Thursday, June 30, 2011

Betty Lou Head & Early Cantrell (West of the Alamo)

In the Jimmy Wakely oater West of the Alamo (Monogram, 1946) Betty Lou Head is that almost unheard of creature in a B-Western: a young married woman. Soon enough, alas, Betty Lou is made a widow by somebody impersonating local saloon owner Jane Morgan, and she decides to take the law into her own hands in a surprisingly potent scene where she confronts Jimmy Wakely, the sheriff (ubiquitous bit player Roy Butler) and sundry saloon denizens. Despite all this action, Betty Lou, of course, isn't the leading lady of West of the Alamo; that distinction goes instead to Iris Clive as the aforementioned saloon keeper falsely accused of heading a gang of road agents. Iris, who struts around the place like a junior league Joan Crawford in the much later Johnny Guitar (Republic, 1954), comes complete with a sister played by one Early Cantrell (1916-1998), who mostly spends her time looking bemused at the comedic song styling of Lee “Lasses” White. Texas-born Earlyne Cantrell (1916-1998), her real name, reportedly dabbled in spiritualism from a very young age and after the demise of her minor screen career, which also included a couple of Shemp Howard comedy shorts, she and her husband since 1946, Robert Chaney, founded “Astara,” an early “new age” occult religion. Earlyne Chaney authored several books, including “Remembering: The Autobiography of a Mystic” (Upland, CA: Astara, 1981).

NOTE: The life dates given for Early Cantrell on Imdb are incorrect; these dates, undoubtedly originally located on the find-a-grave website, belong instead to a somewhat older male.

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