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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"Phantom Empire"; Mascot, 1935

An actor's features can typecast them regardless of talent. Depending on how they chose to take this type casting can affect their entire career. Some like George Macready work with it and have a long and prolific career. Others, like Lon Chaney, Jr. fight against it and end up have tumultuous careers full of professional and fiscal disappointments. Warner Richmond is a poverty row example of the former. Blessed, or cursed depending on your outlook, with a large square shaped jaw that looks like it was made from granite (it puts Jay Leno's lantern jaw to shame by comparison) it was inevitable that he would become a villain and he took that typecasting to heart, enjoying a busy and prolific thirty year career.

Trained as a stage actor, Richmond garnered early success in the theater with roles in Eyes of Youth, Trail of the Lonesome Pines, and As a Man Thinks. It was inevitable that he would end up in Hollywood. From his screen debut he was immediately typecast as a movie villain. He plied his trade in such diverse films as Manhattan Madness (1916), Mark of the Beast (1923) and Slide Kelly, Slide (1927). With the coming of sound it was found that his voice matched his looks and he easily transitioned from the silents with Billy the Kid (1930) and The Gift of Gab (1934).

If there was any difference in his screen work it was now for lower budget studios than in previous years, regardless of the budgets, Richmond kept working, even appearing in serials for Mascot. His first was The Lost Jungle (1934) playing a jealous assistant to Clyde Beatty who constantly tries to kill the famous animal trainer and steal a hidden treasure. Next he was cast as Queen Tika's doctor in Phantom Empire (1935), it is his death ray that eventually overloads and destroys the futuristic city of Murania. His final serial was The Fighting Marines (1935), playing one of the Tiger Shark's henchmen trying to destroy a military base to keep their own hideout secret.

After his serial work Richmond then began the final phase of his career, western bad guy. For the next ten years he would rack up an impressive number of credits to rival the work of Roy Barcroft, Jack Ingram, and Charlie King. Among his films are Heading for the Rio Grande (1936), Riders of Dawn (1937), the exploitative hillbilly pot boiler (and his most known work today) Child Bride (1939), Pals of the Silver Sage (1940), Outlaw Trail (1944), and his final film Colorado Serenade (1946). If not for his sudden death from a heart attack, he might have made another smooth transition, this time to TV, and become a great TV western bad guy.

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