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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"Call of the Savage"; Universal, 1935.

When asked who influenced him the most as an actor, fave rave villain Roy Barcroft didn’t even have to think, he immediately answered that he patterned his performances on emulating the style of Harry Woods. One of the most popular bad guy actors in movie history, the Cleveland native started out as a millinery salesman (and no I don’t know what a millinery is either). Dissatisfied with the work he decided to go into acting and is probably one of the few actors to have been able to make a dent in outdoing Guinness record holder Tom London for number of film appearances (London will always be the winner with 2,000 films under his belt).

An accurate list of Harry Woods’ film credits is difficult as it seems to be any where from 300 to 400, the latter number being a guesstimate by the actor himself, and even that is considered to too low by some critics. If you think I’m going to try it, you’re crazy. A brief overview of his credits include “Dynamite Dan” (1924), “Jesse James” (1927), “The Phantom Rider” (1929), “Monkey Business” (1931), “I’m a Fugitive From a Chain Gang” (1932), “Haunted Gold” (1932), “Rose of Ranchero” (1936), “Hawaiian Buckaroo” (1938), “Blockheads” (1938), “Union Pacific” (1939), “Tall in the Saddle” (1941), “The Spoilers” (1943), “My Darling Clementine” (1946), “The Fountainhead” (1949), “Lone Star” (1951), and “The Sheepmen” (1958).

Pardon me while I pause to catch my breath……….Okay I’m ready to go on now.

As with any popular western bad man actor, Woods would work periodically in serials. His main serial stomping ground was Universal where they cast him as the leader of a band of outlaws using an Indian uprising to pillage a gold shipment away from Johnny Mack Brown. Then inexplicably he next played a native sidekick (!) to Noah Beery’s teenage jungle hero (!) in “Call of the Savage” (1935). Popping over to Mascot, Woods was on more familiar ground playing an abusive ranch owner trying to recapture Rex the Wonder Horse in “The Adventures of Rex and Rinty” (1935).

Returning to Universal, the studio made better use of him in “The Phantom Rider” (1936), where he played a rancher who is trying to steal a gold mine away from a neighboring ranch owner and has to battle a masked Buck Jones as the titled character. Woods’ last serial was his penultimate, playing a self styled western era despot preventing Dick Foran from building a rail road through “his” territory.

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