Technically, the first Cowboy movies were shot in 1894, by William K. R. Dickson, and, technically, they were just very short-shorts of members of "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show". Each performer, like the real Annie Oakley, below, performed their "Wild West Show" routines and were filmed by cinematographer William Heise for Thomas Edison's "Black Maria" studio.
Considered the first full-length Western, which only ran two-minutes, was 1899's, "Kidnapping by Indians". This was also, technically, the first "Foreign Western", having been shot by the "Mitchell and Kenyon" film company in Blackburn, Lancashire, England.
Through the decades of the 1930's, 1940's, and into the start of the 1950's, were "B" Westerns featuring "Singing Cowboys" and "Singing Cowgirls". This is a look at just a select few of these heroes and heroines, but not necessarily the specific songs they sang.
As a young man Ken Maynard learned to ride a horse working and performing for "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show" and joined the army during the First World War. After the war, he returned to show business riding and roping for both "Ringling Brothers" and the "Cole Brothers" circus.
Above, the "Cole Brothers" train promotes both wild animal trainer Clyde Beatty and Ken Maynard. During this period, silent Western star, Buck Jones, had encouraged Maynard to become a movie actor. This led to a contract with "Fox Studios" and becoming a very popular silent Western star like William S. Hart and Tom Mix.
Between his "Brass
Commandments", released on January 28, 1923, and "The
California Mail", released on February 17, 1929, Ken
Maynard appeared in an even Thirty, "B" Westerns. However,
sound motion pictures were now being made and "B"
Cowboy star Ken Maynard's next motion picture was:
THE WAGON MASTER released on September 8, 1929
The above publicity sheet, designed to get theater bookings for "The Wagon Master", is a reflection of Hollywood at the start of talking pictures. Right above "CARL LAEMMLE PRESENTS" is an important line:
Two negatives, one talking and singing, one silent.
Not all of the movie theaters in the United States were equipped to run sound feature films yet, and the owners could request, from "Universal Pictures", a silent version of "The Wagon Master".
With "Universal Pictures", "The Wagon Master", rugged, handsome, leading silent "B" Cowboy, Ken Maynard, became the first "Singing Cowboy".
Above, Ken Maynard, portraying "The
Rambler", sings to co-star Edith Roberts, portraying Sue
Smith. This was her last feature film out of 159. Sadly,
in 1935, Edith Roberts passed away at the age of thirty-six, giving
birth to her only child.
In "The Wagon Master", Maynard sang two songs, "The Cowboys Lament", and, "The Lone Star Trail", both recorded for "Columbia Records". They also became the titles of two record albums "Columbia" and Ken Maynard made.
However, Maynard was a hard person to work with and part of that problem came from his drinking. After one year with "Universal Pictures", the first singing cowboy was released and picked-up first by forgotten, "Poverty Row" studio, "Tiffany Productions", and next, forgotten, "Sono-Art-World Wide Pictures".
In 1933, "Universal Pictures"
rehired Ken Maynard, who was an accomplished musician, and he appeared in "The
Fiddlin' Buckaroo", released on July 20, 1933, playing
the violin. That picture was followed by, "The Trail Drive", released
on September 4, 1933, with Maynard playing the banjo instead.
Above, Ken Maynard and his white stallion, "Tarzan".
Above, Cecilla Parker as "Virginia", and, Ken
Maynard as "Ken Benton" in "The Trail Drive". Cecilla Parker had played a maid in
director James Whale's 1931 "Frankenstein", but would
continue to play the heroine in several "B" Westerns. She is best
remembered for portraying Mickey Rooney's sister in the "Andy
Hardy" film series.
In 1944, Ken
Maynard stopped making motion pictures and returned to his true love, the
rodeo. He opened a small circus and traveling rodeo and appeared at county
fairs. His wealth disappeared, he was drinking heavily, was supported by an
unknown benefactor thought to be Gene Autry, who had replaced
him in the past on some films.
Ken Maynard passed away, from stomach cancer, on March 23, 1973. He had been married twice, his first wife was Mary Leeper, from 1926 into 1939. His second wife was, Bertha Maynard, I could not locate her maiden last name, from 1940 into 1969. Ken Maynard had no children and his brother was "B" Cowboy actor, Kermit Maynard.
It is hard to imagine sometimes "B" Cowboy outlaw, sometimes "B" Cowboy hero, and sometimes anti-hero Bob Steele as a singing cowboy, but he was once.
His on-screen career started in 1920, at the age of thirteen, calling himself Bob Bradbury, Jr., in "The Adventures of Bob and Bill", co-starring with his brother Bill Bradbury. Steele never was a "Junior". because the boys father was Robert North Bradbury and Bob's birth name was Robert Adrian Bradbury.
