Tuesday, July 28, 2020

THEY WERE FROM COLORADO



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

11 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. You are welcome. I have to say it was a nice research break from other commitments. Doris

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  2. Thanks, Doris. There was a lot of entertainment that came from Colorado. My father loved Gunsmoke, so I watched Ken Curtis the most. I liked the way he put humor into the mix. It's not everyone that can pull off the comic character. We used to have a pygmy goat that we named Festus since he was a bit of a character.

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    1. Curtis was underrated in my opinion. A truly talented individual. I can see why you'd name a goat after his character.

      There really has been some truly talented people who came from here. I'm thinking of following up with some writers who lived here. Doris

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    2. Doris, I'll add here that Philip K. Dick (author) is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Ft. Morgan, Colorado, my home town. ( I am known for my senseless trivia and useless information.) lol

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    3. Kaye, I love that kind of information. I have a plethora of trivia running around in my head. LOL

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  3. Doris,
    This was so much fun to read. Isn't it funny how we feel a certain kinship with people who are from where we are, even though we've never actually met them? lol

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    1. So true, Kaye, so true. I'd known about Chaney, but Byington was a Colorado Springs surpise. I do love when research brings such satisfying nuggets. Smile Doris

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  4. So many superb actors here but I'm especially fond of Ken Curtis for all those memorable Gunsmoke episodes.

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    1. I do agree, although I am fond of the work of most of the others. Doris

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