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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"Perils of Pauline"; Universal, 1934.

Many actors enjoy a long career playing a certain type, while others enjoy a varied career during their time in Hollywood. Robert Allen proved himself to be in the latter category for a brief time in the thirties. Born Irving Baehr, he changed it to the more marketable Robert Allen and started appearing in small roles as a good looking, tuxedo clad dinner guest in such films as Reckless Hour (1931), Saturday's Millions (1933), and Broadway Bill (1934). His most notable film appearance was in the Peter Lorre thriller Crime and Punishment (1935) based on the famous Dostoyevsky novel.

Around this time Allen made his only serial. In the Universal sound remake of Perils of Pauline (1934), Allen played a good looking, tuxedo clad (do you notice a trend here?) adventurer helping the title character track down a deadly gas formula in Indo-China before a villainous John Davidson can get it and start a war.

After this Allen's career took a brief and odd deviation. He was signed by Columbia to fill in for a departing Ken Maynard, who was going through another of his periodic self destructive battles with studio heads over creative control on his projects. Ironically Maynard had originally been hired to replace a departing Tim McCoy. Allen, now billed as "Tex" Allen climbed into the same dark outfits that Maynard had worn so that footage could be reused from the earlier films and starred in six films loosely referred to as the Ranger series, The Unknown Ranger (1936), Reckless Ranger (1937), Ranger Courage (1937), Law of the Ranger (1937), The Ranger Steps In (1937), and Rio Grande Ranger (1937).

After his tenure as a western hero Allen had himself listed as both action star Bob Allen and romantic lead Robert Allen, making himself that much more marketable. His film work in this era included Penitentiary (1938) Winter Carnival (1939), Blazing Guns (1943), and Death Valley Rangers (1944). During World War II he joined the USO and toured bases with the stage production of Over 21.

After the war Allen continued his stage work, appearing in Blind Alley and The Greeks Have a Word For It. During the fifties he became a familiar face to housewives across the country for his roles on First Love and Somerset. Allen's last film was Pie In the Sky (1964).

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