In 1927, hewas hired by "Film Booking Offices of America (FBO)" for a series of "B" Cowboy pictures. His first was "The Mojave Kid", released on September 25. 1927, it was directed by his father, Robert N. Bradbury, and Robert Adrian Bradbury was now "Bob Steele".
Three years later, found Bob Steele was working
for "Tiffany Pictures" in:
NEAR THE RAINBOWS END released on June 10, 1930
Bob Steele portrayed "Jim Bledsoe", and was a singing cowboy. In the picture he sang two songs, "Ro-ro-rolling Along", and, "Ragtime Cowboy Joe".
Louise Lorraine portrayed "Ruth Wilson". This was her second sound film and between 1920 and 1932, Lorraine appeared in eighty-four motion pictures. She left the industry to spend her life with her third husband, Chester Jones Hubbard, and remained married to him until his death in 1962.
Above, Louise Lorraine and Bob Steele.
Bob Steele made two more singing cowboy films, "The Oklahoma Cyclone", released on August 8, 1930, and,
HEADIN' NORTH released on November 1, 1930
Above left to right, are Perry Murdock as "Snicker
Kimball", Bob Steele as "Jim Curtis", and Barbara
Luddy as "Mary Jackson".
Barbara Luddy would go on to work for Walt Disney, and in 1955, she voiced "Lady" in the classic "Lady and the Tramp". Barbara also voiced the fairy, "Merryweather", in 1959's "Sleeping Beauty". Barbara Luddy was my neighbor, along with another actor, Kenneth Tobey, and my article, "My Neighbors Actors Barbara Luddy and Kenneth Tobey", may be read:
In 1940, Bob
Steele would portray outlaw "Billy the Kid", as an
anti-hero, in six motion picture from "FBO". My
article looking at the real outlaw and all the "Hollywood" versions
of him, 1911 through 2019, entitled, "Billy
the Kid Hollywood Style", will be found at:
Bob Steele wasn't just a cowboy actor and had two outstanding dramatic supporting roles. First in the 1939 version of author John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men", starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr., and, second, in the 1946 version of author Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep", starring the husband-and-wife team of Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall.
At the end of his motion picture career in 1974, Bob Steele had appeared in 244 roles. He passed away on December 21, 1988, and was married three times. Steele's first wife was Louise A. Chessman, from 1931 into 1933, his second wife was Alice Petty Hackley, from 1935 into 1938, and his third wife was Virginia Nash Tatem, from 1939 until death. Bob Steele had no children!
Then there might have been the strangest singing cowboy of the 1930's.
Marian Robert Morrison played for the "University of Southern California (USC)", in 1925, as an offensive tackle.
However, due to a severe injury to his collar bone, he lost that scholarship
two years later. According to the website, "USC News", as the
story goes, it was USC Football coach Howard Johnson that was
able to get Morrison a job as a day laborer at "Fox Studios".
While at "Fox", the metamorphous from Marian Robert Morrison to John Wayne took place. Depending upon who writes the story, it was either John Ford, Raoul Walsh, Harry Carey, Sr., or perhaps the Easter Bunny, that came up with Marian's new name.
We know, as fact, that "Fox" gave the young actor credit as "Duke Morrison", one time, for the August 18, 1929 musical "Words and Music", but that nickname is another story altogether.
As to his name change, I go with "Raoul Walsh", and
my article about day laborer turned Hollywood Cowboy star, is entitled, "JOHN
WAYNE, WILLIAM FOX: Grandeur and "The Big Trail", and will be
Every scene of "The Big Trail" was shot in normal 35mm, then reshot in William Fox's "Grandeur", with a second specialized camera crew in 70mm, and remember this was 1930.
Between 1932 and 1933, John Wayne made six Westerns for "Warner Brothers First National" pictures. Every one of the six was a remake of a silent starring Ken Maynard. The studio dressed Wayne in clothes matching Maynard's and gave him a horse to match Maynard's "Tarzan".
By this trick, the studio saved money on the production and the audience, hopefully, didn't notice the difference in leading men. In this way, Ken Maynard's "The Unknown Cavalier", released on November 14, 1926, became John Wayne's, "Ride Him, Cowboy", released on April 23, 1932.
Later in his life, when asked where the name "Duke" came from? John Wayne would more than likely, sarcastically reply:
They named the horse "Duke"!
Referring back to "Duke, the Devil Horse", in these remakes.
My detailed article, "John Wayne and 'Duke the Devil Horse", seen below, can be read at:
RIDERS OF DESTINY released on October 10, 1933
This was one of several early John Wayne "B" Westerns that was "Edited" by the father of one of my current neighbors, Carl Pierson. Among Pierson's work, besides some classic "B" Westerns, was the first "Best Picture Oscar Winner", 1927's "Wings". At one point, Carl Pierson also was faced with the transition from silent to sound motion pictures. For Metro-Goldwyn Mayer's, 1929, version of author Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island", starring Lionel Barrymore. Pierson had to learn how sound editing would work and blend silent scenes shot earlier, with recent sound footage, to complete one scene. Also, he worked with two-strip Technicolor underwater sequences. My article, "Carl L. Pierson Forgotten Film Editor", may be read for your enjoyment at:
As the above poster told the audience, John Wayne portrayed "Singin' Sandy Saunders". He had just been seen in one of those Ken Maynard remakes, 1933, "The Man from Monterey".
