Ray "Crash" Corrigan

Ray "Crash" Corrigan (February 14, 1902 – August 10, 1976), born Raymond Benard (or Raymond Benitz, according to some sources), was an American actor most famous for appearing in many B-Western films (among these the Three Mesquiteers and Range Busters film series). He also was a stuntman and frequently acted as silver screen gorillas using his own gorilla costumes.

In 1937, Corrigan purchased land in the Santa Susana Mountains foothills in Simi Valley and developed it into a movie ranch called "Corriganville". The movie ranch was used for location filming in film serials, feature films, and television shows, as well as for the performance of live western shows for tourists. Bob Hope later bought the ranch in 1966 and renamed it "Hopetown". It is now a Regional Park and nature preserve.[1]

Ray "Crash" Corrigan
BornFebruary 14, 1902
DiedAugust 10, 1976 (aged 74)
Resting placeInglewood Park Cemetery, California
Other namesRaymond Benard
Ray Benard
Years active1932–1958
Rita Jane Smeal
(m. 1920; div. 1954)

Elaine DuPont
(m. 1956; div. 1967)
New Frontier (1939) 1
In New Frontier (1939), L-R: Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Jennifer Jones & John Wayne

Film career

Corrigan's Hollywood career began as a physical fitness instructor and physical culture trainer to the stars. In the early 1930s he did stunts and bit parts in several films, billed as Ray Benard. Many of his early roles were in ape costumes, for example, as a gorilla in Tarzan and His Mate (1934) and an "orangopoid" in the first Flash Gordon serial.

In 1936, Corrigan got his screen breakthrough with starring roles in two Republic serials, The Vigilantes Are Coming and in The Undersea Kingdom, which evoked memories of Universal's first "Flash Gordon" serial. His character in "The Undersea Kingdom" was known as Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and he adopted it as his screen name.

On the basis of this, Republic signed him to their standard Term Player Contract, running from May 25, 1936 to May 24, 1938. He was cast as one of the trio in the Three Mesquiteers series of westerns, starring in 24 of the 51 "3M" films made by the studio. He later left Republic in 1938 over a pay dispute. Over at Monogram Pictures, Corrigan began a new series of feature westerns, The Range Busters, cheap knock-offs of The Three Mesquiteers, with a series character that used his name; between 1940 and 1943, he starred in 20 of the 24 films in this series.

Following this, his on-screen work largely returned to appearing in ape costumes, such as the roles in Captive Wild Woman (1943), Nabonga (1944), White Pongo (1945) and as a prehistoric sloth in Unknown Island (1948). The original gorilla "mask" seen in films like The Ape (1940) was replaced with a subtler design with a more mobile jaw. Corrigan later sold his gorilla suits in 1948 and provided training in using them to their new owner, Steve Calvert, a Ciro's bartender. Calvert stepped into Corrigan's paw prints starting with a Jungle Jim film. Despite reports to the contrary, Calvert and Corrigan never appeared together on-screen in an ape costume. Since both Corrigan and Calvert eschewed screen credit playing gorillas, their film credits are often confused; any appearance of the "Corrigan suit" after 1948 is by Calvert.

In 1950, he had a television show called Crash Corrigan's Ranch. He also planned a television series called Buckskin Rangers with his old associate Max Terhune.[2] His final theatrical film was playing the title role in the science fiction film It! The Terror from Beyond Space, according to bio information given to visitors at the Thousand Oaks, California, Corrigan Steak House and Bar that he once owned.


In 1937, Corrigan was on a hunting trip with Clark Gable when he had an idea to purchase land in Simi Valley, California and use it as a Western ranch similar to Iverson Movie Ranch. He paid a $1,000 down payment, then a thousand dollars a month until the $11,354 price was paid.[3] He developed this into Corriganville, a location used for many Western movies and TV shows. The location featured many different types of terrain for producers such as lakes, mountains, and caves.[4] As opposed to merely set fronts, Corriganville contained actual buildings where film crews could live[5] and store their equipment to save the time and expense of daily travel from studios to an outdoor location.

Corrigan profited well from renting this location to film studios and from paying visitors. In 1949, Corrigan opened his ranch to the public on weekends for Western-themed entertainment. The weekend attractions included stuntmen shows throughout the day, a Cavalry fort set, an outlaw shack, a full western town with saloon, jail and hotel, live western music, Indian crafts, stagecoach rides, pony rides, and boating on the ranch's artificial lake. It was common for movie and TV personalities to appear in person for photos and autographs, attracting as many as 20,000 people on those weekends.

Examples of feature films and TV shows that were filmed at Corriganville:

Hollywood cowboy stars who filmed there include: Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Buster Crabbe, John Wayne, Smiley Burnette, Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels, Charles Starrett, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Bob Steele and Tex Ritter.

Corriganville was eventually sold to Bob Hope in 1966, when it became Hopetown. Today, what remains is known as Corriganville Park and features some of the old landmarks. Signs along a hiking trail point out the historic features.


