which ran for about 100 performances in 1927.

Returning to California circa 1930, he became a drama teacher, performer, and director at the Pasadena Playhouse. His students included Gloria Stuart, Robert Preston, and Raymond Burr.

He signed a contract with Hopalong Cassidy producer Harry Sherman in the mid 1930s and adopted a screen name of "Stephen Morris". Around 1939 or 1940, he reverted to his Morris Ankrum real name which is the moniker recalled by most film fans. His work for Harry Sherman was significant - Ankrum appeared in thirteen Hoppys as well as four other westerns (two with Richard Dix, one with Victor Jory, and one with Russell Hayden).

His best Hoppy is BORDERLAND (Paramount, 1937). In that, Ankrum is gang leader "the Fox", and to keep track of his minions and local townsfolk, he masquerades as dim-witted "Loco". Another good one is Tim Holt's THE BANDIT TRAIL (RKO, 1941). Morrie is bad guy 'Red' Haggerty, who reforms at the end but is killed while helping relative Steve Haggerty (Holt) in a gunfight against Roy Barcroft and gang.

Busy in the Cassidy oaters, Morrie remained involved in theater and was production designer on two New York stage plays: "Prologue to Glory" ran from March - November, 1938, and "The Big Blow" from October, 1938 - February, 1939.

He exited westerns in the 1940s and concentrated on character roles / authority figures such as minister, father, businessman, politician, and military. And he shows up some A grade films at M-G-M - examples: he played Confederate president Jefferson Davis in TENNESSEE JOHNSON (MGM, 1942); was Admiral William F. Halsey in THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944); and was in two of the Thin Man mysteries with William Powell and Myrna Loy.

I admire his villainous work in the Hoppy oaters, but also have fond memories of his 1950s sci-fi films - examples: ROCKETSHIP X-M (Lippert, 1950), RED PLANET MARS (United Artists, 1952), INVADERS FROM MARS (20th Century Fox, 1953), EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS (Columbia, 1956), and KRONOS (20th Century Fox, 1957).

He did many television programs in the 1950s - early 1960s. He was re-united with William Boyd in a couple episodes of the Hopalong Cassidy TV program. And he was very busy playing a judge in nearly two dozen episodes of the PERRY MASON TV show ... and was working on that series at the time of his death in 1964.

He married Joan Natalia Wheeler (1913 - 2001) on August 16, 1935 in Benbow, Humboldt County, California, and they had two sons, Cary Gregory Ankrum and David Wheeler Ankrum. David was born in 1947 and has done writing as well as movie and TV roles.

Morrie had an earlier marriage to a woman named Elizabeth (last name may be Lawrence) and there were two children, Carolee Ankrum and Morris G. Ankrum.

Morris Ankrum passed away September 2, 1964 and some biographies note that cause of death was trichinosis. However, newspaper death notices indicate that he was hospitalized for about a week with an intestinal ailment, and suffered a heart attack and died in his sleep at Huntington Memorial Hospital, Pasadena, California. He had a previous heart attack. Newspaper death notices listed his survivors as wife Joan, sons David and Carey, and his sister Charlotte.

There's an error in Ankrum biographies which have his last name as "Nussbaum". Census, draft registrations, and Army records have him as Morris Winslow Ankrum. And college yearbooks from 1918 - 1923 also confirm his Morris Ankrum name. In 2014, the Vermilion County, Illinois Heritage Foundation honored actor Morris Winslow Ankrum, a Danville, Illinois native, with a display at the Fischer Arts and Entertainment Museum:

Special thanks to Ellen Bailey at the Pasadena Playhouse for the following information on Ankrum:

Morrie was active at the Pasadena Playhouse from 1930 until 1963, a year before his death. He appeared in as well as directed dozens of plays.  However the only additional information I can give you are excerpts taken from program bios.

From Othello in November 1930: Morris Ankrum, new associate director, plays his first big role at the Pasadena Playhouse in this production. Ankrum comes from a year with George Arliss in The Green Goddess and other professional successes in New York as well as the experience directing The Little Theatre at the University of California, the Little Theatre at Tacoma, the Theatre of the Golden Bough and the Playhouse at Carmel.