If you believe IMDb, John Wayne sang:
"A Cowboys Song Fate", and,
"Song of the Wild".
John Wayne might have been billed as "Singin' Sandy Saunders", but his singing voice was actually Bill Bradbury, the director's son and brother to Bob Steele.
Portraying "Charlie Denton" was George Hayes, who would become better known as "Gabby Hayes".
My article, "George 'Gabby' Hayes: Being a 'B' Cowboy Sidekick", may be explored at:
Portraying "Bert, a henchman", was Al St. John. In below still, he is to the right of the main bad guy, Forest Taylor as "James Kincaid".
Al St. John would be better known as "Fuzzy St John", but get confused with another "B" Cowboy sidekick, "Fuzzy Knight".
St. John and Wayne were both in the "Three Mesquiteers" Western series, but at different times. Also, Bob Steele would become one of the three heroes, but again not appearing with either actor.
For those who are interested, my article, An Overview of 'THE THREE MESQUITEERS": A Classic 'B' Western Series", will be found at:
Cecilia Parker portrayed "Fay Denton".
For the "Man from Utah", released on May 15,
Bellew, provided John Wayne's singing voice. In "Westward
Ho", released on August 19, 1935, there is a
debate as to who provided John Wayne's singing voice, either Bill
Bradbury, Jr., the director's son, or possibly the uncredited
Jack Kirk as one of the "singing riders". It is
also possible that Wayne could have been voiced by another uncredited
actor portraying a "singing rider", that I mention in the next paragraph.
In the "Lawless Range", released on November 4, 1935, John Wayne was again billed as a singing cowboy, in the role of "John Middleton". However, there is no dispute that his singing voice was provided by an uncredited, real singing New Mexico and Texas cowboy, Glenn Strange, billed as "Burn's henchman".
Glenn Strange is best remembered for portraying the "Frankenstein Monster" in 1944's "House of Frankenstein", 1945's "House of Dracula", and 1949's "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein". Very few people knew of his singing and recording career.
Above, bad guy Frank McGlynn Jr. as "Frank Carter", confronts John Wayne, as the motion picture's real singing cowboy, Glenn Strange, on the right, holds a gun on Wayne.
Not a "B" Cowboy motion picture, but John Wayne started actually singing, in this case with Olivier Hardy, in "The Fighting Kentuckian", released on September 15, 1949,
At the end of his career in 1974, John Wayne had appeared in 185 roles,
and had been married three times. His first wife was Josephine
Saenz from 1933 into 1945, his
second wife was Esperanza Baur, from 1946 into 1954, and
his third wife was Pilar Pallete from 1954 through
John Wayne passed away on June 11, 1979, from cancer.
Above, Gene Autry and Champion
Orvon Grover "Gene" Autry, while working as a telegraph operator in Chelsea, Oklahoma, would sing and play the guitar to pass the lonely hours on the midnight shift, was caught and was fired for doing this.
As the story goes, one night, prior to being fired, a customer heard the young man playing and singing and had suggested he do it professionally. The customer's name was Will Rodgers, and the fired telegraph operator headed for New York City to take the advise of Rodgers. By 1928, Gene Autry was singing on Tulsa, Oklahoma, Radio Station KVOO, now, KTSB, and was billed as the "Oklahoma Yodeling Cowboy", and in 1929, he signed a record deal with "Columbia Records".
While working in Chicago, at WLS-AM, he met Smiley Burnett, and the two started to team up. In 1934, movie producer Nat Levine, signed them to a contract. Gene Autry's first motion picture had him at tenth billing, because it was a Ken Maynard feature. Smiley Burnette was billed, using his real name of Lester Alvin Burnette, in an uncredited role.
Below, Gene and Smiley in their one scene.
THE PHANTOM EMPIRE, Chapter One, released on February 23, 1935
Producer Nat Levine's tag line for Gene Autry might have been a little overblown:
THE WORLD FAMED STAR OF RADIO AND SCREEN
Seeing that this 12-Chapter Cliff-Hanger was only Gene's third on-screen appearance. There had been the one scene in the Ken Maynard picture I mentioned, and a non-singing, uncredited, role as a "Teamster" in two-chapters of the Ken Maynard 1934 Cliff-Hanger, "Mystery Mountain", before "The Phantom Empire".
