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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"Batman and Robin"; Columbia, 1949.

I have a liking for working actors. People like John Merton, who didn't make a lot of money and worked constantly to keep food on the table for their families. They weren't big stars but they were total professionals who gave their all for every role they got cast in. Lee Roberts is like that. He worked steadily from the mid forties through the fifties before finally leaving acting for a more lucrative career in another field.

But while he was in the acting profession he made an impression as the cooly cruel henchman, who did his evil deeds with a scary detatchment. Most of his feature work was in low budget westerns like Death Valley Rangers (1944), The Tumbleweed Trail (1946), Covered Wagon Days (1950), and such Lash Larue favorites as the noirish Law of the Lash (1947); where Roberts does an effective job of portraying a man being eaten alive by guilt; and Mark of the Lash (1948).

His serial work, with the exception of playing Roy Barcroft's sidekick in Republic's Desperadoes of the West (1950) and a minor hood in their final serial production King of the Carnival (1955), Roberts spent most of his time at Columbia. Starting with Batman and Robin (1949) in which Roberts replaces Don Harvey as the main henchman at the halfway point, which has to be a serial first, Roberts would play nasty henchmen in six of their serials. He leant his unique personae to King of the Congo (1952), Gunfighters of the Northwest (1953), The Great Adventures of Captain Kidd (1953), Riding With Buffalo Bill (1954), and Adventures of Captain Africa (1955).

Then something weird happened. For Columbia's final serial, and the last serial ever, Blazing the Overland Trail (1956), Roberts was cast as the hero. Ironically his co-star Dennis Moore had starred in Universal's final serial Mysterious Mr. M (1946), giving both men the distinction of having been at the finish of two different serial producing enterprises.

After the serials ended Roberts career meandered along. He garnered small roles in Gunfight at the O. K. Corral (1957) and the mindboggling Catwomen on the Moon (1954) remake Missile to the Moon (1959) before calling it quits.

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