In the early 40's he was one of the founders of a group called 'Eighteen Actors' along with his wife, Joan Wheeler; Dana Andrews and his wife, Mary Todd; Victor Jory and his wife Jean Inness; Moroni Olsen and several other excellent actors.

His bio reads from the New York productions of Gods of the Lightning, In the Next Room, Within the Gates: Ankrum came to the Coast to serve, for a five-year period, as associate director of the Pasadena Playhouse. For two years he was appointed head of the UCLA drama department, summer session. To Ankrum goes credit for the Coast premieres of Cavalcade, Within the Gates, Thr'penny Opera, No More Frontier, Richard II and III. During this period he also served as test director for Fox Films. On his return to New York he was producer-director for Federal Theatre and produced Prologue to Glory, The Big Blow and Pinocchio. Ankrum is now under contract to Sherman Productions and is seen on screen in BORDERLAND, LIGHT OF WESTERN STARS and KNIGHTS OF THE RANGE. In addition to his work as actor and director, Ankrum is co-author of the New York comedy success The Mystery Man.

From Gideon in November 1963: Morrie has a voice and face, which would be recognized by even the most casual moviegoer. A veteran of literally hundreds of motion pictures and stage roles, Mr. Ankrum is a product of the Pasadena Playhouse. For many years early in his career, he was associated with this theatre as an actor and staff director. A season ago he convulsed audiences with his interpretation of Louis, King of France, in one of the lighter moments in Jean Anouilh's Becket, and two seasons ago he turned his hand to directing our production of the classic play, The Dybbuk.

Ellen Bailey
Pasadena Playhouse - Archivist
October 1, 1999

(The 'Sherman Productions' mentioned above is Harry Sherman, producer of the Hopalong Cassidy series for Paramount.)

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), Fold3 Military records, newspapers, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), and the California Death Index have information on Morris Winslow Ankrum and family:

Newspaper death notices on Morris Ankrum:

Find A Grave website notes that Ankrum is interred at Spring Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum, Danville, Illinois. Much of the bio is correct, but they have his birth name as "Stephen Morris Nussbaum":

Ankrum did many plays in college as well as professional roles in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His first major stage work occurred In 1922 - 1923 when he was a member of the touring group for "The Green Goddess" which starred George Arliss. Newspaper clippings summarizing his early stage career:

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on:
     Morris Ankrum, AKA Stephen Morris:
     Joan Wheeler:
     Son David Wheeler Ankrum was born in 1947 to Joan Wheeler and Morris Ankrum:

The Internet Broadway database has many credits for Morris Ankrum as producer, performer, writer, director:

The Playbill Vault website has many playbills from 1920s - 1930s plays in which Ankrum was a performer, writer, or production supervisor:

In the mid 1940s, Ankrum was a contract player at M-G-M. There's a photo and bio on him in the 1944 issue of Who's Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer which is available at the Internet Archive:

D. M. Brockman's PERRY MASON TV show website has a listing of Ankrum's 20+ appearances as a judge:

The Smithsonian, Archives of American Art, has a lengthy interview with Joan Ankrum (1913 - 2001) conducted 1997 - 1998 by Paul Karlstrom, for the Archives of American Art, in Pasadena, California. She became a noted Los Angeles art gallery owner after a difficult marriage with Morris Ankrum:

Boyd Magers Western Clippings website has a profile on Morris Ankrum ... but has "Morris Nussbaum" as his birth name:

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Ankrum (billed as Stephen Morris) has the drop on William 'Hoppy' Boyd in this lobby card from HILLS OF OLD WYOMING (Paramount, 1937).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are William Boyd, Russell Hayden, Andy Clyde and Ankrum (now billed as Morris Ankrum) in a lobby card from WIDE OPEN TOWN (Paramount, 1941).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Left to right are Morris Ankrum, Dennis Moore, William Haade - and sitting is George Sowards - in the Hopalong Cassidy PIRATES ON HORSEBACK (Paramount, 1941).

