Happy Birthday Glenn Strange
George Glenn Strange (August 16, 1899 – September 20, 1973) was an American actor who mostly appeared in Western films and was billed as Glenn Strange. He is best remembered for playing Frankenstein’s monster in three Universal films during the 1940s and for his role as Sam Noonan, the bartender on CBS’s Gunsmoke television series.
Strange was born in Weed, New Mexico Territory, 13 years prior to New Mexico gain statehood.
Strange grew up in the West Texas town of Cross Cut. His father was a bartender and later a rancher. Strange learned by ear how to play the fiddle and guitar. By the time he was 12, he was performing at cowboy dances. By 1928, he was on radio in El Paso, Texas. He was a young rancher, but in 1930, he came to Hollywood as a member of the radio singing group Arizona Wranglers. Strange joined the singers after having appeared at a rodeo in Prescott, Arizona.
In 1932, Strange had a minor role as part of the Wrecker’s gang in a 12-part serial, The Hurricane Express, starring John Wayne. He achieved his first motion picture role in 1932, and appeared in hundreds of films during his lifetime. He played numerous popular small parts in Paramount’s Hopalong Cassidy film series, usually cast as a member of an outlaw’s gang and occasionally as a local sheriff. In 1943, he played a badman in the Hopalong Cassidy movie False Colors. Beginning in 1949, he portrayed Butch Cavendish, the villain responsible for killing all of the Texas Rangers except one in the long-running television series The Lone Ranger.
Strange appeared twice as Jim Wade on Bill Williams’s syndicated Western series geared to audiences The Adventures of Kit Carson. He also appeared twice as Blake in the syndicated Western The Cisco Kid. In 1952, he was cast in the role of Chief Black Cloud in the episode “Indian War Party” of the syndicated The Range Rider. In 1954, Strange played Sheriff Billy Rowland in Jim Davis’s syndicated Western series Stories of the Century. Strange appeared six times in 1956 in multiple roles on Edgar Buchanan’s syndicated Judge Roy Bean. That same year, Strange appeared in an uncredited role as the sheriff in Silver Rapids in the Western movie The Fastest Gun Alive starring Glenn Ford. In 1958, he had a minor part in an episode of John Payne’s The Restless Gun, and had an important role in the 1958 episode “Chain Gang” of the Western series 26 Men, true stories about the Arizona Rangers. That same year, he played rancher Pat Cafferty, who faces the threat of anthrax, in the episode “Queen of the Cimarron” of the syndicated Western series, Frontier Doctor. Strange appeared in six episodes of The Rifleman playing the same role in different variations: Cole, the stagecoach driver, in “Duel of Honor”; a stagecoach shotgun guard in “The Dead-eye Kid”; Joey, a stagecoach driver in “The Woman”; and an unnamed stagecoach driver in “The Blowout”, “The Spiked Rifle”, and “Miss Bertie”.
Strange was cast in five episodes of the ABC Western The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and three segments of the syndicated Annie Oakley. In 1959, he appeared in another Western syndicated series, Mackenzie’s Raiders, in the episode entitled “Apache Boy”. Strange was cast twice on Kirby Grant’s Western aviation adventure series, Sky King, as Rip Owen in Stage Coach Robbers (1952), and as Link in Dead Giveaway (1958).
He first appeared on Gunsmoke in 1959 and assumed several roles on the long-running program before he was permanently cast as stolid bartender Sam Noonan, a role he played from 1961 until 1973, though rarely involved with any character definition beyond fetching a drink or the Marshal. .
Strange was 6 ft 5 in tall and weighed 220 lbs. His first wife was Flora Hooper of Duncan, Oklahoma. They had two daughters, Wynema and Juanita. Strange was married from 1937 to his death in 1973 to his second wife, Minnie Thompson (1911–2004). The Couple Had One Child, Janine Laraine Strange (born 1939). He had Irish and Cherokee descent through his father. In addition, Strange was an eighth-generation great-grandson of John Rolfe and Pocahontas through his maternal grandfather.
On September 20, 1973, at age 74, Strange died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California. Singer Eddie Dean, with whom Strange had collaborated on various songs and opening themes for films, sang at Strange’s funeral service as a final tribute. Strange is interred at Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery. In 1975, two years after Strange’s death, his Gunsmoke costar Buck Taylor named his third son Cooper Glenn Taylor after Strange.