Downtown Wichita Falls, Texas, in the mid 1940’s was a bustling metropolis for a boy of 7 just away from the farm and ranch community where he was born. My father, a cook and cowboy by trade, had just started as one of the first cooks for the Casa Manana restaurant in 1947. He moved us to an apartment on Ohio Street, right across from the Gem Theater, between 7th and 8th Streets. It’s here that we would stay for the next three years. The Gem Theater became a magic palace for a young mind. But it had to share that distinction with the rest of the magic that was Wichita Falls. I attended San Jacinto and Carrigan elementary schools, as well as Reagan Junior High, and belonged to the Boys Club on 6th Street. Please join, and share your stories and pictures through a Guest Blog, of early Wichita Falls - or your home town. Contact me at or leave a comment. We could use old pictures of movie houses, drive-in theaters, and other nostalgic pictures related to our youths.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Daredevils of The Red Circle

Daredevils of The Red Circle

This past weekend I watched The Daredevils of The Red Circle; it was an early 12-Chapter serial from Republic, released in 1939. Three circus daredevils perform dangerous stunts for the audience, while one of their young nephews looks on, wishing to be like them when he grows up.  Horace Granville, an elderly man who had once put his partner, Harry Crowl, in prison for criminal acts owns the circus, and other businesses. Crowl escapes, captures Horace Granville, taking over his identity, and holds the old man in a cell beneath his own house. Setting out to sabotage the businesses owned by his captive, he sets fire to the circus and the nephew of the daredevil is killed. Now the daredevils want to help bring the escaped convict to justice, not knowing that they are working for the disguised criminal, who sets traps for them. But a mysterious person is leaving secret messages for the daredevils, using a red circle as a signature.  It’s really no surprise. The mystery person is Blanche Granville, the granddaughter of Horace Granville. She knows the set up, and tries to warn the daredevils each time a trap is set. Crowl uses the alias of his old prison number 39013. The actor playing Crowl is Charles Middelton, who played Ming The Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials opposite Buster Crabb. But in Daredevils of The Red Circle, his acting is dull, and does not give the impression of menace that he portrayed as Ming. Hermon Brix, one of the early Tarzan actors, is one of the daredevils, and every time we see him in action, I am reminded of Doc Savage. He would have been perfect as Doc in a serial. There are some good cliffhangers, and the chapters flash by way too quick. Reminded me of those long ago days at the Tower and Gem Theaters, being upset when the chapter ended, and I knew it would be a whole week before I found out what happened to our heroes. For a serial, regardless of Mendleton’s lackluster performance, this is a good one, with lots of action and lots of fun. Puppy the dog gets in on the act a lot. Snowflake, a black actor, was the comedy relief, I suppose. He was the servant/cook and whatever.

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