The origin of the "Crash" nickname is from his football-playing days. This was verified by Corrigan himself when he was a contestant on the June 11, 1959 episode of You Bet Your Life starring Groucho Marx. When asked how he got the name "Crash", Corrigan told Groucho, "When I would go to tackle somebody or instead of fighting them with my fists, I would just take off and dive at them head first and that's how I acquired the name 'Crash'."

His first starring role using the name professionally was in the Republic Pictures' serial The Undersea Kingdom, in which his screen character was also named "Crash Corrigan." The serial was created to capitalize on the popularity of Universal Pictures' Flash Gordon serials and the nickname may have been appropriated by Republic's publicity department to create a similarly named hero.[6]


Following his death at age 74 on August 10, 1976 from a heart attack in Brookings Harbor, Oregon, Ray "Crash" Corrigan was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California. More than four decades later, his grave still remains unmarked.

Corrigan filmography



  1. ^ "Corriganville Park", LAMountains.com; retrieved June 23, 2013.
  2. ^ "New Series of Westerns Planned for Television." Long Beach Press-Telegram, October 8, 1950.
  3. ^ Gilpatrick 2002, p. 202.
  4. ^ Corrigan, Ray. "An Introduction to Corriganville." The Corriganville Gazette, Volume 1, Issue 3.
  5. ^ Schneider, Jerry L. (1 August 2007). "Corriganville Movie Ranch". Lulu Press, Incorporated. Retrieved 1 May 2017 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Anderson, Chuck. "Ray 'Crash' Corrigan." B-Westerns, October 1, 2009.


  • Gilpatrick, Kristen. Famous Wisconsin Film Stars. London: Badger Books, 2002. ISBN 978-1-87856-986-8.
  • Schneider, Jerry L.Corriganville Movie Ranch. Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu.com, 2007. ISBN 978-1-43031-224-6.

External links


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Corriganville Movie Ranch

Corriganville Movie Ranch was a working film studio and movie ranch for outdoor location shooting, as well as a Western-themed tourist attraction. The ranch, owned by actor and stuntman Ray "Crash" Corrigan, is located in the foothills of the Santa Susana Mountains in the Santa Susana Pass area of Simi Valley in eastern Ventura County, California. The site is currently a public park in the City of Simi Valley, called Corriganville Park, and operated by Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District.

Evelyn Finley

Evelyn Finley (March 11, 1916 – April 7, 1989) was an American B-movie actress and stuntwoman of the 1940s through the 1980s, mostly in western films. Sometimes she is credited as Eve Anderson.

Born in Douglas, Arizona, Finley, an accomplished equestrian, started off as a stuntwoman in the 1936 film The Texas Rangers, playing the stunt double to actress Jean Parker, then later in the 1939 film The Light That Failed. She began acting in the early 1940s, on contract with Monogram Pictures, often starring opposite Tom Keene and Tex Ritter. Her first acting film role was alongside Ritter, in Arizona Frontier, released in 1940. In 1942 she starred opposite Max Terhune and Dave Sharpe in Trail Riders, and in 1943 she again starred alongside Max Terhune, with Ray "Crash" Corrigan, in Cowboy Commandos.

Through the remainder of the 1940s and well into the 1950s, she starred and performed stunts in numerous films, most notably Ghost Guns in 1944 and Sundown Riders in 1948. In Ghost Guns, she starred in the lead role, and also performed her own stunts, a regular event throughout her early career, and she received high praise for her riding stunts in that movie.

She has often been called one of the greatest horseback riders in film history, joining the company of Nell O'Day and Betty Miles. Despite her age, she continued to work in the stunt business, either as an advisor or as an actual stunt performer, into the mid-1980s. Her last film in which she worked as a stunt technical advisor was the 1985 film Silverado, starring Kevin Costner and Scott Glenn. She died of heart failure on April 7, 1989, in Big Bear City, California, at the age of 73.

Hit the Saddle

Hit the Saddle is a 1937 "Three Mesquiteers" Western B-movie starring Bob Livingston, Ray Corrigan, Max Terhune, and Rita Hayworth, before she became famous. The film was directed by Mack V. Wright.

List of Western films of the 1930s

A list of Western films released in the 1930s.

List of Western films of the 1940s

A list of Western films released in the 1940s.

New Frontier (film)

New Frontier is a 1939 American Western film starring John Wayne, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Raymond Hatton, and Jennifer Jones. This was the last of eight Three Mesquiteers Western B-movies with Wayne (there were 51 altogether). A restored 35 mm copy of the film exists, and was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as part of a 2007 John Wayne centennial retrospective, which included The Big Trail, The Searchers, and True Grit. The leading lady is Jennifer Jones, billed as Phylis Isley, in her film debut. The director was George Sherman.

Overland Stage Raiders

Overland Stage Raiders is a 1938 "Three Mesquiteers" Western film starring John Wayne and directed by George Sherman. The film is notable for being the final film in which silent film icon Louise Brooks performed. Wayne played the lead in eight of the fifty-one films in the popular series.

