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Monday, November 23, 2009

Reed de Rouen

Reed Randolph De Rouen was an American of half Native American (Oneida) extraction, born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on 10 June 1917 (not 1921, as the Internet Movie Database would have it). De Rouen was a supporting actor in film and television, based in the UK and very active during the 1950s and 1960s; his earliest role known to me was as a soldier (uncredited) in The Third Man. As well as his regular film appearances, he was also on the British stage in the 1950s, in plays such as Plain and Fancy (Drury Lane Theatre, 1956) and Subway in the Sky (Savoy, 1957).

Of note to SF fans were his television appearances as Pa Clanton in "The Gunfighters", a third season adventure of Doctor Who (later novelised by David Cotton) in which the Doctor—William Hartnell—travels to Tombstone of 1881 in time to witness the gunfight of the OK corral, and in an episode of The Invisible Man entitled "The White Rabbit", about a mad scientist’s plans to create an army of invisible animals; he also appeared a couple of times in The Avengers, although in its thriller days rather than the later, as well as writing an episode, "Six Hands Across a Table" for Patrick Macnee & Honor Blackman.

His science fiction novel, Split Image (originally published in 1955 and reprinted by Panther Books (763) in 1958 and Digit Books (R728) in 1963), at least showed a modicum of originality, although it has a derivative plot about a landing on an uncharted planet that is actually a mirror of the Earth. The story follows Aldo Chandler, an ex-bomber pilot and property dealer whose folorn lovelife eventually leads him to New York and a meeting with an old friend, David Evans, who wants him to co-pilot a spaceship created by a Doctor James MacDonald. Agreeing, Aldo is later introduced to MacDonald’s wife, Isbel, with whom he falls in love with, and meets Bradley, the physicist who has helped develop the astro-magnetic powered rocket they will fly.

The first half of the book is spent flight-testing and philosophising about love, flying and how beautiful the Earth looks from on high. Unfortunately, David is killed during the first test flight and, in true space-opera style, the spaceship is blasted off course by "a huge mass of solar dust, a hundred thousand miles of it, and travelling at great speed—straight for us!" on its flight to the Moon and crashlands on the planet Dextar, where Aldo meets the Lawyers, a group of robots left by the planet’s doomed population. More philosophy (war, religion) follows until the robots allow the astronauts to return to their rocket and leave for Earth.

If you are expecting a pulp novel (as I was), the book rather lumbers in comparison to most SF from the 1950s and 1960s; the coverline—"A novel of interplanetary menace"—promises something rather different to what the book actually delivers, which is a wordy anti-war, pro-life message.

De Rouen's The Heretic is not SF, concerning an American who, whilst fighting on the side of the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, is arbitrarily picked out as a scapegoat in a communist trial of supposedly Fascist agents provocateurs. Although he escapes execution, thanks to a well-timed air raid, his life is subsequently dogged by this event, his left-wing friends shunning him and anti-communists mistrusting him for his left-wing leanings. During the Korean War he becomes a symbol for both sides and undergoes a series of contradictory brainwashings and re-indoctrinations. "Mr. de Rouen writes crisply, though the style occasionally gets a little too overwrought for its own good, and he is not frightened of tackling a big theme," claimed the reviewer for The Times (2 April 1964). "His novel inevitably recalls the world and some of the attitudes of Mr. Arthur Koestler, and does not suffer unduly from the comparison."

Reed De Rouen also wrote a number of teleplays for various series, including Ghost Squad, Crane, The Man in Room 17 and Man in a Suitcase (where he also appeared in one of his own scripts), and co-wrote an unproduced Doctor Who story with Jon Pertwee in 1970. His last film appearance (to my knowledge) was in 1972, and some years later—in 1979—he collaborated on a crime novel, Death List, which appeared as a paperback original from Futura. I’ve not seen this later novel and whether De Rouen wrote any others is unknown, but his two known novels give him a place in the canon of British paperback authors—and not many paperback authors can say they welcomed Joseph Cotten to Vienna in one of Britain’s greatest movies!

De Rouen died in London on 11 June 1986. He was married to Laila S. de Rouen (b. Benton, Montana, 22 June 1923) and they had at least one son, Reed R. de Rouen Jr. (b. Butte, Montana, 3 October 1946); De Rouen was married again to Claire Aplhandéry in in the early 1950s and had another son (Robin, b. 1955).

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
Split Image. London, Allan Wingate, Oct 1955.
The Heretic. London, Heinemann, 1964
Death List, with Robert McKew. London, Futura, Mar 1979; New York, Dell, 1979.

Plays

Films (as scriptwriter): The Six Men, 1951; Miss Robin Hood (story only) 1952.

Television (as scriptwriter): Ghost Squad, 1962-63; The Avengers, 1963; Crane, 1964; Orlando, 1965; The Man in Room 17, 1965-66; Lee OswaldAssassin, with Rudolph Cartier, 1966; Man in a Suitcase, 1968.

OTHERS

Films (as actor): The Third Man, 1949; You Can't Fool an Irishman, 1949; The Six Men, 1951; Lady in the Fog, 1952; Scotland Yard Inspector, 1952; Top Secret, 1953; Sea Devils, 1953; Blood Orange, 1954; The One That Got Away, 1957; The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, 1958; Murder at Site 3, 1959; John Paul Jones, 1959; Naked Fury, 1960; The Man Who Couldn’t Walk, 1960; There Was a Crooked Man, 1960; The Hand, 1961; The Traitors, 1963; The Pleasure Lovers, 1965; Billion Dollar Brain, 1966; You Can’t Win ‘Em All, 1970; The Revolutionary, 1970; Baxter!, 1972.

Television (as actor): Fireside Theatre, 1951; London Playhouse, 1956; The Count of Monte Cristo, 1956; ITV Play of the Week, 1957; The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, 1957; The Silver Sword, 1957; O.S.S., 1958; The Invisible Man, 1959; BBC Sunday-Night Theatre, 1959; Interpol Calling, 1960; The Four Just Men, 1960; Armchair Theatre, 1961; The Avengers, 1961-62; Z-Cars, 1963; The Third Man, 1965; Doctor Who, 1966; The Troubleshooters, 1966; Man in a Suitcase, 1968.

(* the photograph at the top shows De Rouen as Pa Clanton in the 1966 Doctor Who story "The Gunfighters".)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was he not also a radio actor? I have a vague recollection of the name in such programmes as Chas Chilton's Riders of the Range>, c1950

Tony Woolrich

Anonymous said...

Just watched his Avengers script, "Six Hands Across A Table". It's really extraordinary - much more emotionally complex - in a pulpy way - than the usual Avengers of the period. The cast and direction are a step up in style from previous episodes too.

david pearson said...

Steve my name is David Pearson. I Am the son of Randolph Clark De Rouen. Randolph was the son of Reed and adopted by Laylas second husband Kermit Pearson.

The information about Reed fascinates me. Can you contact me about more questions I have about my Grandfather

Contact me at ppearson69@gmail.com