'Cy' Kendall

Full name:
Cyrus Willard Kendall

1898 - 1953

(From Old Corral collection)

Born in St. Louis in 1898, rotund Cyrus 'Cy' Kendall became a jack-of-all-trades doing California and Broadway plays, radio shows, a variety of film roles, and early TV ... and he was a frequent performer at the Pasadena Playhouse.

World War I draft registration and early census records have Kendall working as a department store/dry goods clerk. And he and family settled down in Pasadena, California, and resided there from about 1918 through his death in 1953.

Cy's movie credits begin circa 1935 and amount to about 120 films, including approximately 20 westerns and a half dozen serials. He has 17 film credits at Republic Pictures for the period 1935 - 1946, and about a third of those are westerns and serials.

In westerns, Kendall generally wore a vest and suit, chewed on a cigar, and did his best as the conniving, scheming brains heavy - and his roles were that of a land-grabber, carpetbagger, crooked lawyer or slippery politician. Doing bits and minor supporting roles in other films, Kendall was often a bartender or plain clothes cop/detective. Some of my favorite Kendall movie appearances are:

(From Old Corral collection)

Left to right are Cy Kendall, singin' cowboy Dick Foran and Harry Woods in a lobby card from Foran's LAND BEYOND THE LAW (Warners, 1937).

Special thanks to the Pasadena Playhouse for the following information:

Cy Kendall was active at the Playhouse. He appeared in 16 plays over a period from 1920 to 1949. He was not a founder (of the fabled Eighteen Actors Inc. group), but he was around close to the beginning. Of the 16 plays done by the Eighteen Actors, Kendall appeared in three of them.

The only bio material appeared in a 1941 program: "He was Charlie Chan of the airwaves. ONE MANS' FAMILY, LUX RADIO THEATRE and THE SILVER THEATRE are his radio credits, but in films he has appeared for five years and prior to that the stage was his major interest. Fifty plays on the Pacific Coast, New York production of Around the Corner augment his long theatrical credit list. Hollywood Holiday, Bunty Pulls the Strings, The Dybbuk (all Pasadena Playhouse productions) are counted among the plays on the Kendall score."

The Handbook of Old-Time Radio, A Comprehensive Guide to Golden Age Radio Listening and Collecting by Jon D. Swartz and Robert C. Reinehr (Scarecrow Press, 1993) and On the Air, The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio by John Dunning (Oxford Press, 1998), include the following radio show credits for Kendall:

Kendall was briefly in the running to take over the Charlie Chan film role after the death of Warner Oland (but Sidney Toler got the job). That possibility was mentioned in the November, 1938 issue of Radio Mirror magazine:

"Cy Kendall, who plays Charlie Chan in the radio series based on this character, is mentioned as a possible successor to the late Warner Oland in 20th Fox films."

I do know that Kendall also appeared on the LUX RADIO THEATER, as I have a tape somewhere of him in a show with Humphrey Bogart. Got an e-mail from Jeff Wells in September, 2002 with further details on Kendall's LUX radio work which are referenced in the book Lux Presents Hollywood - A Show-by-Show History of the Lux Radio Theatre and the Lux Video Theatre, 1934-1957, by Connie Billips and Arthur Pierce (McFarland & Company, 1995):

"Cy Kendall - in his first of thirty two appearances on this radio show - portrayed Dr. Rossignol in the 11/23/36 episode, "The Story of Louis Pasteur," of the Lux Radio Theatre: "The Story of Louis Pasteur, which chronicles the struggles between the innovative French doctor (1822-95) and the established medical community, was brought to Lux on November 23, with Paul Muni and Fritz Leiber reprising their roles from the 1936 William Dieterle-directed film."

Kendall was a very busy man during the 1930s and 1940s.

Suffering from heart problems, Cy Kendall passed away on July 22, 1953 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California.

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), Fold3 military records, California Death Index and the death certificate provide more on Cy Kendall:

Newspaper death notice on Kendall:

Find A Grave website confirms that Kendall is interred at Mountain View Cemetery, Altadena, California:

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

Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" website has a webpage on Cy Kendall doing serials:

Bill Hillman's site on Edgar Rice Burroughs has the cast listings of the early Tarzan radio shows (which include Kendall):

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