It was filmed on location at Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Los Angeles, and at the now defunct Conejo Valley Airport in Thousand Oaks, California.

Range Busters

The Range Busters was a film series of 24 Westerns of the adventures of a trio of cowboys, many filmed at the Corriganville Movie Ranch, produced by George W. Weeks and distributed by Monogram Pictures. The series used Home on the Range as its theme song with each film featuring the heroes waving goodbye and promising to return in another adventure.

Riders of the Whistling Skull

Riders of the Whistling Skull is a 1937 "Three Mesquiteers" Western B-movie of the weird western genre starring Bob Livingston, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and ventriloquist Max Terhune with his dummy Elmer. It was directed by Mack V. Wright, produced by Nat Levine and released by Republic Pictures. The film is based on the 1934 novel by William Colt MacDonald.

The Colbys

The Colbys (originally titled Dynasty II: The Colbys) is an American prime time television soap opera that originally aired on ABC from November 20, 1985, to March 26, 1987. Produced by Aaron Spelling, it was a spin-off of Dynasty, which had been the highest rated series for the 1984–1985 U.S. television season. The Colbys revolves around another wealthy, upper-class family, who are relatives by marriage of the Carringtons of Dynasty and who own a large multi-national corporation. Intended to surpass its predecessor in opulence, the series' producers were handed an immensely high budget for the era and cast a handful of well-known movie stars among its leads, including Charlton Heston, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Ross and Ricardo Montalban. However, The Colbys was ultimately a ratings disappointment, and was canceled after two seasons.

The Night Riders (1939 film)

The Night Riders is a 1939 American "Three Mesquiteers" Western film starring John Wayne, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and Max Terhune. Wayne played the lead in eight of the fifty-one films in the popular series. The director was George Sherman.

The Strange Case of Doctor Rx

The Strange Case of Doctor Rx is a 1942 black and white B movie murder mystery horror film by Universal Studios starring Patric Knowles, Lionel Atwill, Anne Gwynne, Ray "Crash" Corrigan and Samuel S. Hinds. It was directed by William Nigh. Although Clarence Upson Young is credited with the screenplay, the actors mostly ad-libbed their lines. The plot involves the search for a serial killer who is targeting men who were acquitted of murder. The film received poor reviews upon release.

The Three Mesquiteers

The Three Mesquiteers is the umbrella title for a Republic Pictures series of 51 Western B-movies released between 1936 and 1943, including eight films starring John Wayne. The name was a play on words, referring to mesquite, a plant common in the Western states, and The Three Musketeers. Each film featured a trio of stars, with the composition of the trio varying according to the individual movie. The series was based on a series of Western novels by William Colt MacDonald, which began with The Law of 45's in 1933.The series blended the traditional Western period with more modern elements, which was not unknown with other B-Western films and serials. Toward the end of the series, during World War II, the trio of cowboys were opposing Nazis.

The Three Mesquiteers (film)

The Three Mesquiteers is notable as the original entry in what became a 51-film series of Western "Three Mesquiteers" B-movies, eight of which starred John Wayne. Filmed in 1936, the film stars Bob Livingston (in the role later played by Wayne), Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and Syd Saylor, and was directed by Ray Taylor.

Three Texas Steers

Three Texas Steers (UK title Danger Rides the Range) is a 1939 American "Three Mesquiteers" Western B-movie directed by George Sherman and starring John Wayne and Carole Landis. Wayne played the lead in eight of the fifty-one films in the series.

Undersea Kingdom

Undersea Kingdom (1936) is a Republic Pictures film serial released in response to Universal's Flash Gordon. It was the second of the sixty-six serials made by Republic. In 1966 scenes from the serial were edited into a 100-minute television film titled Sharad of Atlantis.

Following a suspicious earthquake, and detecting a series of signals, Professor Norton leads an expedition, including Lt Crash Corrigan and Reporter Diana Compton, in his Rocket Submarine to the suspected location of Atlantis. Finding the lost continent they become embroiled in an Atlantean civil war between Sharad (with his White Robes) and the usurper Unga Khan (with his Black Robes) who wishes to conquer Atlantis and then destroy the upper world with earthquakes generated by his Disintegrator. Thus he will rule the world unless he can be stopped in time.

The star of the serial is Ray "Crash" Corrigan, using that screen name for the first time. The name was created to sound similar to "Flash Gordon", in one of many similarities. Formerly a stunt man — he was the person swinging on vines in Tarzan the Ape Man — Corrigan went on to use this screenname for the rest of his career in serials and B-Westerns.

The first two chapters of the serial were mocked on the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Wyoming Outlaw

Wyoming Outlaw is a 1939 American "Three Mesquiteers" Western film starring John Wayne, Ray Corrigan, and Raymond Hatton. Wayne played the lead in eight of the fifty-one films in the series. The director was George Sherman.

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