(1907 - 1949)
I couldn't sleep and TCM was showing The Man from Colorado, a fairly interesting psychological western that I remembered as the movie where Glenn Ford killed Edgar Buchanan. I waited all night for the scene where Glenn Ford killed Edgar Buchanan and it didn't happen. Perhaps there is no such scene in any of the films they appeared in together. I'm pretty sure it wasn't an episode of Cade's County. While I waited for a scene that never came there was a scene with a masked James Millican robbing the crooked mine owner's safe. As the camera moved around three guards playing cards at a table I recognized Craig Reynold's left eye. Later I confirmed on the IMDb that Reynolds was indeed uncredited as "Parry" but it wasn't necessary. I would know Craig Reynold's left eye anywhere. It was a rather sad sighting. This may be the fangirl talking, but there were any number of roles in the film that Reynolds could have handled masterfully without breaking a sweat - the Confederate officer, a disgruntled miner, Millican's gang leader or even Ford's psycho colonel. How had his career come to this state? Was he a difficult personality? Did he inadvertently or willfully rile someone in power? Bad timing? Bad choices? The luck of the draw?
Born in Anaheim, Hugh Enfield took his good looks and his acting chops to Hollywood in 1933 and began his career, under his real name, at Universal Studios working in serials such as Phantom of the Air starring Tom Tyler and Gordon of Ghost City starring Buck Jones. He was billed as Robert Allen in 1933s Perils of Pauline starring Evelyn Knapp and that serial ran on TCM a few months ago. "Allen" is a charmer as the hero who must be attractive enough for the leading lady, brave enough to save everyone from the baddie and personable enough for us to forgive him for always being one step behind that baddie.
In 1935 Craig Reynolds signed with Warner Brothers Studios and showed his mettle in a variety of roles and pictures. He was versatile at a lot which had Paul Muni and Edward G. Robinson. He was energetic and tough in a landscape dotted with Cagney and Raft. He could be dashing and charming where they had Errol Flynn. In 1936 Reynolds was at home on the range as the villain opposite Dick Foran in Treachery on the Range. He seemed born to the tuxedo in the Warren William comedy Times Square Playboy. You needed one of "those guys" for a mystery? Check out the Torchy Blane flick Smart Blonde. My first vivid memory of Craig Reynolds is from 1937s Penrod and Sam, one of the films starring Billy Mauch as Booth Tarkington's young dreamer. Reynolds plays "Dude" Hanson, a gangster with a mean streak to equal any from that era. He is riveting.
There is a rasher of Reynolds scheduled in the next few weeks on TCM as they screen the Perry Mason films from the 30s. Craig plays a variety of suspects, red herrings and victims in The Case of the Lucky Legs starring Warren William, The Case of the Black Cat starring Ricardo Cortez and The Case of the Stuttering Bishop starring Donald Woods (the first, but not the last Canadian to tackle "Perry"). It is obvious that the studio couldn't decide on the best way to present Erle Stanley Gardner's Mason or even who should play him. Did it not occur to anyone that Craig Reynolds had the spark and talent to play the courtroom orator and the energetic go-getter who would let nothing stand his way to help a client?
Perhaps the best opportunity that came Craig Reynold's way to show he had the goods for the big time was 1937s The Footloose Heiress, one of those improbable yet adorable comedy-romances that purports to show the lives of the rich. Ann Sheridan is our madcap heiress. She's about to marry not-good-enough-for-her William Hopper with his slick black hair and moustache. It would be 20 years before television's Perry Mason would make him a household name. This may be the fan girl talking again, but 1950s television would have been a good fit for Craig Reynolds. I can easily see him as a tough police captain or powerful rancher. At any rate, in The Footloose Heiress Reynolds is a hobo (or is he?) who tames and wins the fiery Miss Sheridan. His traveling costume of a leather jacket and fedora makes him the prototype of Indiana Jones, but if I may say so, 10 times more appealing. While Miss Sheridan moved on to more substantial fare such as Angels With Dirty Faces and They Drive by Night, Craig Reynolds continued in the round of sturdy westerns and B mysteries such as Wall Street Cowboy with Roy Rogers and The Mystery of Mr. Wong with Boris Karloff. Maybe if he'd been at another studio like 20th Century Fox there might have been more opportunity to mix the occasional Class A picture in with the programmers.
1940 brought about a major career change when Craig Reynolds enlisted in the Marine Corps. During WW2 he serves in Greenland and then in the Pacific. First Lieutenant Reynolds had a long road of recovery after a leg injury at Guadalcanal. He wrote an unpublished memoir of his experiences entitled "I Came Back". Reynolds receives the Purple Heart and two Presidential Citations before his release from the Service in 1944.
(1915 - 1969)
Craig Reynolds and actress Barbara Pepper married in 1943. During Barbara's movie career in the 30s and 40s she played the tough babe, the blonde cuties with an edge, in movies such as The Women and They Made Me a Criminal. The couple had two sons, Dennis born in 1944 and John in 1946. Film work for Craig was scarce with titles such as Queen of Burlesque starring Evelyn Ankers, Divorce with former Warner's queen Kay Francis and as George Sanders romantic rival in The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry. In October of 1949, at the age of 42, Reynolds' scooter is sideswiped by a motorcyclist and he passes within a week at a Los Angeles hospital. Depression and alcoholism, and the pressures of single parenthood derailed Barbara's career although her good friend Lucille Ball could always provide work. Eventually Barbara would gain fame with many of us as Doris Ziffel on Green Acres. She still had a way with a quip.
Meanwhile, back to The Man from Colorado. Ray Collins as the outraged mine owner is ranting about not getting the justice he is due. Minion "Parry" played by Craig Reynolds leans against the wall with his arms folded observing his boss with sardonic admiration, totally in the moment. He should have been bigger.