Ray "Crash" Corrigan

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Ray "Crash" Corrigan
Ray Corrigan The White Gorilla.jpg
Corrigan in The White Gorilla (1945)
Raymond Benitz

(1902-02-14)February 14, 1902
DiedAugust 10, 1976(1976-08-10) (aged 74)
Resting place Inglewood Park Cemetery, California
Other namesRaymond Benard
Ray Benard
Years active19321958
Rita Jane Smeal
(m. 1920;div. 1954)

Elaine DuPont
(m. 1956;div. 1967)

Ray "Crash" Corrigan (born Raymond Benitz; February 14, 1902 August 10, 1976) was an American actor most famous for appearing in many B-Western movies (among these the Three Mesquiteers and Range Busters film series). He also was a stuntman and frequently acted as silver screen gorillas using his own gorilla costumes.


In 1937, Corrigan purchased land in the Santa Susana Mountains foothills in Simi Valley and developed it into a movie ranch called "Corriganville". The movie ranch was used for location filming in film serials, feature films, and television shows, as well as for the performance of live western shows for tourists. Bob Hope later bought the ranch in 1966 and renamed it "Hopetown". It is now a Regional Park and nature preserve. [1]

Film career

In New Frontier (1939), L-R: Corrigan, Jennifer Jones and John Wayne New Frontier (1939) 1.jpg
In New Frontier (1939), L-R: Corrigan, Jennifer Jones and John Wayne

Corrigan's Hollywood career began as a physical fitness instructor and physical culture trainer to the stars. In the early 1930s he did stunts and bit parts in several films, billed as Ray Benard. Many of his early roles were in ape costumes, for example, as a gorilla in Tarzan and His Mate (1934) and an "orangopoid" in the first Flash Gordon serial.

Republic Pictures

In 1936, Corrigan had his screen breakthrough with the starring role in a Republic serial, The Undersea Kingdom , which evoked memories of Universal's first "Flash Gordon" serial. His character was known as Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and he adopted it as his screen name. He followed playing the role of John C. Fremont in the Western serial The Vigilantes Are Coming .

On the basis of this, Republic signed him to their standard Term Player Contract, running from May 25, 1936, to May 24, 1938. He was cast as one of the trio in the Three Mesquiteers series of westerns, starring in 24 of the 51 "3M" films made by the studio. He later left Republic in 1938 over a pay dispute. Over at Monogram Pictures, Corrigan began a new series of feature westerns shot at Corriganville, The Range Busters , cheap knock-offs of The Three Mesquiteers, with a series character that used his name; between 1940 and 1943, he starred in 20 of the 24 films in this series.

Gorilla Man

Following this, his on-screen work largely returned to appearing in ape costumes, beginning with The Strange Case of Doctor Rx (1942), followed by roles in Captive Wild Woman (1943), Nabonga (1944), White Pongo (1945) and as a prehistoric sloth in Unknown Island (1948). The original gorilla "mask" seen in films like The Ape (1940) was replaced with a subtler design with a more mobile jaw.

Corrigan sold his gorilla suits in 1948 and provided training in using them to their new owner, Steve Calvert, a Ciro's bartender. Calvert stepped into Corrigan's paw prints starting with a Jungle Jim film. Despite reports to the contrary, Calvert and Corrigan never appeared together on-screen in an ape costume. Since both Corrigan and Calvert eschewed screen credit playing gorillas, their film credits are often confused; any appearance of the "Corrigan suit" after 1948 is by Calvert.

His final theatrical film was playing the title role in the science fiction film It! The Terror from Beyond Space , according to bio information given to visitors at the Thousand Oaks, California, Corrigan’s Steak House and Bar that his son Tom once owned.

Television series

In 1950, he had a television show called Crash Corrigan's Ranch. [2] He also planned a television series called Buckskin Rangers with his old associate Max Terhune. [3]


In 1937, Corrigan was on a hunting trip with Clark Gable when he had an idea to purchase land in Simi Valley, California, and use it as a Western-themed ranch similar to Iverson Movie Ranch. He paid a $1,000 down payment, then a thousand dollars a month until the $11,354 price was paid. [4] He developed this into Corriganville, a location used for many Western films and TV shows. The location featured many different types of terrain for producers such as lakes, mountains, and caves. [5] Not merely set fronts, Corriganville contained actual buildings where film crews could live [6] and store their equipment to save the time and expense of daily travel from studios to an outdoor location.

Corrigan profited well from renting this location to film studios and from paying visitors. In 1949, Corrigan opened his ranch to the public on weekends for Western-themed entertainment. The weekend attractions included stuntmen shows throughout the day, a Cavalry fort set, an outlaw shack, a full western town with saloon, jail, and hotel, live western music, Indian crafts, stagecoach rides, pony rides, and boating on the ranch's artificial lake. It was common for film and TV personalities to appear in person for photos and autographs, attracting as many as 20,000 people on weekends.

Examples of feature films and TV shows that were filmed at Corriganville:

Hollywood cowboy stars who filmed there include: Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Buster Crabbe, John Wayne, Smiley Burnette, Clayton Moore, Jay Silverheels, Charles Starrett, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Bob Steele, Tex Ritter, and Corrigan himself.

Corriganville was eventually sold to Bob Hope in 1966, becoming Hopetown. Today, what remains is known as Corriganville Park and features some of the old landmarks. Signs along a hiking trail point out the historic features.


The origin of the "Crash" nickname is from his football-playing days. This was verified by Corrigan himself when he was a contestant on the June 11, 1959, episode of You Bet Your Life starring Groucho Marx. When asked how he got the name "Crash", Corrigan told Groucho, "When I would go to tackle somebody or instead of fighting them with my fists, I would just take off and dive at them head first and that's how I acquired the name 'Crash'".

His first starring role using the name professionally was in the Republic Pictures' serial The Undersea Kingdom (1936), in which his screen character was also named "Crash Corrigan". The serial was created to capitalize on the popularity of Universal Pictures' Flash Gordon serials, and the nickname may have been appropriated by Republic's publicity department to create a similarly named hero. [7]


Following his death from a heart attack at age 74 on August 10, 1976, in Brookings Harbor, Oregon, Ray "Crash" Corrigan was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Inglewood, California. More than four decades later, his grave still remains unmarked, without a headstone.


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  1. "Corriganville Park", LAMountains.com; retrieved June 23, 2013.
  2. Woolery, George W. (1985). Children's Television: The First Thirty-Five Years, 1946-1981, Part II: Live, Film, and Tape Series. The Scarecrow Press. pp. 131–133. ISBN   0-8108-1651-2.
  3. "New Series of Westerns Planned for Television." Long Beach Press-Telegram, October 8, 1950.
  4. Gilpatrick 2002, p. 202.
  5. Corrigan, Ray. "An Introduction to Corriganville." The Corriganville Gazette, Volume 1, Issue 3.
  6. Schneider, Jerry L. (August 1, 2007). "Corriganville Movie Ranch". Lulu Press, Incorporated. Retrieved May 1, 2017 via Google Books.
  7. Anderson, Chuck. "Ray 'Crash' Corrigan." B-Westerns, October 1, 2009.


  • Gilpatrick, Kristen. Famous Wisconsin Film Stars. London: Badger Books, 2002. ISBN   978-1-87856-986-8.
  • Schneider, Jerry L.Corriganville Movie Ranch. Raleigh, North Carolina: Lulu.com, 2007. ISBN   978-1-43031-224-6.