The weird Science Fiction plot of "The Phantom Empire", has Gene Autry as a singing cowboy who runs a "Dude Ranch" for troubled kids. At 2 PM, daily, he must make a "live" radio broadcast, from his "Radio Ranch", as part of an agreement to keep the bank from foreclosing. The broadcast is also the means to hear Autry sing several songs.
Gene's co-stars are:
Frankie Darro as "Frankie Baxter". Darro
would turn into a stunt man and voice actor. He would voice "Lampwick" in
Walt Disney's 1940 "Pinocchio", and for my Science
Fiction fans. It is Frankie Darro inside "Robby the
Robot", in 1956's "Forbidden Planet".
Betsy King Ross portrayed Darrow's sister, Betsy Baxter. She was a champion trick rider at rodeos and is billed as such.
There are two subplots that make this a very interesting and fun Cliff-Hanger.
The first subplot is from a group of people located 20,000 feet below his ranch. They are the survivors of the "Lost Continent of Mu".
The citizens of "Murrain" are ruled over by the "Evil Queen Tika", portrayed by Dorothy Christy, and she wants to conqueror the surface world. Her "Thunder Riders" come out of a secret door in a mountainside on Gene's property.
The second subplot is about a scientist "Professor
Beetson", portrayed by J. Frank Glendon. Who has
discovered radium in an abandon mine shaft on the dude ranch.
Basically, Gene has to fight the "Murrain Queen", 20,000 feet below his ranch, stop the scientist on at the radium mine, and be back, daily, for a 2PM radio broadcast.
"The Phantom Empire" is part of my article, "ATLANTIS,
LEMURIA, AND MU: The Lost Continents In Science Fiction Movies", at:
So much for Science
Fiction, Gene Autry moved to "Republic Pictures" and his
"B" Cowboy singing stardom began with:
TUMBLING TUMBLEWEEDS released on September 5, 1935
Now, Smiley Burnett was back with Gene as "Smiley".
Lucille Browne portrayed "Jerry Brooks". She had been in Harry Carey's 1932 "The Last of the Mohicans", starting in 1934, Lucille Browne was mainly in "B" Westerns.
George Hayes, still not yet "Gabby", portrayed "Dr. Parker".
According to the screenplay, it's been five-years since Gene's been home, and he returns to find his father murdered and his boyhood friend accused of it. In the end Gene captures the bad guy and marries the girl.
Somehow, Gene Autry gets to sing five songs in the movie, including the title "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", and that song was released as a record and the sheet music.
The formula was set and Gene, his horse "Champion", and Smiley, next appeared in fourty-two "B" Westerns for "Republic Pictures" ending with:
MELODY RANCH released on November 15, 1940
Notice the two supporting players on the above poster for this "B" Western.
The first was popular vaudeville and radio comedian Jimmy Durante, as "Cornelius Jupiter Courtney". The second was dancer Ann Miller as "Julie Shelton", whose career already included director Frank Capra's 1938, "You Can't Take It with You", starring Jean Arthur and James Stewart, and the Marx Brothers, 1938, "Room Service".
Now it was, George "Gabby" Hayes as "Pop Laramie".
With that familiar plot line, Gene returns to his home town to find his
childhood enemies, the three "Wildhack brothers", have
become the local gangsters:
Barton MacLane was "Mark", Joe Sawyer was "Japser", and Horace McMahon was "Bud".
This was a big budgeted "Musical Western" for "Republic Pictures" with fourteen songs, but the picture lost money at the box office.
Above, left to right, Gene Autry, Ann Miller, Jimmy Durante,
Barton MacLane, Joe Sawyer, and George "Gabby" Hayes. Below, Joe Sawyer
on the left, and Horae McMahon on the right, confront Jimmy Durante.
Gene Autry invested his money wisely, and in 1953, he purchased the 10-acre, "Monogram Movie Ranch", in Placerita Canyon, Newhall, California, a ten-minute drive from my current home.
Autry renamed the "Monogram Property", "Melody
Ranch", from this motion picture's title. One of the first television
series, besides his own, filmed at the ranch was "Gunsmoke". The
ranch and all the movie sets would be destroyed by a 1962 brush
Starting in 1940 and running through 1956, Gene Autry had a very successful radio program that he had, at the time, named "Melody Ranch". Gene was receiving large amounts of fan mail from his young listeners and he developed "The Cowboy Ten Commandments" for them to follow:
1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.
10. The Cowboy is a patriot.
Gene had two television
shows going during the 1950's:
"The Gene Autry Show" ran from July23, 1950 until August 7, 1956. While the shorter, "The Adventures of Champion" ran from September 23, 1955 until March 3, 1956.
In 1961, Gene Autry became the owner of the new baseball franchise, "The Los Angeles Angels". Autry also became the "Vice President of the American League", from 1983 until his death.
Gene Autry passed away from lymphoma on October 2, 1998, three-days after his 91st birthday. Autry was married twice, his first wife was Ina Mae Spivey, from 1932 until her death in 1980. His second wife was Jacqueline Ellam, from 1981 until his death.
