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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.

Reed Howes

Full name: Hermon Reed Howes

1900 - 1964

(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)

Reed Howes - circa early 1920s.

Above from the October 18, 1924 issue of the Exhibitors Trade Review.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Reed Howes - circa 1943 and about 43 years of age.

(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1900, Hermon Reed Howes served in the Navy during World War I.

Howes biographies mention his graduation from the University of Utah and attendance or graduation from Harvard. That college time is questionable. We know that 19 year old Reed was a bookkeeper and living in Utah with his parents at the time of the 1920 census. About 2 1/2 years later, he was in Hollywood.

A good looking gent, he became one of 1920s "Arrow Collar Men" who modeled Arrow shirts in print advertisements. It appears that Howes "tied the knot" at least three times - in the census and other data at the bottom of this webpage, he was divorced at the time of the 1930 census. Then there's 1932 and 1937 marriages.

The earliest tradezine mention that I found was in the November 11, 1922 issue of Exhibitors Trade Review. The article headline read: "Arrow Will Issue 'High Speed Lee,' with Reed Howes"; and an excerpt from that article: "... a society drama made by Atlantic Productions and featuring Reed Howes, who, according to all reports, is now being groomed as a successor in the type of roles in which Douglas Fairbanks made his screen debut."

Around the time that Howes turned up in Hollywoodland, W. Ray Johnston was forming Rayart Pictures. Johnston was a major player in the independent market, and by the late 1920s, Rayart disappeared and became Syndicate Film Exchange. A few years afterwards, he and Trem Carr established Monogram Pictures, and both Johnston, Carr and Monogram were part of the formation of Republic Pictures in 1935. During the mid to late 1920s, there were dozens of westerns, non-westerns and serials created by various production units operating under - or contracted with - the Rayart company. Harry S. Webb - who would partner up with Bernard B. Ray in the 1930s to create Reliable Pictures - was doing "Rayart Whirlwind Westerns" with Jack Perrin. Kermit Maynard, Ken's younger brother, was billed as "Tex Maynard" in another batch of "Rayart Whirlwind Westerns" for producer Trem Carr. Howes signed with producer and director Harry Joe Brown and during the years 1925-1929, he starred in about two dozen comedies, melodramas, westerns and aerial adventures, initially for Rayart and continuing at Educational Pictures.

There were a few opportunities in bigger films at bigger production companies:
  • Howes was loaned out to play opposite Clara Bow in the lost/missing ROUGH HOUSE ROSIE (Paramount, 1927).
  • another loan out got him a credited role in the Al Jolson THE SINGING FOOL (Warners, 1928).
  • he was the hero of the lost/missing TERRY OF THE TIMES (Universal, 1930), a ten episode cliffhanger that included some sound elements but no dialog.

There's an article in the July, 1927 issue of Motion Picture magazine about various Hollywood divorces, and there's mention of Reed and his former wife Lillian who were still on friendly terms and attending social events together. In addition, Howes seemed to recognize the frailty of being a hero in small films for the independent market. In the article, he says:

"... according to his own description, (Howes is) the most 'unknown celebrity in captivity', due to the fact that his stellar activities take place on the screens of little towns."

When talkies arrived, Howes found that only a few leading man roles were being offered. Examples:

  • In 1932, Sono-Art/World Wide churned out "Thrill-O-Dramas" starring Howes, Rex Lease, Grant Withers, Kenneth Harlan, more. In DEVIL ON DECK (Sono-Art/World Wide, 1932), it was Howes and Molly O'Day vs. Wheeler Oakman in a tale about sailing ships and being shanghaied.
  • Reed was in St. Petersburg, Florida circa 1933 doing a couple low budget movies for Aubrey Kennedy's production company - the films are CHLOE (1933) and PLAYTHINGS OF DESIRE (1933).
  • he was the hero of the twelve chapter QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE (Screen Attractions, 1935), a cliffhanger that I vaguely recall for the liberal use of old silent jungle stock footage and onetime "Our Gang" member Mary Kornman as the heroine.

In the July, 1936 issue of Motion Picture magazine, there's a tidbit about "old-timers" and "once-stars" hired for (THE AMAZING EXPLOITS OF) THE CLUTCHING HAND (Weiss/Stage & Screen, 1936):

"... Clutching Hand serial, a remake of the one which starred Pearl White 20 years ago, will bring a lot of old-timers back in your eye. On the sets I noticed such once-stars as Bryant Washburn, William Farnum, Rex Lease, Jack Mulhall, Franklyn Farnum, Mae Busch, Reed Howes and Gaston Glass!"

To stay busy and keep bread on the table, Howes had no choice but to shift to support and bit parts, much of which are henchman roles in various oaters. Les Adams has him in about 200 sound films - 117 were westerns and 27 were chapterplays. He appeared in about 30 films at Republic Pictures during the period 1937-1950, and approximately two-thirds were cowboy flicks and the remainder were serials.

Many of the B western and serial players were NOT great with dialog delivery. I've always rated Howes low in this category - his voice and personality seemed to have no zip, no "pizzazz". And since he lacked charisma - and didn't have the bulk or menace of a Harry Woods, Roy Barcroft or Fred Kohler - he wound up relegated to lesser roles, oftentimes portraying a henchman.

