Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author

As I work to finish writing projects that are due, I thought I take a short break and write about those actors, the ones in at least one Western, who at one time called Colorado home.

I'll start with silent film star Douglas Fairbanks, who starred in the silent film 'The Mark of Zorro'. Born in 1883 in Denver, Colorado, Fairbanks was on the tail end of the era. According to the story, he began performing early at Elitch Gardens which opened in 1890. He left school at age fifteen and began working with a traveling troupe in 1899. 

Douglas Fairbanks - Wikipedia
A young Douglas Fairbanks
photo from en-wikipedia

Another early silent film star, Lon Chaney, was also born in 1883 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Although known for his work in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', Chaney worked in a number of films that had a western theme. Most are considered lost, but his legacy lives on. Both his parents were deaf which may account for his ability to convey emotion through facial and physical action. He got his start working as a stagehand at a local theater in Colorado Springs thanks to his older brother who worked there. 
Lon Chaney - Wikipedia
Lon Chaney- photo from en-wikipedia

How many remember Spring Byington? This actress, which most of you may remember as Daisy in the television show 'Laramie', was born in Colorado Springs in 1886, where her father was involved in education. After her father's death, Spring stayed with relatives while her mother pursued a medical degree. Spring also worked at Elitch Gardens in Denver prior also starting with a touring company.

spring byington | Spring byington, Classic hollywood, Hollywood legends
Spring Byington at the beginning of her career

Kelo Henderson, probably best known for his trick gun work and marksmanship, was born in 1923 in Pueblo, Colorado. In the first episode of the TV show '26 Men' he shows off his prowess. According to his biography, he was raised on a ranch where he honed the 'gun' skills he was known for.

Kelo Henderson | Leather jacket, Fashion, Jackets

Denver Pyle was born in 1920 in Bethune, Colorado. He wandered around a great deal before getting into the entertainment field. His resume includes parts in 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance', 'The Alamo', and 'The Horse Soldiers' to name just a few. He also was a familiar face in some of the early Western television shows.

17 Best Denver Pyle images | Denver pyle, Uncle jesse, The dukes of hazzard
Denver Pyle

Although there are other actors from Colorado who are more current, I will finish this list with Ken Curtis.

Ken Curtis - Wikipedia
Ken Curtis

Curtis, born in 1916 in Lamar, Colorado as Curtis Gates. An article in the local paper stated his father was a lawman, and in order to save money, the family lived at the jail. When his father was away, ten-year-old Curtis was the 'jailkeeper'.  He started college by attending Colorado College in Colorado Springs. According to the same article, he began as a music major with the intent of being a composer. He wrote the first musical produced by the college for the Fine Arts Center called 'Rhythmic City'. He later went on to sing with big bands until turning to acting. Although best known for his role as Festus in Gunsmoke, Curtis was also in 'The Alamo', The Searchers,' and 'How the West was Won'.

Now you know some of the backstories of those Western Characters we all remember and love. Plus they were from Colorado.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Monday, July 20, 2020

A bit of July 14th history trivia by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #trivia #history


July 14th was my youngest son’s 40th birthday (Cameron). We had a small family get-together at his house.
My standard gift for “milestone” birthdays is a commemorative book of newspaper articles from the day of the person’s birth that includes articles forward through the years.

The one I gave Cameron is a collection from the LA Times. These collections are available in a variety of newspaper choices: New York Times, The Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune, and so forth.

As part of the order, the person's name and birthday are added to the cover.

As we browsed the book, Cameron wondered what other memorable events happened on his birthday before he was born (1980). So we investigated. Here are a few interesting events.

1973 – The Everly Brothers announced they were breaking up during a performance at Knott’s Berry Farm.

1967 – The Who began a U.S. tour opening for Herman’s Hermits.

1968 – Easy Rider was released.

1946 – Dr. Benjamin Spock’s book Common Sense Book of Baby & Child Care was published.
1912 – Woody Guthrie was born.

1911 – Harry Atwood, an exhibition pilot for the Wright Brothers, landed his airplane at the south lawn of the White House.
1882 – Johnny Ringo, gunfighter who once challenged Doc Holliday, was found dead in Turkey Creek Canyon, Arizona. Click HERE to read more about him.

Doc Holliday meets Johnny Ringo in Tombstone.

1881 – Fort Sumner in the New Mexico Territory, William H. Bonney Jr., aka Billy the Kid, was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett.

Since we can never have too much Marty Robbins in our lives…

1865 – First ascent of the Matterhorn by Edward Whymper and party.

(Aside: The young adult novel Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman is somewhat of a retelling of this event. It’s well worth your time to read it.)

1864 – Gold was discovered in Helena, Montana
1860 – Owen Wister, author of The Virginian, was born.

1850 – The first public demonstration of ice made by refrigeration was presented.

1845 – The first postmasters’ provisional stamps were issued in New York City.

1795 – French National Convention declares La Marseillaise by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle, as France’s national anthem.

Because this scene gives me goosebumps, here’s the La Marseillaise scene from Casablanca.

1789 – Bastille Day – The French Revolution began with the fall of the Bastille Prison.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

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