|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.|
Bennett in 1940 and about 45 years old.
Raphael Fabian Bennett
1895 - 1957
Ray Bennett's mother was Ella Costillo Bennett (1865 - 1932), a noted author, drama critic and feature writer for many newspapers.
Before settling on a Hollywood career, Ray was a theater performer as well as a playwright and there's traces of both in old newspaper articles. Circa 1917 - 1920s, he played mostly juvenile / young adult roles with various professional and amateur stage groups - including the Patfo Players Community Stock Company of Los Angeles, Players Club in San Francisco, Harlequin Players in Los Angeles, and Playcrafters in Los Angeles. In the subsequent decade, Bennett was cast in character roles in "Snow in August" at the Spotlight Theater in Los Angeles (in 1935); "The Pursuit of Happiness" at the Little Theater of Beverly Hills (in 1936); and "The Doctor Said No" at the Renevant Theater (in 1936). Additionally, there are copyright entries for several plays authored by Raphael Fabian Bennett: "This Lovely Lady" (three acts, copyright 1929) and "Wild Honey" (three acts, copyright 1937). Later in life, he dabbled in book authoring, and UCLA has an unpublished manuscript by Raphael Fabian Bennett titled "The Shelter of the Cloth" (1950).
While he was honing his acting skills, the census and draft registration had Bennett employed in non-theatrical jobs - in 1917, he was operating a Standard Oil Company gas station; in 1920, he's a "Salesman - Retail Jewelry"; and in 1930, Ray was an "Interior Decorator - Furniture".
His Hollywood career spanned about twenty years, from about 1936 through the mid 1950s. In B westerns, he was often cast as a henchman / second-in-command gang member. In a few, he got lucky and played the dress heavy / boss baddie.
Bennett's most frequent adversaries were Charles Starrett and Bill Elliott at Columbia and Johnny Mack Brown at Monogram. But he also did several dozen other B westerns. His earliest movie work occurred in four of Tom Keene's mid 1930s Crescent historical adventures; he did four Hopalong Cassidys and three with Lash Larue; he was at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) with Buster Crabbe, Bob Livingston, Bob Steele and the Texas Rangers; he did a few with Tex Ritter, Kirby Grant, Tim McCoy, Dick Foran, Tim Holt, Don Barry, Russell Hayden, the Three Mesquiteers, and Cisco Kid (Cesar Romero and Gilbert Roland); and he was in four Gene Autrys and three with Roy Rogers at Republic Pictures.
He had character and bit parts in serials, A grade westerns and non-westerns, and various 1950s television programs. Couple of examples - you may be able to spot him in THE DARK COMMAND (Republic, 1940) with John Wayne and Roy Rogers as well as THE SPOILERS (Universal, 1942) with Wayne and Randolph Scott.
His TV work includes series with Autry, Rogers, the Cisco Kid, Lone Ranger, more.
If he had a meaty role and received billing, he was credited as Rafael, Raphael, or plain ol' Ray Bennett. He's Raphael Bennett in Gene Autry's PRAIRIE MOON (Republic, 1938), Charles Starrett's THUNDERING FRONTIER (Columbia, 1940), the Hopalong Cassidy DOOMED CARAVAN (Harry Sherman/Paramount, 1941), and THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) cliffhanger.
Les Adams has him in about 120 films - that number includes 86 westerns and 8 serials. He did receive infrequent paychecks from Republic Pictures - during the period from 1937 - 1955, he worked in fourteen serials and oaters at that studio.
Though he didn't have the size, booming voice and malevolence of a Roy Barcroft or Harry Woods, Ray Bennett portrayed some memorable B western villains in the 1930s and 1940s.
For years, he suffered from heart and coronary problems, and according to his death certificate, passed away on December 18, 1957 at his home at 450 South Kenmore Avenue, Los Angeles.
There's confusion and controversy with his newspaper death notice (link below) - the notice has him passing on December 17, 1957 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California. The death announcement also lists his birth info as February, 1894 in San Francisco. None of that matches info from the census, draft registrations, and death certificate.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Ray Bennett: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0071986/
The Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, at UCLA has an unpublished book by Raphael Fabian Bennett titled "The Shelter of the Cloth" (1950): http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt309nf0dm/ and http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt309nf0dm/entire_text/
July 6, 1931 Los Angeles Evening Post-Record has a blurb on Ray Bennett's one-act play "Sage" being performed by the Quill 'n' Buskin Club in Edendale, California: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/105584678/actor-raphael-bennett-ray-bennett/
A copy of Ray Bennett's 1937 play "Wild Honey" is available at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland, Oregon: https://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:80444/xv94815
The University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, Special Collections Department and the The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley have Ella Costillo Bennett scrapbooks donated by her daughter, Mary Bennett:
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), California Death Index, and the death certificate provide more on Ray Bennett and family:
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the title lobby card from the Astor re-issue of Elliott's 1941 THE RETURN OF DANIEL BOONE. He's got his arm around Betty Miles who is best remembered as the great rider and stunt woman at Monogram with Tom Keene and the Trail Blazers. In the upper right photo, Elliott has the drop on Bud Osborne (mustache) and Francis Walker and Ray Bennett is kneeling in front of the safe. Bennett was the brains heavy in this, portraying "Leach Killgrain" (what a name!). Crop of that photo below:
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - Ray Bennett and Charles Starrett are having an argument while prolific henchman and stunt man Carl Mathews sneaks into the scene. From Starrett's LAWLESS PLAINSMEN (Columbia, 1942).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is a lobby card from Lash Larue's FRONTIER REVENGE (Ron Ormond / Western Adventure, 1948). Below is a cropped B&W still that was used for this lobby card.
(Courtesy of Pat LaRosa)
Above from left to right are Al St. John, bartender Cliff Taylor (he was producer Ron Ormond's father-in-law), Lash Larue, Ray Bennett (as brains heavy "Duce Rago"), and bearded barfly Jack Evans. Moustached Lee Morgan is leaning on the bar behind Bennett.