It’s Time for Lash La Rue: The Bullwhip Crackin’ Western Star

Three cracks of the whip today in celebration of B movie star Alfred “Lash” La Rue (1917-1996). We’d like to be able to say that a character with his skills had come up through circuses, vaudeville, and Wild West Shows like Will Rogers before being cast for films but in Lash’s case it went the other way ’round — he learned how to do his whip tricks at the low budget PRC studio, then played the circuses, carnivals and rodeos later. LaRue starred in a couple of dozen westerns between 1945 and 1952, initially playing a character named The Cheyenne Kid, later just playing “himself” (i.e. a fictional cowboy character who had the same name as the actor). Few Poverty Row stars enjoyed the kind of recognition LaRue did, for he had no less than three memorable gimmicks. He was a hero dressed all in black (usually the villain’s color); he fought the bad guys with a bullwhip, often disarming them so no shooting could take place (a clear inspiration for Indiana Jones), and thirdly he was a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart. His sidekick in many of these was no less than Al “Fuzzy” St. John of the old Keystone days. Occasionally he would take supporting parts in major films.

After the cancellation of his movie series, La Rue made live appearances and did guest shots on western TV series like Judge Roy Bean and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. Later he did exploitation films like Please Don’t Touch Me (1963), and pornography, e.g. Hard On The Trail (1972), which he later repudiated. After a decade away from films, he found work as a bit player in the ’80s westerns: Chain Gang (1984), The Dark Power (1985), Alien Outlaw (1985), Stagecoach (1986), Escape (1989), and Pair of Aces (1990). LaRue also played country guitar and was a pal of the so-called “Outlaws” (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson).