Riders Of The Films

By J.J. O’Connor

From the September 1944 Issue of Motorcyclist Magazine.

Do any of the movie stars ride motorcycles? They sure do. Oh, it’s just a lot of press agent hokum to get their name in the paper, you say. All right, have it that way if you wish. But we went out and saw them riding and talked to them. So here’s the convincer that the movie stars do ride motorcycles.

Having heard that their motorcycling generally was regarded as rather legendary and mostly a figment of their press agents unceasing pursuit of publicity for their clients, we decided to explode this myth once and for all and get the facts if there were any facts to get. There were-and plenty.

Clues, leads, tips and suggestions, sent us Santa Monica-ward to the Indian tepee of “Bozo” Small, because “Bozo” was credited with being the headquarters for the movie riders and the official garage for their machines.

“Is it true, ‘Bozo,’ that the movie stars ride motorcycles?” we asked.

“Is this a gag of some kind, or do you really mean it?” “Bozo” wanted to know.

Assuring him that our interest was 100% on the level and, that we were after a story if there was a story, “Bozo” started to rattle off names, at the same time pointing to machines in storage and saying “That is Randy Scott’s Indian. Over there is John Payne’s Velocette and, right alongside, is Vic Fleming’s Ariel.”

“Yes, plenty of the movie people, and the fliers as well, ride motorcycles. The best way to see for yourself is to come down here any Sunday around 11:00 a.m., when they begin to drift in to take their motors out for a spin. You’ll get a chance to meet them and talk to them and see how genuinely enthusiastic they are for the sport. In fact, they are rabid fans because, while most of them own expensive cars, they often come in from location and head straight for their motorcycles for relaxation, leaving their four-wheelers in the garage.”

Accepting “Bozo’s” invitation, we put in appearance the following Sunday at his wigwam, around noon. Here are some of those who showed up: Randy Scott, Mrs. Scott, Eddie Norris, Patric Knowles, Victor Fleming, all of the movies; Capt. Lockwood Albright, U.S. Air Corps; Vance Breese, famous test pilot; Corey Loftin, Hollywood ace stunt man; Johnny Martin, test pilot; Ted Peaso, manager of Douglas Air Lines; Al Spencer and Johnny Fargos, technical engineers; Ed. Kretz, national road race champion and hillclimber. Altogether there were about 100 riders in the party and they took off for a little informal sport in one of the numerous Hollywood canyons, where some nice tricky test hills are to be found.

At the rendezvous, where everything was strictly informal, and it was no trick at all to meet and talk to anyone and everyone, we got plenty of “low-down” on the motorcycle activities of the movie people and the fliers as well. For instance-

Randy Scott is partial to a 1941 Indian Chief and is about as ardent a motorcycle fan as you will find in a day’s search. Riding to and from his studio is almost a daily routine with Randy, in addition to frequent trips to his San Diego ranch when his picture schedule permits. Recently, he returned from an 18,000 mile overseas trip where he entertained the service men and, on his arrival, the first thing he called for was his motorcycle, despite the fact that the famed California sunshine was pretty much liquid at the time. But Randy loves to ride in the rain.

Then there is Morton Lowry, the up and coming British actor, who is keen for a 1941 Indian Sport Scout that he practically lives on. He never misses a Sunday outing with the gang and daily ferries his little pet back and forth to and from the studio. Lowry gave blase Hollywood a breath-stopper recently by going to a Monday night broadcast, all dressed up in his Sunday best, on his Scout, and proudly parked it right by the front door of the dignified Columbia radio palace on Sunset boulevard.

Jon Hall, famous for his swashbuckling South Sea island roles, was a red hot motorcyclist until a few weeks ago and forever was seeking some of the gang to go cow-trailing on his gas pony. Patric Knowles, now is chauffeuring Hall’s Indian four around Hollywood and carving a reputation for himself as a skilled rider. Hall says that he will be back with the gang soon.

John Payne, now in the Air Corps, keeps his British Velocette at “Bozo’s” place and, whenever he gets to town on leave, that is his one and only form of transportation. Payne is another dyed-in- the-wool fan who declares his furloughs would be drab affairs without his beloved Velocette to get him around to see his numerous friends in Hollywood.

