|The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.|
(From Old Corral collection)
Mason - clean shaven
(From Old Corral collection)
Mason - with a mustache
Le Roy Mason was born in North Dakota in 1903. He began his 20+ year Hollywood career at the tail end of the silent era in support/character parts as well as a few leading man roles. Some of his earliest movie work occurred in several Tom Tyler silent westerns for FBO (Film Booking Office). In 1928, he and actress Rita Carewe eloped to Yuma, Arizona. Rita was a 1927 WAMPAS Baby Star and daughter of silent era producer, director and actor Edwin Carewe. They divorced in 1936.
From about 1929-1931, Mason's movie work drops to near zero, perhaps due to the transition to talkies, the 1929 stock market crash, whatever. Some fan and trade publications had explanations which could be true or hype:
December, 1930 issue of Silver Screen magazine: "LeRoy Mason is one of the best looking chaps in Hollywood, but can't get a break." ; "... is married to Rita Carewe, daughter of Edwin Carewe, the director and producer." ; "During the recent slump in Heart Break Town, LeRoy took to selling radios for autos. He made good and has been promoted to assistant sales manager."
Circa 1932, he's back in Tinseltown and became typecast as a villain, most often in oaters and cliffhangers. And he soon graduated to playing the "brains/dress heavy".
He suffered a heart attack during the filming of the Monte Hale western, CALIFORNIA FIREBRAND (Republic, 1948). The death certificate notes that he was a patient at a Veterans Administration hospital for 31 days, from September 12, 1947 through his passing on October 13, 1947. Cause of death was acute myocardial infarction due to coronary thrombosis. However, newspaper accounts missed that lengthy hospital stay and following is a quote from one October 14, 1947 news report:
"Suffering a heart attack in between takes on a Republic studio set yesterday, LeRoy Mason, 44, onetime leading man, was taken to Birmingham General Hospital, where he died a few hours later."
Other details in the obituaries were correct: he enlisted in the U.S. Signal Corps in 1942 but was honorably discharged in 1943 because of health reasons; he leaves his widow Bernice and his mother; there are no children mentioned; and his marriage to actress Rita Carewe was from 1928-1936.
|Left is an ad for a suave, debonair, and mustached Le Roy F. Mason from the 1925 Standard Casting Directory. He was about 22 years old.|
Below is a 1936 tradepaper ad for the clean shaven Roy Mason.
Above - 1929 trade ad for Rita Carewe. Rita and Mason eloped to Yuma, Arizona in 1928 and she obtained a divorce in January, 1936.
Mason - as a hero.
Several folks have asked if Mason ever portrayed a good guy. The answer is yes ... a few times. Circa 1935-1937, producer Maurice Conn was churning out mountie and western adventures starring Ken Maynard's brother Kermit Maynard. During that same period, Conn also produced a series starring youngster Frankie Darro.
Assisting Darro in the initial films was Le Roy Mason (billed as Roy Mason). In the later films, Kane Richmond replaced Mason as Darro's adult helper. Mason had worked with Frankie about ten years earlier in Tom Tyler's FBO silent oaters. Above is the pressbook cover for MEN OF ACTION (Conn, 1935) starring Darro and Roy Mason.
Another good guy role for Mason occurred in the George O'Brien TRIPLE JUSTICE (RKO, 1940). He plays a lawman and a lifelong buddy of O'Brien. Early on, he gets shot (wounded, not killed) by Bud McTaggart, one of the henchmen working for Harry Woods.
(From Old Corral collection)
From left to right are Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels), stuntman Dave Sharpe, and Le Roy Mason in a photo of a lobby card from SILVER STALLION (Monogram, 1941). This was produced and directed by Ed Finney, best remembered for Tex Ritter's singing cowboy adventures at Grand National and Monogram. Sharp, Thunder Cloud and Mason are a trio of horse thieves who wind up helping Janet Waldo save her ranch from Walter Long. Good premise but exercised poorly as Finney loaded this film with mismatched wild horse stock footage.
Mason's filmography confirms lots of work in Republic westerns beginning in the mid 1930s when the company was formed. Over the years, he worked in Republic sagebrushers with Bill Elliott (11 films), Roy Rogers (10), Gene Autry (8), Don Barry (7), Allan Lane (5), Sunset Carson (4), Monte Hale (4), and the Three Mesquiteers series (5).
As for other heroes and production companies, Mason did oaters with Tim Holt at RKO (3), George O'Brien at Fox and RKO (6), Tom Keene at Monogram (2), Kermit Maynard mountie yarns (2), John Wayne Lone Stars (2), Bill Cody Monograms (2), and with Bob Baker and with Johnny Mack Brown at Universal (3).
What's more interesting is that he only worked in one Charles Starrett, one with Buck Jones, one Trail Blazers, and one Range Busters.
And he was never employed in a Hopalong Cassidy, Tex Ritter, Tim McCoy or Bob Steele western. And while he did work with Tom Tyler in FBO silents and THE PHANTOM OF THE AIR (Universal, 1933) serial, Mason never appeared in a Tyler sound western.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Le Roy Mason: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0556813/
Mason was married and divorced from silent screen actress Rita Carewe (real name: Violette Fox; 1909-1955). She was a 1927 WAMPAS Baby Star, and the daughter of producer and director Edwin Carewe. She and Mason were married from 1928-1936. The IMDb has info on her brief film career: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0136892/
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" website has more on Mason and his serial work: http://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-villains/leroy-mason/
It's always interesting to click through newspaper headlines and clippings at the Google newspaper archives. While some of the articles are free, many go to newspaper websites where you have to pay to retrieve the full article. The following links will take you to some free articles:
1928 article titled "OVERNIGHT STAR? YES, AFTER FIVE LONG YEARS": http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19280517&id=6OpPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=hFQDAAAAIBAJ&pg=1275,4397156
On the trail of Le Roy Mason.
The Family Search website (free), Army Enlistment Records database, trade publications, death certificate, and California Death Index provide additional information on Le Roy Mason and family:
Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Mason at Forest Lawn - Glendale. When viewing the photo, note the space in Mason's first name - spelled Le Roy, not Leroy or LeRoy: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/11552/le_roy-f-mason