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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"The Scarelt Horseman"; Universal, 1946

I have always had a liking for working actors. Anyone can continue acting and enjoying it when they are a big star getting big salaries like Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant. But it's harder when you don't have a contract and are constantly scrambling to line up work to keep food on the table and pay bills, like Lyle Talbot and Bela Lugosi and those were the lucky ones. For every working actor who got constant work due to some level of popularity or recognition of earlier stardom, there are others who labored and never really became even poverty row stars.

One such actor is Peter Cookson. Not a lot of biographical material is available about the actor, he is just one of dozens who worked in low budget films and television before disappearing. One of the few major films he appeared in was a small role in Spencer Tracy's war time fantasy A Guy Named Joe (1944). He also appeared with Universal Horror star Lon Chaney, Jr. in the Inner Sanctum thriller Strange Confession (1944).

Cookson then had a short lived two years of stardom playing the male lead in Monogram's short lived Kitty O'Day comedy/mystery series staring Jean Parker, Detective Kitty O'Day (1944) and Adventures of Kitty O'Day (1944). Other films from this time include G. I. Honeymoon (1945), Fear (1946), Strange Conquest (1946), and Don't Gamble with Strangers (1946).

His only serial was playing the secondary lead in Universal's The Scarlet Horseman (1946), as a government agent helping the title character stop an Indian uprising being used to cover up a massive land grab in Texas. Though not the main hero, Cookson received the lion's share of screen time and action as the masked hero usually only appeared to save him from the various western cliffhangers.

This marked the end of Cookson's brief period of B-movie stardom and became a supporting player in films like Black Tower (1950) before becoming a familiar face on early TV. Throughout the fifties he made numerous appearances on anthology shows like Philco Television Playhouse, Robert Montgomery Presents, Kraft Television Theater, Lights Out, Broadway Television Theater, Dupont Show of the Month, Armstrong Circle Theater, and Studio One.

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