Above, Dick Foran on his horse "Smoke".
Like Glenn Strange, if you're a fan of classic "Universal Horror", you probably know Dick Foran from two movies. The first was 1940's "The Mummy's Hand" with "B" Cowboy star, Tom Tyler, portraying "Kharis", and Foran as "Steve Banning". The other film is the first sequel, 1942's "The Mummy's Tomb", with Lon Chaney, Jr. as "Kharis" and Dick Foran repeating his role as the now much older "Stephen Banning".
Above, Tom Tyler and Dick Foran.
John Nicholas "Nick" Foran started out as a singer for a New York City band, as "Nick Foran", and then formed his own orchestra, but things changed when he signed a contract with "Fox Film Corporation. His first motion picture was 1934's, "Change of Heart", starring Janet Gaynor, he had fifth billing, right behind a dancer named Ginger Rodgers. That feature films was followed by nine forgotten roles until his new employer, "Warner Brothers", made him a singing cowboy.
MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRE released on November 1, 1935
Sheila Bromley, billed as Sheila Mannors, portrayed "Barbara Roberts". Bromley was a strong "B" supporting actress and switched easily to television at the start of the 1950's.
Dickie Jones portrayed "Dickie Roberts". You may not know his name, but the young Dickie Jones was the voice of "Pinocchio" in the Walt Disney, 1940, animated classic. On television Dickie Jones portrayed "Dick West" in seventy-eight episodes of Jock Mahoney's "The Range Rider", and three different roles in ten episodes of "The Gene Autry Show". Also on television, Dick Jones starred in forty-two episodes of "Buffalo Bill, Jr.".
Left to right, George E. Stone as "Small Change Zeno", Dick Foran, Dickie Jones, and Sheila Mannors.
"Ace Andrews" returns to the town where he has been accused of murdering the husband of "Barbara Roberts". He meets her, but she doesn't know he is her husband's accused murderer. "Ace" helps "Barbara" claim her inheritance, while fighting against the real killer and his men.
Foran's next two feature film roles were in two Bette Davis motion pictures, 1935's "Dangerous", and the classic, 1936, "The Petrified Forest", starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, and Humphrey Bogart.
Then it was back to being a singing cowboy with;
SONG OF THE SADDLE released on February 28, 1936
Dick Foran portrayed "Frank Wilson Jr. aka: The Singing Kid".
Alma Lloyd portrayed "Jen Coburn". Alma Lloyd was the daughter of director Frank Lloyd, 1935's "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, and, 1936's "Under Two Flags" starring Ronald Colman, Claudette Colbert, and Victor MacLagen.
Next, Dick Foran, "the Singing Cowboy", portrayed "Captain Red Taylor", in 1936's "Treachery Rides the Range". The picture co-starred Paula Stone portraying "Ruth Drummond". Stone's film career consisted on 14 roles, one in a Warren William, "Perry Mason" mystery, 1936's "The Case of the Velvet Claws", this picture and twelve other forgotten titles.
"Treachery Rides the Range" would be followed by Dick Foran's third Bette Davis feature, 1936's "The Golden Arrow", with fourth billing as "Tommy Blake". Three comedy pictures, including 1936's "The Big Noise", starring Alma Lloyd, would follow before Foran was case in another Western.
TRAILIN' WEST released on September 5, 1936
Dick Foran, "the Singing Cowboy", portrayed "Army Lieutenant Red Colton", Smoke portrayed "Red's Horse".
Paula Stone portrayed "Lucky Blake".
The only stills I could locate are in French and are from "Turner Classic Movies (TCM)".
"Red Colton" goes undercover for "President Lincoln", played by Robert Barrat, to capture a gang of outlaws.
Above, Dick Foran and Robert Barrat.
Of Dick Foran's next ten motion pictures, nine were Westerns, the one non-Western was 1937's "Black Legion" co-starring Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan and Dick Foran. Although the following poster has Foran in second position and Sheridan in fourth.
Released on September 11, 1937, was Dick Foran's last feature film as "the Singing Cowboy", "Prairie Thunder". His co-star was Janet Shaw billed as Ellen Clancy, portraying "Joan Temple", and "Smoke", now billed as "Smoke the Wonder Horse".
After which, Dick Foran was reduced to supporting roles starting in, "The Perfect Specimen", starring Errol Flynn and Joan Blondell, released on October 20, 1937. Foran had fifth billing behind Edward Everest Horton.
Some of his other roles were in the Mae West and W.C. Fields, 1940, "My Little Chickadee", director John Ford's, 1948, "Fort Apache", and the John Payne and Gail Russell, 1949, "El Paso", but the majority were in forgotten features. In 1950, Dick Foran made the switch to television and at the end of his career, in 1975, he had been seen in 204 different roles.
