Actor Biography

RAY 'CRASH' CORRIGAN

Born: 1902, Milwaukee, WI

Died: 1976, Brookings, OR

Notable Films: Undersea Kingdom (Serial, 1936), The Three Mesquiteers (1936)

Related Articles: Corriganville: A History, Corriganville: A Picture Tour

Ray Corrigan was tall, muscular, and robust. On screen, he projected an easy going, likeable personality. His impressive physical attributes made possible his Hollywood film career. In the early 1930s Corrigan was a physical "culturist", a trainer, to movie stars. His usefulness as a stunt double and extra for the upcoming Tarzan movies was recognized by Cedric Gibbons, famous art director at MGM, and director of Tarzan and His Mate (1934). In Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan and His Mate, Corrigan did stunts and lumbered about in an ape suit as one of Tarzan's apes.

From 1932-1936, he did more stunt work (Darkest Africa and Flash Gordon, 1936), enacted a few small parts (mostly uncredited), and appeared as several more apes (Naba the Gorilla in Murder in the Private Car (1934), Bonga the Gorilla in Darkest Africa, and the orangopoid in the serial Flash Gordon).

In 1936, Ray signed with Republic Studios. His first starring part was in the serial Undersea Kingdom (1936). In this wonderfully fantastic serial, his amiable personality and imposing physical appearance compensate for his weak acting. His costumes fully display his striking physique.

Ray's first western was The Three Mesquiteers (1936). In this film, three friends aid farmers in defending their land against a hostile rancher. At the end of the film, the friends ride away , presumably looking for more adventures filled with opportunities to aid the little guy. This western set the pattern for Ray's western career. In it he is Tucson Smith, one of a trio of cowboy do-gooders. He is the second lead to Bob Livingston or John Wayne, who successively played Stony Brooke. Tucson and Stony ride well, fight hard, shoot straight, and carry on a good natured rivalry, especially over the heroine.

In 1940, Ray took a step down in employment but made a step up in his position in the cowboy trio. He signed with Monogram Studios, a producing company of lower status than Republic Studios. In the Range Busters series, Ray's character, named Ray "Crash" Corrigan, is the lead member of the cowboy trio. After more than forty series westerns, Ray's days as a cowboy hero ended in 1943. The last years (1944-1958) of Ray's film career mirror his first years. He did some stunt work (Adventures of Sir Galahad, 1949), enacted a few small parts (mostly uncredited), and appeared as more apes (such as the title characters of Nabonga, 1944, Zamba, 1949, and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, 1952).

In 1937, Ray bought a large (approximately 1500 acres) ranch in the Simi Valley, about 30 miles north of Hollywood. He built a house and enjoyed his time there. The terrain was varied and picturesque, and Ray rented out the ranch as a movie location, especially for westerns. By 1949, many buildings and other facilities had been built, and Ray opened the ranch as an amusement park, named Corriganville. The movie ranch was successful, and Ray personally greeted visitors.

Ray married in the early 1940s, and he and his wife, Rita, had three children. By 1954, the marriage was breaking up. Rita filed for a divorce. The contentious divorce had its amusing aspects. In June, 1954, The Los Angeles Times reported that Corrigan and three detectives had burst into Rita's motel apartment and found her with another man, Moses Stiltz, who was the ex-foreman at the Corrigan ranch. The Times later reported an 80 mph car chase between Corrigan and Stiltz which climaxed with both mesn threatening to file citizen's arrests charging assault with a deadly weapon. In court, Ray and his wife accused each other of having affairs with workers at the ranch.

After the divorce, Rita married Stiltz, and Ray married a young western showgirl. Although Ray was operating Corriganville, he and Rita continued to contest the settlement of their community property. In 1963, they agreed to divide the proceeds from the sale of the ranch (for $1.8 million). Ray's second marriage also ended in divorce in 1967. Ray Corrigan was living in a mobile home in Brookings, Oregon, when he died in 1976. The movie ranch had closed in 1966.

Further Reading: Corriganville: A History | Corriganville: A Picture Tour