E.C. Craver wasn’t super-pleased when the photographer who accompanied me on this story asked to take his picture with the Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter VHS box. After all, he’d lived a varied life, fought in the Korean War, and recently self-published his own novel.
But the photo was, basically, my idea, since I’d tracked Craver down at his new home in rural Washington state and held a fondness for the kind of low-grade cinema he’d played a part in. He was renamed “Cal Bolder” for his acting career by the semi-infamous agent Henry Willson, who’d done the same for Roy “Rock Hudson” Scherer, Merle “Troy Donahue” Johnson and a host of other beefcake stars. (I never got him to confirm that Willson was the agent he pulled over for speeding, though other sources make that claim. Johnny D. Boggs’ book Jesse James and the Movies identifies the agent as Robert Raison.) “‘Cal,’ like California,” as Craver put it in his still-booming voice when I met him. “Big and strong, like a boulder.” Ironic, that, since he’d nearly been killed by a boulder in Korea when a detachment of enemy soldiers tried to drop it on him.
The story appeared in my newspaper in time for Halloween in 2002. E.C. Craver died in 2005. My thanks to Brian’s Drive-In Theater, whose Cal Bolder page provided key info for this article and offers a fine memorial to Craver today.
ROYAL CITY – E.C. Craver may have been too nice a guy for Hollywood.
At a muscular 6-feet-4, 240 pounds, Craver was recruited in 1958 from his Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle into a 10-year whirl of auditions, studio-lot visits and film shoots. Under the stage name Cal Bolder, he played bad guys on “Bonanza,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Star Trek,” and got turned into a mind-numbed monster in the camp horror classic Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter.
“I was doing fairly well with the agent I had,” said Craver, now 71 and living outside Royal City. “I’d had four or five things and a couple of leading roles — I hated to just go to him and say, ‘I’m leaving town.’ So I said, ‘No, I think this guy is doing me all right.’
“And so Clint Eastwood goes over there,” he said, “and you know the rest of the story.”