On August 10, 1979, Dick Foran passed away from pneumonia. He had been married three times, his first wife was Ruth Piper Hollingsworth, from 1937 into 1940, his second wife was Carole Gallagher, from 1943 into 1944, and his third wife was Susanne Rosser, from 1951 until his death.
I already mentioned that Smith Ballew provided the singing voice for John Wayne in 1934's, "Man from Utah", but Ballew was also a singing cowboy in his own right.
While attending Austin College, in Sherman Texas, with his brother Charlie, the two organized the "Texasjazzers Orchestra". Earlier, on his own, Smith organized the "Jimmy Joys Jazz Combo".
In New York City, during the 1920's, Ballew became one of the most recognized vocalists on both big band and jazz records made in that city. In 1929, he organized the "Smith Ballew Orchestra", but focused on his singing rather than instrument playing.
Which brings me to 1936 and the motion picture industry.
PALM SPRINGS released on June 5, 1936
This is not a "B" Western, but is set in 1936 Palm Springs, California, a resort desert area that was starting to become famous as the hang-out of many Hollywood stars. Sam Ballew, with fourth billing, portrayed the singing cowboy of the piece, with the appropriate name of "Slim".
First billed, Francis Langford, during the Second World War she was known as "The G.I. Nightingale" and toured with Bob Hope's "USO Show". Langford was a regular on Hope's radio program and in this feature film portrayed "Joan Smyth".
The picture is really notable as being David Niven's tenth on-screen appearance as "George Britell". Before this film, Niven was "A Slave" in Cecil B. DeMille's 1934 "Cleopatra", starring Claudette Colbert, a "cockney sailor" in 1935's "Barbary Coast", co-starring Edward G. Robinson, Miriam Hopkins, and Joel McCrea. and in the previously mentioned 1935 "Mutiny on the Bounty", an "able-bodied seaman".
Above, Francis Langford and Smith Ballew on the sheet music for a song from the picture.
Below, Francis Langford, Spring Byington as "Aunt Letty", and David Niven.
The plot has "Joan Smyth" going to Palm Springs to find out the truth about her gambling hating father, "Captain Smyth", played by Sir Guy Standing. She discovers Dad is actually a compulsive gambler like herself, meets "George Britell", thinks she loves him, but realizes she really loves Smith Ballew's cowboy,
Smith Ballew's next film was a true singing cowboy "B" Western:
WESTERN GOLD released on August 27, 1937
The screenplay was based upon forgotten writer Harold Bell Wright's, "Helen of the Old House". Wright is supposedly the first author to sell a million books of one title, and wrote the novels that Gary Cooper's first motion picture, 1926's "The Winning of Barbara Worth", and John Wayne's 1941, remake of "The Shepherd of the Hills" are based upon.
Smith Ballew portrayed "Bill Gibson".
Heather Angel portrayed "Jeannie Thatcher". Later, Angel appeared in both director Alfred Hitchcock's, 1941, "Suspicion", starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine, and 1944's, "Lifeboat", as "Mrs. Higley". Heather Angel was also the voice of "Alice's sister" in Walt Disney's, 1951, "Alice in Wonderland", and, "Mrs. Darling", in 1953's "Peter Pan".
"Bill Gibson" is asked to help stop the robberies of the gold shipments on "Jeannie Thatcher's" stages, and volunteers to take out the next one alone.
In the picture, Smith sang, "Echoes of the Trail", "Tenting on the Old Camp Ground", "Gwine to Rune All Night (De Camptown Races)", and "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair".
Western author Zane Grey's ""The Dude Ranger", became:
ROLL ALONG COWBOY released on October 8, 1937
Smith Ballew portrayed "Singing Cowboy Randy Porter".
Cecilia Parker portrayed "Janet Blake".
It's the old "B" Western plot, "Randy Porter" comes into town, falls in love with "Janet Blake", and stops the bad guys after her ranch.
For this picture, Sam Ballew sang, "On the Sunny Side of the Rockies", "Stars Over the Desert", and, "Roll Along, Ride 'em Cowboy".
Three movies later, was Smith's last motion picture as the leading actor:
PANAMINT'S BAD MAN released on July 8, 1938
Smith Ballew portrayed "Larry Kimball aka: John Smith".
Evelyn Daw portrayed "Joan DeLysa". This was Daw's first of only two motion pictures.
Noah Beery portrayed "King Gorman", but was now billed as Noah Beery, Sr., because his son Noah Beery, Jr. had been acting in major roles since 1932.
Smith Ballew's next motion picture had dropped the singer to fourth billing on the posters, but eighth billing on the official cast listing. Indicating the power of his name over his rate of pay.
GAUCHO SERENADE released on May 10, 1940
As "Buck Benson", Smith Ballew doesn't sing, yet his fans looked for that, but this motion picture starred Gene Autry and one did not complete with Autry in the same film.
