|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.|
Dick Cramer was born in Ohio, and his early career was in traveling repertory theater including time on the New York stage. There are a few traces of Cramer's early stage career:
- May 30, 1915 New York Clipper tradepaper has a mention of Richard Cramer working for the Harvey Stock Co. and performing in Clinton, Iowa.
- April 29, 1916 New York Clipper has Richard Cramer with the Ted Dalley Stock Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- August 22, 1919 Variety had positive comments on the comedy "Buddies" in which Cramer had a role. The play opened at the Park Square Theatre in Boston in August, 1919. And it ran from October, 1919 through June, 1920 at New York's Selwyn Theater.
Cramer arrived in Hollywood around 1928 and became typecast as a swarthy and downright mean and ornery fellah in westerns, serials, Laurel and Hardy shorts, and various other A and B grade films. In westerns, he was sometimes the main heavy and sometimes a gang member. And if he got billing credit, he was sometimes listed as Richard Cramer or Dick Cramer along with a few other name variations including Rychard and Kramer.
Les Adams has him in 200+ sound era films, and of these, 94 are westerns and 14 are cliffhangers.
Some memorable Dick Cramer roles:
He had a concise dialog delivery, probably due to years of stage work. But he also had a unique sound (drone) to his voice.
- Ken Maynard portrays good and bad brothers in POCATELLO KID (Tiffany, 1931). Cramer is the boss of the rustler gang.
- One of Dick's meatiest performances occurs in THE LAW OF THE WILD (Mascot, 1934) which is among the weakest of the Mascot serials. In that, Cramer is a race track crook trying to railroad Bob Custer on a trumped up murder charge.
- Dick went up against Buck Jones in THE RED RIDER (Universal, 1934). Walter Miller was the brains heavy ... and Cramer - with a really bushy mustache - was Miller's Mexican cohort "Joe Portos".
- And many of us recall Cramer as the snarling ex con in the Laurel and Hardy SAPS AT SEA (Hal Roach, 1940).
I tend to remember Cramer as pictured in the Tim Holt saloon scene below - he's wearing a bartender apron and being ornery and cantankerous. In the 1940s, he did barkeep duty in about two dozen westerns with Lash LaRue, Eddie Dean, Bob Steele/Billy the Kids, Lone Rider adventures, more. You can spot him often in Monogram's Range Busters series. There were 24 of those ... and Cramer bartended in nine.
|(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are barkeep Cramer, Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards and Tim Holt in PIRATES OF THE PRAIRIE (RKO, 1942). Cramer was about 52 years old when he did this oater. PIRATES was a re-make of the earlier George O'Brien LEGION OF THE LAWLESS (RKO, 1940), and Cramer bartended in that film also.
By the mid 1940s, there was a significant drop in Cramer's film jobs. From then into the early 1950s, he picked up an occasional uncredited role - for example, he was a mild-mannered cattle buyer negotiating with feisty Sarah Padden in the Eddie Dean Cinecolor SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945).
Richard Earl Cramer passed away at the Los Angeles County General Hospital on August 9, 1960 from cirrhosis.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Dick Cramer: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0186191/
The Internet Broadway Database lists a 1920 and 1923 New York stage play for Cramer: http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=36581
YouTube has some Dick Cramer films in varying quality which you can stream or download: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22richard+cramer%22&lclk=long&filters=long
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), the California Death Index, and the death certificate provide more information on Dick Cramer and family:
- 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - 30 year old Richard E. Cramer (born Ohio) and 32 year old wife Hilda C. (born Michigan) are renting at 112 West Seventeenth Street, Manhattan, New York City, and the location is a multi-unit/apartment building. Dick's occupation is "Actor - Theatrical" and Hilda is "Keeper - Lodging House" which seems to indicate she is in charge of the building: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MJYL-XGC
- 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - 40 year old Richard E. Cramer and 37 year old wife Hilda C. are renting at 1534 Winona Boulevard, Los Angeles, and the location is a multi-unit/apartment building. Dick's occupation is "Actor - Theater"; no occupation listed for Hazel. In response to the are you a veteran question, Cramer answered "No": https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XCV9-2Y2
- 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - 50 year old Richard E. Cramer (born Ohio) and 56 year old wife Hilda C. (born Michigan) are renting at 5453 Romaine Avenue, Los Angeles. His occupation is "Actor - Motion Pictures", and in 1939, he worked 26 weeks and earned $1500.00: https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/K9CX-5TX
- World War II draft registration - Richard Earl Cramer was born July 3, 1890 in Bryan, Ohio. He is living at 3085 St. George St., Los Angeles and his employment and contact information is "Screen Actors Guild, Free lance actor, Hollywood studios": https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-16370-12898-98?cc=1861144
- Death certificate: 70 year old Richard Earl Cramer passed away August 9, 1960 at the Los Angeles County General Hospital. He was born July 3, 1890 in Ohio; was widowed; lived at 1168 1/5 N. Westmoreland Street; occupation/employer was "Actor-retired, Free-Lance, Stage & Screen"; and the informant was "James Dyer, friend-in-charge". Cremation at Grand View Crematory.
A friend of ye Old Corral webmaster's daughter is a doctor, and I asked her to review the death certificate. She e-mailed back ... and thanks SV, M.D.: "death certificate states 'shock' as the cause of death due to 'ruptured esophageal varices' which are due to 'Laennec's cirrhosis'. In summary, this gentleman died as the result of chronic disease from alcoholism."
- California Death Index mirrors the death certificate - Richard E. Cramer was born 7/3/1890 in Ohio and he passed away on 8/9/1960: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPW5-FL2
- Find A Grave confirms that Dick Cramer was cremated at Grand View Memorial Park and Crematory, Glendale, Los Angeles County, California. Burial location of his cremains are unknown: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/83371093/richard-cramer
|(Courtesy of Duane Harlow)
Above from left to right are Steve Clemento/Clemente (seated at table), Dick Cramer and Jack Perrin. Unidentified still from either LARIATS AND SIX-SHOOTERS (Robert J. Horner, 1931) or 45 CALIBRE ECHO (Robert J. Horner, 1932). Both starred Jack Perrin and both films are among the lost and missing.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - Richard 'Dick' Cramer as "Bull Lemoyne") has his grip on Gertrude Messinger while hero Lane Chandler looks on in this title card from LAWLESS VALLEY (Kent, 1932).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is Bob Custer tangling with Cramer in the serial, the LAW OF THE WILD (Mascot, 1934).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Dick Cramer doin' battle with Bob Custer on the left and cross-eyed Ben Turpin on the right in an unidentified scene still from the LAW OF THE WILD (Mascot, 1934) cliffhanger.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above from L-to-R are Richard 'Dick' Cramer, June Marlowe, Charline Barry (child) and Wheeler Oakman in a lobby card and a crop/blowup from RIDDLE RANCH (Beaumont, 1935). This June Marlowe is not the June Marlowe of Our Gang fame. Cramer was a good guy rancher in this.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is a lobby card from SANTA FE BOUND (Reliable, 1936), the last of Tom Tyler's eighteen films for B. B. Ray and Harry Webb at Reliable Pictures. From left to right are Charles 'Slim' Whitaker, Jack Hendricks, Tyler, Ed Cassidy (mustache) and Dick Cramer. Cramer was the brains heavy in this ... and he was billed third as "Richard Kramer" (with a K). In the photo inset on the right are leading lady Jeanne Martel, Tom Tyler, and Earl Dwire. Tyler and Jeanne Martel were husband and wife ... for a brief time.