He does a good job as John Wayne's buddy in THE DAWN RIDER (Lone Star/Monogram, 1935). In that, Wayne and Howes battle a gang run by Yakima Canutt and a young Dennis Moore (still going by the name of Denny Meadows). In the chapterplay CUSTER'S LAST STAND (Stage and Screen, 1936), Howes plays a crooked saloon owner searching for an Indian medicine arrow that could lead to a cave of gold.

In the early 1950s, he was among many who transitioned to television and appeared in episodes of WILD BILL HICKOK, THE GENE AUTRY SHOW, ANNIE OAKLEY, CISCO KID, WYATT EARP, SGT. PRESTON, more. He had a recurring role as the sheriff in THE ROY ROGERS TV show (Harry Harvey Sr. also played the lawman on the Roy and Dale TV show). Among his last movies was a bit as a police inspector in THE SINISTER URGE (1960), one of the z grade horror flicks churned out by Ed Wood, Jr. (PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and others).

Les Adams reminded me about Howes showing up in many of Randolph Scott's films - possibly as a stand-in ... or he was just a friend ... or it was just a casting accident. The answer may be Harry Joe Brown, the producer/director of Howes' starring silents in the 1920s. Brown did a bunch of Randolph Scott oaters, and Howes picked up a days pay doing minor bits in many of those. In the 1950s, Harry Joe Brown partnered with Scott and formed a production company named Ranown (a combination of RANdolph and brOWN). Writer Burt Kennedy and director Budd Boetticher were added to the team, and their collective output brought us many of Scott's best westerns.

Howes's movie and TV career spanned forty+ years, from about 1922 through the early 1960s.

He passed away at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California on August 6, 1964. World War I Navy veteran Hermon Reed Howes is interred at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Reed Howes:

The Internet Movie Database has a People Working Together search function:

Howes and producer Harry Joe Brown worked together in about fifty films and TV shows during the period 1925-1958:,nm0113693&sort=release_date_us
Howes and Randolph Scott worked together in 17 films during the period 1940-1957:,nm0000068&sort=release_date_us

At the Internet Archive, you can view/download CHLOE, a voodoo tale starring Olive Borden, Reed Howes and Molly O'Day. The print is not very good. And this NOT politically correct film is really terrible:

Find A Grave website has a photo of the grave marker of World War I Navy veteran Hermon Reed Howes at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, California, The marker notes he was born in Washington D. C. and his first name is shown as Hermon (with an O), not Herman (with an A):

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), the California Death Index, and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) have information on Reed Howes:

  • 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - 44 year old Edwin L. Howes (born Vermont; occupation "Proof-reader - Gov't Print Office"), 40 year old wife Grace La F (born Massachusetts), and 9 year old son Hermon R. (born Washington D.C.) are living at 2122 Flagler Place, Washington, D. C.:
  • Ancestry had an undated War Service Questionnaire from the Utah State Archives and Records Service: Hermon Reed Howes, 873 25th Street, Ogden, Utah; born July 5, 1900 in Washington DC; parents are Edwin Luther Howes and Grace La Forrest Howes; his occupation before entering service was "student"; his Camp or Overseas address was Balboa Park, San Diego, California.
  • 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - owning their home at 873 25th Street, Ogden, Utah are 50 year old Edwin L. Howes (born Vermont), 47 year old wife Grace La F Howes (born Massachusetts), and 19 year old son Hermon Reed Howes (born Washington D.C.; occupation "Bookkeeper - Product Co."):
  • 1923 marriage index record of Howes to Lillian M Pechin in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:
  • 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - 28 year old Reed Howes (born Washington D.C.) and 32 year old lodger Dudley Monroe (born New York) reside in Beverly Hills, California. Howes owns the home at 756 ??? Drive, Beverly Hills, and his occupation is "Actor - Mot. Pict.". Lodger Dudley Monroe is "Director - Mot. Pict.". Howes is divorced and was a World War I veteran:
  • October 7, 1932 Putnam, New York marriage license of 32 year old Hermon R. Howes of New York City to 27 year old Catherine R. Tabor of Los Angeles. Howes' birthdate is July 5, 1900; occupation is "Salesman"; and his parents are Edwin L. Howes and Grace Maserve:
  • June 18, 1937 marriage license of 36 year old Hermon R. Howes to 22 year old Mary Howard in Beverly Hills, California. Both were married and divorced twice. Howes lists his occupation as "Artist" and his parents were Edwin L. Howes (born Vermont) and Grace Meserve (born New Hampshire):
  • California Death Index has a record for Herman [sic] R. Howes, born 7/5/1900, Mother's maiden name of Messerse, and he passed away in the Los Angeles area on August 6, 1964. There is a corresponding record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI):

Below is the Howes biography from the 1937 Motion Picture Almanac.

We do know that Howes was living in Utah with his parents on January 3, 1920 (the date of the census visit) and his occupation was "bookkeeper". And he was in Hollywood in mid to late 1922 working for Arrow in HIGH SPEED LEE.

In the 2 1/2+ years between those dates, he graduated from the University of Utah and attended (or graduated) from Harvard. Unlikely.

"Arrow Collar Man" Reed Howes - silent film starring work for
producer/director Harry Joe Brown at Rayart and Educational.

Above - November, 1924 two-page tradepaper ad for former "Arrow Collar Man" Reed Howes as Rayart's "New Screen Star".

Above is a full page ad from the October, 1928 issue of Motion Picture Classic for Reed Howes starring in the "Russ Farrell, Aviator" series for Harry Joe Brown and Educational Pictures.

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