Ralph Earl Madsen (1897-1948) went by many handles during his professional life: R.E., Texas, Tex, “Big Boy”, “Sky High” and Mr. Longellow among them. Madsen was sometimes rendered as “Madesen.” It was almost as if he were too big for one name. Standing 7’6″ by the time he reached 21 years of age, Madsen hailed from Nebraska, moniker notwithstanding. His manager Sam Houston promoted him as a Texas native, though he was a genuine ranch hand who possessed all of the traditional riding and roping skills. Madsen worked sideshows and fairs for years, and is among the most widely photographed of men in his line by virtue of the fact that he appeared in four major Hollywood films: 3-Ring Marriage (1928) with Mary Astor; The Sideshow (1928) with Marie Prevost, Ralph Graves, and Little Billy Rhodes; the Our Gang short Mama’s Little Pirate (1934), and The MIghty Barnum (1934) with Wallace Beery.
Like many pituitary giants, Madsen did not live a long life. He was 51 years old when he passed away in his home town, Norfolk, Nebraska in 1948.
To learn more about show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.