Bob Livingston: from Zorro to Three Mesquiteers

Published 10:19 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

Once again – hi ‘cowpokes’ and – er – ‘cowpokettes’ it’s time once more to take a look at one of your favorite western actors from the golden days of western movies, circa 1930s to the 1950s.

This guy – well – his name may not be too familiar but, it’s a safe bet you’ve seen him many a Saturday afternoon. I’m talking about Bob Livingston who was born Dec. 9, 1904 in Quincy, IL. Actually, his birth certificate reads Robert E. Randall. He borrowed his mom’s maiden name for the screen.

He began doing bit and extra work (there is a difference – I guess) around the mid 1920s. When talkies became a fact of film life he went to work with Tiffany Pictures – using his real name. Then, there was a long spell at that most prestigious of studios – MGM. Five years there, a pretty good record, were 1931 to ‘36.

In 1936 – for who knows what reason – he signed with Republic the ‘A’ studio of the ‘B’ studios. He made three – count ‘em, three – entire movies. And, here’s a tad of movie history: He became the first sound era Zorro. Yep, he made his mark. Yet, more movie history. He starred in that studio’s first color film, “The Bold Cahallaro.”

Soon afterwards, as any true cowboy movie fan prob’ly knows, he became one of The Three Mesquiteers. The other two ‘muskies’ were Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune (dummy included — no, not the producer). If you must know there were more than 50 Mesquiteer movies and, our hero was in 29 of them – the mostest.

They began in 1932 with the ominous title, “Riders Of the Whistling Skull. And, dig this – when he left the series he was replaced by John Wayne who portrayed Stony Brooke.

Livingston later returned to the series. However, afore that he made the serial, “The Lone Ranger Rides Again.” That was in 1939.

Livingston was all over the place for awhile. He did series work at good, ole PRC (the studio that once paid a portion of my dad’s writing skills – a publicist, not a scripter). Cowboy ‘L’ worked, again, at Republic, replacing Eddie Dew (who will say ‘who? first) in a short-lived series about John Paul Revere. In the last piece, for some reason, the studio changed the hero’s last name from Revere to Rapidan – an odd-ish name. His co-star was my old friend, Smiley Burnette. It was after that – he re-joined the three ‘you know who’s. I guess it’s a case of ‘once-a-Mesquiteer-almost-always-a-Mesquiteer’.

When the sun was beginning to set, his starring days did the same. Then, hero Bob became villain Bob playing alongside Autry, Rogers, and Holt. He was a ‘good’ bad guy, a grey-haired dude. He retired from films in 1975, but before he passed away, he slid a little downhill, making three weird films. Get this: “Naughty Stewardesses” and, even crazier, “Blazing Stewardesses.” Worse still, the former cowboy hero also appeared in – gulp!- “I Spit On Your Corpse.” Jeez. He ‘spat’ in ‘75.

Livingston’s private life was quite quiet. He married Margaret Roach in 1947. Her dad was noted Hollywood producer, Hal Roach. She appeared in a couple of pics. They had a son, Randall. The marriage ended in 1951. He died in 1989. A quick note about his brother, Jack Randall. He appeared in a few movies. I told you it was a quick note.

Frank Roberts, who is 87, spent 60 years writing and talking. He and his wife, Valeria, have three children, five grandchildren, and three great-granddaughters. He loves to write.