Above, Smith Ballew and Gene Autry.
On September 26, 1951, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, director John Huston's version of author Stephen Crane's, "The Red Badge of Courage", premiered with an uncredited Smith Ballew as a "Union Captain".
Smith Ballew never married, and on May 2, 1984, he passed away in Longview, Texas.
FRED LEEDON SCOTT
Helen Twelvetrees starred as "Molly", and, Fred Scott co-starred as "Kelly". The picture was about a struggling minstrel show, but Fred didn't sing in it. "Kelly" is an alcoholic minstrel known as "Come-Back", because of his weakness for liquor. "Molly" is a burlesque actress and the two will face life together.
Scott and Twelvtress followed "The Grand Parade". co-starring in "Swing High", released on May 18, 1930.
The official "American Film Institute (AFI)" cast listing does not show Helen Twelvetrees in "Beyond Victory", but apparently, she was originally in the motion picture and had to have been picked up by Robert W. Philips.
On January 27, 1933, the 18-minute short, "The Singing Boxer", was released. It was written by comedian actor W.C. Fields, and a minor uncredited role went to Fred Scott.
Harry Carey, Sr. portrayed "Dean Payton".
Margret Callahan portrayed "Sally Mason".
The last credited actor was Fred Scott portraying "Larry Dixon, the singing cowboy". However, I could not locate a confirmed picture of Scott in this motion picture. He sings, "My Hearts on the Trail".
Fred Scott now starred as "Barry Glendon".
Marion Shilling portrayed "Carol Marland". Shilling would appear with Hoot Gibson, following this picture, in her last of forty-three, 1936's, "Cavalcade of the West", and married a real estate mogul.
Talk about real life imitating fiction, Opera singer "Barry Glendon's" tour has ended for the season and he returns to his ranch. "Barry" learns that a parcel of his vast ranch has been fraudulently sold to a "Carol Marland" and her ailing, but trouble making younger brother "Jimmy", played by Buzz Barton. "Barry" now sets out to find out who's behind this, set it straight, and marry "Carol".
I could not locate the song, or songs Fred Scott sings in this picture.
THE ROAMING COWBOY released on January 4, 1937
Al St. John portrayed "Fuzzy Jones". By this time, sidekick St. John had appeared with William Boyd, Rex Bell, Tom Tyler, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, and even "B" Cowboy, Dean Jagger.
The plot has Scott and St, John come upon a boy whose father was murdered and promise to help him find the killers.
MELODY OF THE PLAINS released on April 2, 1937
FRED SCOTT (Silvery Voiced Baritone) WITH HIS FLAMING STALLION WHITE KING
THE SILVERY-VOICED BUCKAROO
Before his last "B" Western with Al St. John as his sidekick "Fuzzy Jones", the two made twenty-four films together. Comedian Stan Laurel produced four of them, starting with:
THE RANGERS ROUND-UP released on January 15, 1938
Stan Laurel followed this feature with "Knight of the Plains", premiering on March 29, 1938, "Songs and Bullets", premiering on April 1, 1938, and, "Two Gun Troubador", actual title misspelling, released on March 5, 1939.
We know he had married a lady name "Mary" and they had two children, but that is all I could locate about Fred Scott's personal life.
On December 16, 1991, Fred Leedon Scott suffered a massive heart attack and passed away.
In 1930, Weed was singing on radio stations KTSM in El Paso, and, WLS in Chicago, while following the rodeo circuit. In 1937, he was given a screen test by "Universal Pictures", that was looking for a singing cowboy to compete against Gene Autry. He won the contest over a young singer named Leonard Slye, and had his name changed to Bob Baker. Baker's first motion picture was:
COURAGE OF THE WEST released December 1, 1937
There was an interesting back story to Baker's first motion picture.
This was the first motion picture directed by Joseph H. Lewis, Bela Lugosi's, 1941, "The Invisible Ghost", Lionel Atwill's, 1942, "The Mad Doctor of Market Street".
To avoid "SAG" union rules, 75 non-union workers were hired from Sonora, Mexico, and a seven-day shoot was performed by Lewis.
Bob Baker portrayed "Jack Saunders".
Lois January portrayed "Beth Andrews".
According to an interview with Lois January in Boyd Mangers and Michael G. Fitzgerald's, long titled, "Ladies of the Westerns: Interviews With 25 Actresses from the Silent Era to the Television Westerns of the 1950's and 1960's", published October 30, 2009, by McFarland, January is quoted as saying:
Bob Baker was too pretty! He was nice, but didn't get friendly. He didn't want me to sing a song in his picture.
Baker sounds a lot like Gene Autry.
