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C Entries
Edward L. Cahn
James Cameron
Lewis John Carlino
Richard Carlson
John Carradine
Helena Bonham Carter
Leo G. Carroll
Maurice Cass
Lon Chaney
Lon Chaney, Jr.
John Cho
Arthur C. Clarke
Phyllis Coates
Joan Collins
Sir Sean Connery
Roger Corman
Buster Crabbe
Richard Crane
Tom Cruise
Peter Cushing
 
CRANE, RICHARD
(1918–1969). American actor.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: The Flying Serpent (uncredited) (Sam Newfield 1946); Angel on the Amazon (John H. Auer 1948); Mysterious Island (serial) (Spencer Gordon BENNET 1951); The Neanderthal Man (E. A. Dupont 1953); Rocky Jones, Space Ranger (tv series) (1954); Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe (tv series) (1955); The Devil's Partner (Charles Rondeau 1958); "Asteroid" (1959, episode of Men into Space; The Alligator People (Roy del Ruth 1959); House of the Damned (Maury Dexter 1963); 14 films edited from Rocky Jones, Space Ranger and released to tv in 1969—Beyond the Moon, Blast Off, Cold Sun, Crash of the Moons, Duel in Space, Forbidden Moon, Gypsy Moon, Inferno in Space, The Magnetic Moon, Manhunt in Space, Menace from Outer Space, Out of This World, Robot of Regalio, Silver Needle in the Sky.
 
As is often the case with the lesser luminaries of science fiction film, there is not an overabundance of biographical information available on Richard Crane, forcing one to engage in speculation to piece together the story of his career although in Crane's case, some of the pieces don't fit. Born and raised in Indiana, this good-lucking guy was undoubtedly advised to try his luck as an actor and move to Hollywood, where he first surfaces in an uncredited role at the age of twenty-two. How this athletic young man contrived to avoid military service during World War II remains unclear: two brief marriages and a son make it unlikely (though not impossible) that sexual orientation was an issue, and his robust activities as an action hero apparently preclude the possibility of a serious health problem. Perhaps, though, a routine physical revealed a weak heart, which would explain why he died of a heart attack at the age of fifty.

Crane's early career is routinely mischaracterized, as authors claim that he first found great success only because so many other handsome young actors were off fighting World War II, and his career declined when the war ended and more competitors were again on the scene. In fact, during the war years, he mostly had small or uncredited roles, and he only became a leading player in B-movies after the war, suggesting the different story of an unheralded actor who struggled for years until he finally persuaded somebody that he had what it takes to handle leading roles in minor films. Indeed, while he was easy to overlook in the Vera Hruba Ralston jungle epic Angel of the Amazon, he performed credibly as the protagonist of the serial Mysterious Island, and when he stepped in to replace William SCHALLERT as Commando Cody's sidekick in what was apparently planned as a serial but eventually released as a television series, he demonstrated that he would have been a far better hero than star Judd Holdren.

What Crane is famous for, of course, is his starring role in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, the routine space adventure series that has uniquely lingered in the cultural zeitgeist because its creators providently filmed all episodes and structured most of them as three-part stories that could be profitably reedited as purported films. It is not covered in acting classes, but there is actually a certain amount of skill required while working in such a milieu: clearly, one cannot approach such juvenile nonsense with the solemnity of Shakespearean drama, but for the sake of younger viewers, an actor cannot treat the whole thing as a joke either. Crane, I thought, attained a nice balance in taking his role seriously, but not too seriously. Throughout the series, Crane was relaxed, seemed to be enjoying himself, and was never annoying. And if that sounds like faint praise, these are also comments that I would not make about the stars of the other science fiction series of the early 1950s, which I have been obliged for purposes of research to spend far too much watching.

After the series ended after one season, Crane garnered a few more film roles, including an unpersuasive transformation into an Alligator Person, but he basically settled into an extended career of inconsequential guest appearances in television series, usually westerns or cop shows. His most intriguing experience was serving as one of William LUNDIGAN's fellow astronauts in an episode of Men into Space, enabling him to finally wear a credible spacesuit and confront the realities of outer space, with no earthlike environments or alien villainesses in sight. There is no evidence, however, that he preferred this to the absurdities of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, or that he had any real interest at all in science fiction, as he managed to avoid acting in any other science fiction series of the era. At the time of his death, he was reportedly planning to head his own film company, and one wonders what sorts of productions he had in mind; a revival of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger was surely not one of them, though had he lived longer, he could have launched a second career as a lauded guest at science fiction conventions and an actor making cameo appearances in the low-budget films of nostalgic directors. He also would have been frequently interviewed, and along with revealing anecdotes about the making of his fondly remembered series, we would have learned more about his life and his thoughts. But surely, somebody knows more about Richard Crane than I do, and one hopes that someday, that person will step forward to provide that information.

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