RAY CORRIGAN BIOGRAPHY

Ray in 1950'sRay in 1976

Ray "Crash" Corrigan

born February 14, 1902
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
as Raymond Benitz

died August 10, 1976
Brookings, Oregon


Stuntman, ape impersonator, and actor, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, began his life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1902, as Raymond Benitz. 

While living in Denver, Colorado, during his teens, he worked for an auto shop as a tireman.

In the early 1920's, his family moved to Los Angeles, California.

It was in California that he began using Ray Bernard and Ray Benard, interchangeably, as his name.

In 1927 he was running a radio equipment shop at 2541 Crenshaw Blvd., and in 1930, he had a reducing machine business at 2611 W. 7th, both located in Los Angeles.

In 1928 he was married. The same year he was arrested and convicted for indecent exposure. In 1930, he divorced his wife.

From his modeling, he acquired a 4-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, from 1930 to 1934, performing a few bit parts and minor stunts.

He signed a 2-year contract with Republic Studios in 1936, where he appeared mostly in westerns. The first use of Ray "Crash" Corrigan as his stage name was in the serial Undersea Kingdom (1935). The studio created the name, probably in response to Flash Gordon which was filming at Universal at the time and had been appearing in comic form in newspapers.

During the filming on Undersea Kingdom, Corrigan said he was hurt many times, but the most serious was when the director, "Breezy" Eason had a dynamite charge set between the camera and "Crash". Ray should have been at least 25 feet away, but the director had him much closer. At the hospital, over a hundred small pebbles were removed from his skin.

In 1936, Republic Pictures began their long running series, The Three Mesquiteers [please visit Chuck Anderson's The Old Corral for a LOT more information on The Three Mesquiteers]. Ray appeared in the first 24 of them, from 1936 to 1939. Because of a hunting trip while filming one of thse flicks, he discovered a ranch that he knew would make a great movie location ranch.

In 1937 he purchased that ranch in Simi Valley and immediately set about creating a motion picture location ranch. Named the Ray Corrigan Movie Ranch, filming commenced in late 1937 with a George O'Brien western.

In 1938 he apparently married for the second time, to Jean Albert.

In December 1944, he married Rita Jane Smeal and they had three children: Tommy Ray (born July 7, 1944), Joyce Christine (born July 10, 1945), and Patricia Ann (born July 12, 1946).

In 1940, producer George W. Weeks, through Monogram Pictures, began The Range Busters and Ray appeared in the first 16 (1940-1942) and the last 4 (1943). His acting career as a western star was near an end. [Please visit Chuck Anderson's The Old Corral for a LOT more information on the Range Busters]

In late 1949, he decided to open his movie ranch to the general public on weekends. The ranch was now called Corriganville.

In 1954, he and his wife Rita divorced. She had been seeing Moses S. (Bud) Stiltz, the former ranch foreman, while Ray had been seeing a young performer at the ranch, Elaine Zazueta (stage name, Elaine DuPont). In January 1959, while Bud (no longer employed at Corriganville; now a welder) was visiting Rita at her home (with her three children there), Carl (Alfalfa) Switzer showed up demanding payment of $50 on a debt owed to him by Bud. In the ensuing fight, Bud shot Switzer dead. It was ruled justifiable homicide although eyewitness accounts indicate it was murder.

Ray married the young performer he had been seeing, Elaine Zazueta. They were later divorced. She remarried, but Ray did not. He simply lived with Irene Bacus, who survived him.

BongaMost of his later years as an actor was inside a gorilla suit which he designed and owned, many times playing the part unbilled.

He died 10 Aug 1976, in Brookings, Oregon, at age 74.

Max Terhune, Earl Warren, Ray Corrigan
Click on image for larger view

"Let safety first be your motto and your horse will provide you with one of the most wholesome activities available to you today." Ray "Crash" Corrigan, 1962

Chuck Anderson's The Old Corral web site has a section devoted to Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Max "Lullaby/Alibi" Terhune, as well as a Corriganville Movie Ranch page. His web site is highly recommended for all western fans.