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Saturday, October 13, 2012

George Bruce

My pal John Herrington launched me on an interesting little voyage of non-discovery the other day when he mentioned an American pulp author named George Bruce.

According to the Fictionmags Index he was a "Popular author of World War I stories; the person for whom the pulp magazines George Bruce’s Squadron and George Bruce’s Contact are named. Additional biographical data on him have not been located, but he is known to have written screenplays for Hollywood motion pictures. Not to be confused with Scottish poet George Bruce (1909- ).

The FMI has a long list of stories dating from the period 1927-1940 written by Bruce for flying, sporting and action pulps, including Air Stories, Wings, Action Stories, Fight Stories, Over the Top, Aces, Airplane Stories, Street & Smith's Air Trails, The Lone Eagle, War Birds, as well as contributions to Adventure and Argosy. Bruce also wrote crime stories for Gangster Stories, Black Aces, Popular Detective, Detective Tales and Thrilling Detective, amongst others.

George Bruce was such a popular writer of air war stories that his name was attached to several titles: George Bruces's Aces (1 issue, 1931), George Bruce's Air Novels (1 issue, 1931), George Bruce's Sky Fighters (1932). The latter title was published by Langley House and then continued by Standard Magazines as Sky Fighters from July 1932, with Bruce writing the lead novel until June 1933. Bruce seems to have fallen out with Standard as Adventure House began publishing two titles based around Bruce's writing: George Bruce's Contact and George Bruce's Squadron, both of which ran 11 issues between August 1933 to June 1934. Bruce's name was then dropped and the two magazines combined, although Squadron, incorporating Contact, lasted only 3 issues between July and September 1934. Bruce continued to contribute. Sky Fighters paused briefly after Bruce's defection but was relaunched in October 1933 with Arthur J. Burks as its chief writer. Bruce returned in July 1934.

I believe that a radio show, George Bruce's Air Stories of the World War, was also broadcast around 1932.

In 1936, The William Caslon company published Navy Blue and Gold, a story of the Naval academy, at the time Bruce's address was given as Interlacken, New Jersey.

In 1937, Bruce's novel Navy Blue and Gold was filmed – starring James Stewart and Robert Young – by M-G-M. Bruce also wrote the screenplay and began writing a number of films each year, including She's No Lady (1937), The Crowd Roars (1938), The Man in the Iron Mask (1939), Kit Carson (1940), The Son of Monte Cristo (1941), The Corsican Brothers (1942, starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and dozens of others. Bruce even directed one of his screenplays, a western entitled Fury in Paradise (1955) starring Peter M. Thompson, for a Mexican company, Henri A Lube Producciones.

In the 1950s, like many Hollywood screenwriters, he also contributed to television, including Crossroads, Playhouse 90, The Lawless Years, The Detectives. His last credits appeared in the early 1960s, his last major screenplay being a version of Beauty and the Beast (1962) starring Joyce Taylor and Mark Damon.

The IMDb notes that Bruce was born in Danville, Pennsylvania on 15 September 1898 and died, aged 75, in Riverside County, California, on 6 September 1974.

Copyright records also give Bruce the birth year 1898 and we can find a few additional traces of him.

In February 1931 there is a record of George Bruce travelling from Bermuda to New York, his birth place given as Philadelphia, PA, and his date of birth given as 15 September 1895. Anyone who has followed my research here on Bear Alley will know that variations in records are almost as common as there are records. Indeed, trying to track down authentic info. is one of the reasons that I set up Bear Alley in the first place.

But, variations aside, the Pennsylvania birth place and 15 September birth date make it 99% certain that we're talking about the same guy who is listed on the IMDb. There's some further evidence which we'll come to shortly.

What's interesting is that George is married. His wife, Gertrude (b. Sparrow Bush, N.Y., 28 November 1898) and son Thunder (b. New York City, 25 December 1928) are also listed, as is Joan Skinner (b. Sparrow Bush, N.Y., 3 June 1913). All four are given the same home address: Bar-37 Ranch, Prescott, Arizona.

The 1930 census also includes George and Gertrude but with some intriguing differences. George, aged 37 [i.e. born c.1893] is the co-partner in a dude ranch in the Prescott National Forest. He had married Gertrude (31, i.e. born c.1898) at the age of 34 – she was 28, so 3 to 4 years earlier. Their son is listed as Boris Bruce, aged 2, born in Arizona.

The ranch was co-owned with Edgar M. Andrews, 34-years-old and born in New Jersey; also at the same address is Edgar's mother Beigh L. Andrews (65) and Jean Skinner (17)... who was also on the travel manifest, so there can be no doubt that George, Gertrude and Boris (!) are the same folk as George, Gertrude and Thunder.

Incidentally, he really was called Thunder. His full name was George Thunder Bruce and his date of birth appears to have been 24 December 1927; he died on 24 December 1994 in Oregon.

In 1940, Edgar M. Andrews (45), newly married to Frances E. Andrews (33), is still a cattleman and running a ranch in Yavapai, Arizona. George, of course, has moved on. If you'll recall, he had begun his Hollywood career in around 1937 and moved to Los Angeles. George is listed as being a 42-years-old producer in the motion picture industry and was living with his wife Mitzie, a 28-year-old born in Hungary.

Gertrude and her son, now listed as George, were also living in Long Beach, Los Angeles. Gertrude may have been the Gertrude Bruce (listed as born 29 November 1898) who died in Alexandria City, Virginia, in January 1984.

1930 is the earliest I have been able to track Bruce with any certainty. In the 1910 census there is listed a 10-year-old George Bruce, son of James and Mamie Bruce. James was a piano tuner and the family were from Pennsylvania and living in Pittsburgh. There was an older brother named Joseph, plus younger siblings Elizabeth, Charlotte, Robert and Arthur. However, I believe that this George Bruce was still living in Pittsburgh in 1940.

He might be the George P. Bruce, who in the 1910 census was a 15 years old (born in Pennsylvania, c.1895) living with his grandmother (Mary J. Nelson) in Pittsburgh. There's no way of checking, unfortunately.


Navy Blue and Gold. A story of the Naval academy. New York, The William Caslon Co., 1936.
Claim of the Fleshless Corpse. New York, Dodge Publishing Co., 1937; as Corpse Without Flesh, London, Jenkins, 1938.

Too Tough to Die. A Red Lacey detective novel. New York, The William Caslon Co., 1936.  

Others (related)
Salute to the Marines, novelization by Randall M. White, from the screenplay by George Bruce. New York, Grosset & Dunlap, 1943.


John said...

This is wonderful material on a writer about whom I knew nothing until I found his luridly titled crime novel which you do not include in his bibliography. I just reviewed Claim of the Fleshless Corpse by George Bruce on my blog. This is the second known detective novel by Bruce. It features an insurance claims adjustor John "Toughy" Nichols and a surgeon with detective skills, Dr. Lester Lawson, who team up to solve a murder that involves insurance fraud. The book has been listed in Hubin's crime fiction bibliography since the second edition. The publisher was Dodge (1937 in the US, and Herbert Jenkins (1938) in the UK where the title was given the slightly more grisly title Corpse without Flesh.

Steve said...

Not quite sure what you mean. The book is clearly listed and has been since the piece was compiled in 2012.

John said...

Of brother... I leaped right over it! I see it now in the Novels section. I obviously need to slow down in my scrolling.