Gravel-voiced Andy Devine, the “mayor of Encino,” is another motorcycle fan, who used to ride a lot more with the gang before he got himself burdened with civic responsibilities. But, Mrs. Devine upholds the gas bike laurels of the Devine menage proudly with her Velocette, and the experts declare that she is real competition on these Sunday outings.

No roster of movie motorcyclists would be complete without the name of Roy Rogers, who bought his 1941 Chief in Maryland and rode it West when he came to Hollywood. Roy has the fever strong and is always ready to toss a leg over a saddle when he can find company for an evening or Sunday spin.

Then there is the very well known Ward Bond, the proud owner of two motors, his latest pride and joy being a brand new Harley. Ward keeps both machines busy, chasing back and forth from the studio and throttle-twisting with the gang on Sundays.

Among the producers, Victor Fleming is a rabid Ariel devotee, who loves to tackle steep hills and derives keen joy in the effortless way his vertical twin carries him over the top. Howard Hawks and Sig Wagner are other producers who own and ride motorcycles and find keen zest in going along on these informal Sunday sport outings with their fellow enthusiasts.

It may be news to many, but the motorcycle has won its way into the hearts of some of our best known orchestra leaders and singers. For example, there is Alvino Ray, who recently dashed over to Arizona to keep an engagement. It was a rugged ride for Ray most of the way, because of rain, but he declares he got a real kick out of it. Ray’s choice is a 1941 Indian Chief.

Frank Sinatra owns a 1941 Indian Chief and, until his recent illness, was a familiar figure on the Sunday outings of the movie set. He promises to be back again in the saddle when his current picture schedule is completed and he has time for recreation.

So much for the movies, and now we come to the fliers. Take Captain “Locky” Albright, of the Air Corps, stationed at Victorville. He is so wrapped up in his motor that he keeps it at camp so that he may ride it at every opportunity. “Locky” owns a magnificent Lincoln which stands in the garage while he does his motoring from camp to Hollywood on his iron pony . Albright’s enthusiasm for motorcycling at camp has caused several other officers to take up the sport after getting a taste of its thrills by accepting “Locky’s” urgent invitation to take a spin on his bike and see for themselves what they are missing. As a motorcycle booster, Capt. Albright is par excellence.

When you see a hair-raising stunt on a motorcycle in a movie you can bet all the tea in China that you are looking at Corey Loftin, famous Hollywood stunt man, doubling for the star of the picture. Corey is one of those rare geniuses who can write his name in rubber on the pavement. He never misses a Sunday outing with the gang. He lives and breathes motorcycling and he always is a welcome figure on these trips because his pals know that he is sure to furnish a new thrill. One of his pet demonstrations is to show the gang how to get over a certain hill in a certain Hollywood canyon, that would be a honey for a Class C hillclimb. Not a few of the boys who thought they had experienced every thrill a motorcycle could produce, freely admit that Corey can do things that make their hair stand on end just to watch him. What a man!

Vance Breeze, famous free lance test pilot, owns two motors, and declares that they are the best relaxation he knows of, after coming in from a strenuous testing ordeal, which often includes power dives at 400 m.p.h. or better.

Much of the credit for the development of motorcycling among the movie and aviation celebrities belongs to Harry “Bozo” Small and his charming wife, both of whom are keen motorcycle enthusiasts and leave nothing undone to promote motorcycle interest among the movie and flying celebrities. They always go along on these Sunday outings, spare no effort to keep their customers’ machines in the pink of condition, and make their store a rendezvous for the picture and aviation celebrities who have found motorcycling a form of sport and recreation that has no counterpart.

According to “Bozo,” his prominent riders have done much to spread the gospel of motorcycling recreation among other film and aviation folk and, when production for civilian use is resumed, he is assured of numerous sales to other well known film and flying figures as a result of the boosting that has been done among them by the present devotees in the movie and aeronautic worlds.

So there you have it-movie stars do ride motorcycles! We have seen them ride and have talked to them and they are decidedly keen about it as a sport.

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • View Full Article
By J.J. O’Connor
Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!

*Please enter your username

*Please enter your password

*Please enter your comments
Comments:
Not Registered?Signup Here
(1024 character limit)
Motorcyclist
  • Motorcyclist Online