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'Lash' LaRue; Black-Garbed Star of 1940s Westerns


"Lash" LaRue, known as the "king of the bullwhip" for his work in low-budget 1940s Westerns but who faded from sight after a brief attempt at television, has died. He was believed to be 78.

LaRue, who was known by the Saturday matinee crowd for his trademark black outfit, died May 21 at St. Joseph Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said late Thursday.

Also called "the Cheyenne Kid," LaRue made such films as "Song of Old Wyoming" and "The Caravan Trail" in 1945, "Law of the Lash," "Heartaches," and "Border Feud" in 1947, "Mark of the Lash," "The Enchanted Valley" and "The Fighting Vigilantes" in 1948, and "Son of Billy the Kid" and "Dead Men's Gold" in 1949.

His short-lived 1952-53 television series, "Lash of the West," contained footage from his movies. He was also featured in Lash LaRue comic books, which sold 12 million copies in 1952 then disappeared.

He was born Alfred LaRue, and his date of birth was listed in film histories as June 15, 1917. But when asked his age, the cowboy actor would say only, "I'm not as old as George Burns."

"How could any kid who grew up wanting to be a cowboy not enjoy being Lash LaRue? It was a dream come true," LaRue once said.

After his Hollywood career ended, LaRue performed in carnival shows and tried his hand at evangelizing, preaching the gospel and contemplating reincarnation and astrology as he performed whip and gun stunts for the Florida-based Hollywood Western Revue for the Lord.

He said he had been married and divorced 10 times and had several brushes with the law concerning vagrancy, public drunkenness, buying and concealing stolen property, possession of marijuana and assault and battery.

LaRue reportedly took a dozen sleeping pills in 1958 in a suicide attempt in Long Beach after he was sued for divorce on grounds of extreme cruelty. The attempt failed when his apartment manager called an ambulance.

LaRue was one of a number of colorful stars who were a staple of Western motion pictures, including Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, Tom Mix, Sunset Carson and Yakima Canutt. LaRue's rough style contrasted with the smoother personality of the better-known and more successful singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

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