Todd Gault's Movie Serial Experience

Todd Gault's Film Serial Experience: Movie serials, cliffhangers and reviews. A gallery of movie serial stars.
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Publicity Still; "Jesse James Rides Again"; Republic, 1947

One of the most popular villains to ever appear in serials, Roy Barcroft learned his craft the old fashion way, he worked at it by appearing in bit parts and working his way up the ladder to success. Starting out as a free lance actor he garnered small roles in serials like Republic's "Daredevils of the Red Circle" and Universal's "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe" (1940). From there it led to supporting roles in Columbia's "White Eagle" (1941) and Republic's "The Masked Marvel" (1943). Around this time he was also making appearnces in B-westerns like the Hopalong Cassidy film "Renegade Trail" (1939), as well as "The Showdown" (1940) and Six Gun Gospel" (1943).

His big break came in 1944, when Republic signed him to a ten year contract, and one of the greatest villainous runs in screen history was started. The burly actor was used to great effect in such films as "Sunset in El Dorado" (1945), "Vigilantes in Boom Town" (1946), and "Outcasts of the Trail" (1949); as well as the horror film "The Vampire's Ghost" (1945).

But it was his serials that the fans really loved. Starting with "Haunted Harbor" (1944), Barcroft followed it up with two of his best, "Manhunt on Mystery Island" (1945) and "The Purple Monster Strikes" (1945), all playing the main villain. After that Barcroft would alternate between playing the main villain in such serials as "G-Men Never Forget" (1947), "Don Daredevil Rides Again" (1951), and "Radar Men From the Moon" (1952); and playing the main henchman in serials like "Daughter of Don Q" (1946), "Jesse James Rides Again" (1947), "Son of Zorro" (1947), "Federal Agents vs. Underworld Inc." (1948), "Ghost of Zorro" (1949), "The James Brothers of Missouri" (1949), and Desperadoes of the West" (1950). He even garnered a couple of good guy roles, playing sheriffs in "The Phantom Rider" (1945), and "The Man with the Steel Whip" (1954), his last serial.

After his time at Republic, Barcrot began free lancing again, appearing in "The Last Hunt" (1956), "The Kettles on Old MacDonald's Farm" (1957), and the cult classic "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" (1966). Barcroft also began appearing on TV at this time. On "The Mickey Mouse Club" he played the kindly boy's ranch owner in "The Adventures of Spin and Marty" and "The Further Adventures of Spin and Marty" serials. Barcroft's other TV gig was the recuring character of the general store owner on "Gunsmoke".

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