No question that the studios had their leading men. Dick Foran started at Warners, but wound up at Universal. Nowadays, he is considered generously as a matinee idol of B pictures.

His stock in trade?  A big frame, genial face, genial onscreen personality and a pretty decent singing voice. He was once groomed at Warners as another singing cowboy a la Gene Autry, then graduated at Universal to a range of action vehicles and horror movies.

Foran’s movie career commenced in the early Thirties, and he brought the curtain down in 1975, four years before his death at age 69. Boy, did he work.  Total movie and tv credits piled up over 41 years number 165 — that averages out to be four projects a year. In the last years he worked almost exclusively in tv commercials.  That sunniness again.

Foran is somewhat distinctive in that he did not suffer the economically deprived childhood that afflicted many bigger Hollywood stars. His father was a bigtime New Jersey state senator, and Dick attended private school and Princeton University (he stood 6-feet-2, and sported a full mane of red hair) where he studied geology and played football.

On Broadway, he appeared in the 1943 musical comedy, A Connecticut Yankee, from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. His first job in Hollywood was as a band singer.

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His singing cowboy roles can be seen in 1935’s Moonlight on the Prairie, 1936’s Song of the Saddle, 1937’s Guns of the Picos and 1938’s Cowboy From Brooklyn. In the Forties, Foran was installed at Universal where he ran the gamut from horror (1940’s The Mummy’s Hand) to comedy (1942’s Ride ‘Em Cowboy with Abbott and Costello).

Notably, Foran had a key supporting role in 1936’s The Petrified Forest starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart.

The Petrified Forest Poster

Along the way Foran befriended John Wayne, and one of his last movie roles was in the Duke’s 1963 vehicle Donovan’s Reef.  From the Fifties onward, he worked — a lot — largely in television. A versatile and reliable actor to the end.

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