Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Birthday Tribute to Richard Martin

Actor Richard Martin was born on December 12, 1917, in Spokane, Washington.

As I've come to know Tim Holt's RKO Westerns over the past year, one of the things I enjoy the most about them is Richard Martin. Martin may not be known to many film fans, but to those who love the Holt Westerns, Martin is Holt's irrepressible Mexican-Irish sidekick, Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty.

Part of the movies' charm is the relationship between Tim and Chito. Chito may be easily distracted from work, especially by a beautiful lady, but Tim never becomes impatient with Chito; instead he's perpetually amused by him, giving Chito sidelong grins when Chito's not looking. And while Tim may be the serious one of the pair, when the chips are down, Chito can always be counted on to come through.

Martin's film career began with bit roles in 1942, and the next year the Chito character actually debuted in a WWII film, BOMBARDIER (1943). BOMBARDIER starred Randolph Scott, Pat O'Brien, and Robert Ryan.

Martin next played Chito in the "B" Western NEVADA (1944), opposite Robert Mitchum, and from that point on, with rare exceptions, his acting career consisted of playing Chito. He did one more Western with Mitchum, one with James Warren, and then starred with Tim Holt in 29 Westerns released from 1947 to 1952, when RKO stopped making "B" films.

Martin was popular off camera as well. In a 1970 interview, nearly two decades after the series came to an end, Tim Holt said, "Richard Martin’s still a good friend… we keep in touch. We had such fun together on the series."

Barbara Hale said of Martin "What a darling man!" while Jacqueline White said "Richard Martin was a charming guy -- real nice and tall! A good looking fellow."

As for actress Elaine Riley, who appeared with Martin and Holt in RIDER FROM TUCSON (1950), she and Martin had married in 1946. It was a union which would last until his death in 1994; Elaine Riley will be 91 in January.

In an interview in Michael Fitzgerald and Boyd Magers' LADIES OF THE WESTERN, Riley related "But certainly one of the most exciting things that happened to me was the first day I was on the set at RKO when I saw Richard Martin come through a door. That's the most exciting thing that ever happened to me...About ten minutes later, over my right shoulder, I heard this voice...and there he stood. I thought, of all these people, why is this happening?" They didn't get to know each other well until they were both on location in Carmel a few months later, when they went to dinner and that was it, the start of a happy relationship which lasted roughly half a century.

Riley said of her husband and Tim Holt: "They loved one another...Tim really did fabulous Dick raises...he was just wonderful. Just incredible."

Martin and Riley lived in the Balboa Island area of Newport Beach, California. Richard Martin passed away in Newport Beach on September 4, 1994.

Many of the films Martin made with Tim Holt can be found in the Warner Archive's Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Vol. 2 and Vol. 3. They're seen at the right with Myrna Dell in GUNS OF HATE (1948).

A handful of Martin's other Westerns are out in Lions Gate's Zane Grey Collection, including NEVADA (1944) and WEST OF THE PECOS (1945) with Robert Mitchum, WANDERER OF THE WASTELAND (1945) with James Warren, and THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947), UNDER THE TONTO RIM (1947), and WILD HORSE MESA (1947) with Tim Holt.

January 2016 Update: Actress Elaine Riley Has Died at 98.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

It took me a moment when I saw your headline on my blog feed and then "Chito!". D'oh! What a pleasure to read such wonderful things about the personable actor.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you didn't let this slip by like I did.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

That book LADIES OF THE WESTERN looks interesting.

11:27 PM  
Blogger James Corry said...

Richard Martin was also in Val Lewton's superb "Leopard Man" (1943) and made a tremendous impression as the bereaved boyfriend of a murdered girl.


12:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Brad, I'm so glad you mentioned that, I saw LEOPARD MAN but it was before Martin was on my "radar," so to speak. I need to revisit it!

Thanks, and I'm so glad you all are fans of "Chito" too!

Best wishes,

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really saw a lot of Richard as "Chito" in the early 60's on Sat. afternoon TV.
He was terrific and I'll never forget him.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm always happy to hear from another fan of Richard "Chito" Martin. Many hours of happy viewing thanks to his work!

Best wishes,

5:56 PM  

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