Ray Bourbon appeared as an extra or had bit parts in a number of films, particularly during the silent era.
This page will attempt to document those film appearances.
If you have access to or information on specific films of Ray, including news footage, home movies of his nightclub act, speaking parts in sound films, or other related material, please send me an email.
I am particularly interested in short films that feature Ray which may have been produced in the 1920’s or early 30’s. At one point, Ray claims to have appeared in “the worst series of short subjects ever produced”; no specific references to or documentation of these films has yet been discovered. Ray was known to have worked in films and have contacts at Paramount, MGM, and Warner Brothers during this period.
“Behind the Door” (1919)
Ray mentioned his appearance in this film during his trial testimony. He’s seen early in the film as one of the four men sitting on a fence and other shots involving the villagers.
“Male and Female” (1919)
Ray may may appear about half-way through this film playing the character of an Englishman stranded on the island – it’s difficult to tell if it might be him. Ray did mention this as one of the pictures he worked on.
“Blood and Sand” (1922)
In this Rudolph Valentino film, Ray plays a young man at the beginning of the film that is gored by a bull; he dies in Valentino’s arms. Later in the film, he pops up as a guard in one scene. Ray mentioned the film and his role in it in his autobiography and murder trial testimony.
“Beyond the Rocks” (1922)
In his autobiography, Ray discusses working on this film with Valentino and Swanson, including a practical joke Valentino played on his co-star. Ray sees he appears as a flower girl on the boat in the film. In the existing version, taken from a single surviving print that was unearthed a few years ago in Europe in a private collection, there’s no “flower girl” scene and I’ve been unable to spot Ray in other parts of the picture. It may be that Ray’s part was in a section of the film that is lost.
Ray mentions this film in his trial testimony. About five minutes into the film, at the roadhouse party, I think that’s Ray, second from the right in the group of men on the left and right of the female star (he’s laughing a lot). A few shots later, you see him, I think, in the foreground, dancing with one of the guests. He might be somewhere in the Roman orgy scene that follows (or the one around the 55 minute mark), but it’s hard to tell because of the quality of the prints, fast cutting, and long shots.
“The Ten Commandments” (1923)
Again, Ray mentions working on this film in his trial testimony and also, in his autobiography, tells the story of a wild party resulting in his firing form the studio when working on this movie. I haven’t been able to spot him in it.
“Stephen Steps Out” (1923)
Released by Paramount, this is the first film featuring a teenaged Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Ray mentions it in his autobiography in a section on Ray’s command performance for King Edward in 1936; Fairbanks was at the performance and mentioned Ray being in the film. The film is lost.
“The Volga Boatman” (1926)
Mentioned by Ray in his trial testimony as one of the pictures he worked on. I’ve been unable to spot him unless he’s the young man that William Boyd gives water to in one of the early scenes in the picture and who is killed in the palace scene later on. He might be one of the heavily costumed extras.
“Hip Zip Hooray!” (RKO short, 1934)
In this short film produced by RKO, Ray has a significant role in several scenes as a gay designer of ladies undergarments. The plot of the movie involves a sheriff with an escaped prisoner and the husband of a rather butch female state governer accidentally buying a “salon” when he goes out drinking one night, thinking he’s bought a “saloon”. The “salon” sells fashionable women’s undergarments. Ray noted in his autobiography that he appeared in a series of comedy shorts and this may be one in the series. Unfortunately, the RKO shorts have passed through many companies over the years and aren’t well documented. A copy of “Hip Zip Hooray!” was provided to the webmaster by Jonathan Sanders who recorded the short off of BBC television in the 1980s.
“He Done His Duty” (Columbia short, 1937)
Ray is listed in the cast of this Andy Clyde short filmed in September 1937 and released in December of that year.
“Golddiggers of 1937” (1937)
In the opening scenes, Ray has a non-speaking role on the train. About mid-way through this film, Ray is seen dancing at a pool party in a closeup. He mentions the appearance in his autobiography.
“Ever Since Eve” (1937)
“Ever Since Eve” is a 1937 comedy production from Warner Brothers starring Marion Davies. According to a cast listing for the picture in the April-June 1937 issue of “Box Office”, in a column listing in production and recently completed film projects, Ray is listed in the cast. A database listing for the print at UCLA doesn’t include him. The film has aired on TCM and I obtained a copy of one of the broadcasts – there’s a couple of nightclub scenes in the film (one with a Hawaiian number, the other with a Latin flavored number), but Ray is nowhere to be seen. He might have been hired for the film and then they changed the concept for the number he would have done. Or maybe he had a bit part with a few lines and was cut or I missed him.
Other Possible Film Appearances
Estelle Taylor films (1919-1923)
It’s generally accepted that Ray started in the movie business working at Paramount and someone noticed his resemblance to Estelle Taylor; Ray wound up doubling and doing stunts for her. Only some of her films survive and they seem to only be in archival collections.
Series of shorts (dates unknown)
Ray mentions in his autobiography appearing in a rather dreadful series of shorts. He doesn’t say when or who produced them or whether they were sound or silent.
I’ve done periodic digging on this among film researchers and in publications and archival collections. Silent and classic film era shorts aren’t well documented, particularly for independent producers. Shorts from the silent era don’t have a great survival rate and sound shorts were often resold and repackaged over the years for television and can be nearly impossible to track down. The material might still exist, waiting to be discovered.
Documentary footage (mid-1960s)
I keep hearing rumors that Ray’s act, and other performances, at the Jewel Box Lounge in Kansas City, were filmed in the mid-1960s. There are several possibilities I’ve considered to follow up on this, to no avail.
It could have been an amateur that set up a camera one night for filming home movies, but none have surfaced. I considered that a local tv station might have filmed for a story about the Jewel Box, but turned up nothing there.
About this time, CBS News was gathering footage for a controversial “CBS News Special Report” one-hour documentary they would eventually air called “The Homosexuals”. I’ve found nothing in the documentary showing drag performances – it could have been filmed and then not used, but I haven’t seen anything like this in the catalogued CBS News clip archive that includes news broadcasts, specials, and original outtake film footage.
There’s also the possibility that a student or indie filmmaker shot the material, intending it for use in a project, but, again, nothing has turned up. There was a 1967 indie documentary, “The Queen”, made about a New York-based drag queen competition – perhaps the filming was done in connection with that and not used, but I’ve run into nothing indicating that.
Finally, there’s a possibility that undercover KC cops or FBI might have filmed at the Jewel Box under the guise of making some type of film or documentary, but I’ve not seen anything that would back up that theory.