The film is set during the American Civil War. It begins with a scene in which President Abraham Lincoln establishes the "Free Rangers" to protect gold shipments from the west. The film then tells the story of a ranger, played by J. Farrell MacDonald, who adopts the son of a convicted outlaw. The son is played by Bob Baker. He grows up and becomes the head of the Rangers. He finds himself in pursuit of a gang of gold robbers, not knowing that their leader is his natural father. After various twists and turns, the father is shot and the hero marries the girl with whom he has fallen in love, played by Lois January.
"Resting Beside My Campfire", "Ride Along, We Rangers", "Song of the Trail", and, "I'll Build a Ranch House on the Range".
After "Fuzzy Knight" left, Bob Baker made another six motion pictures without a designated sidekick. Number six was:
Below, Marjorie Reynolds portrayed "Mary Ellen", the owner of the stage line being robbed of the gold, and Glenn Strange is the "Sheriff", being confronted by George Cleveland.
... this plot element is handled in so ludicrous a manner that Bob Baker's musical interludes actually come as a relief!"
Bob Baker next found him reduced to second billing after "B" Cowboy star, Johnny Mack Brown and reunited with Fuzzy Knight.
DESPERATE TRAILS released on October 1, 1939
Johnny Mack Brown portrayed "Steve Hayden".
Bob Baker portrayed "Clem Waters".
Fuzzy Knight portrayed "Cousin Willie Strong".
Above, Fuzzy Knight and Bob Baker, and below Johnny Mack Brown.
"Desperate Trails" was the first of twenty-eight "B Westerns from "Universal Pictures" starring Johnny Mack Brown.
Bob Baker made four more of the Johnny Mack Brown movies, and then found himself with uncredited roles in one movie starring Tim Holt, another starring Buck Jones, and even in Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's 1942, "Ride 'Em Cowboy". He ended his motion picture career with five more uncredited roles.
It was at this point that Bob Baker re-enlisted in the Army and served during the Second World War. After which, he joined the Flagstaff, Arizona, police force. After once more serving during the Korean War, Bob Baker ran a dude ranch.
After a series of heart attacks, Bob Baker passed away from a stroke, on August 29, 1975.
Leonard Franklyn Slye was born on November 5, 1911, in the wilds of Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1929 the Slye family drove to Lawndale, California, to visit Leonard's older sister Mary and her family, the visit lasted four months. In 1930, Len traveled to Lawndale with his sister's father-in-law and shortly afterwards, the remainder of both families sold their depression era Ohio farms and moved to California for a fresh start.
However, California wasn't really any different from Ohio during the depression, but Len was able to find work. However, the construction company went under and now work was almost impossible to find. Even for a healthy and strong young man in Southern California, including Lawndale, a community that will be incorporated into the larger city of Los Angeles.
Sometime in August, 1931, Mary suggested that her 19-years old brother, Len, auditioned for a radio show in Inglewood. As a result, Len joined the short-lived music group, the "Rocky Mountaineers". In 1933, Len now found himself as part of the "O-Bar-O-Cowboys", headquartered in Lubbock, Texas. When they disbanded, Lenard Slye with two of his friends from the group, Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer, became "The Pioneer Trio", which morphed into "The Sons of the Pioneers".
On May 8, 1933, Leonard Slyke married his first wife, the overlooked, Lucille Ascolese, the two would divorce on June 8, 1936. Three-days later, on June 11, 1936, Leonard married Grace Arline Wilkins, who worked at a Roswell, New Mexico, radio station.
By the summer of 1934, the music of "The Sons of the Pioneer's" was being played across the entire United States and Canada. They signed a contract with the newly formed "Decca Records" and, on August 8, 1934, had their first recording session. One of the songs was written by Bob Nolan, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", and over the next two-years. "The Sons of the Pioneers" recorded twenty-four songs and another written by Noland, the classic "Cool Water".
On September 1, 1934, "Warner Brothers" released a "Vitaphone" twenty-eight-minute short entitled, "Radio Scout". It starred El Brendel and Joan Wheeler and featured "The Sons of the Pioneers". That short was followed by another "Vitaphone" short, the nineteen-minute, "Slightly Static",
Up next, was the first appearance of "The Sons of the Pioneers" in a feature film, from the forgotten "Poverty Row" studio, "Liberty Pictures".
THE OLD HOMESTEAD released on October 5, 1935
On the above poster was the name, "The Sons of the Pioneers", with eighth billing, after Fuzzy Knight.
In the above still, Leonard Slye is very visible standing on the right of the piano.
"The Sons of the Pioneers" next appeared in five "B" Westerns, two each with Charles Starrett, Dick Foran, and one with Bing Crosby, taking them into 1936. Then came an interesting motion picture:
THE BIG SHOW released on November 16, 1936
Little did Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette expect what would come in two-years from the musicians known as "The Sons of the Pioneers", and for that matter, neither did Leonard Slye.
THE OLD CORRAL released on December 21, 1936
In this Gene Autry picture, the uncredited Leonard Slye, portrayed "Buck O'Keefe", the leader of the musical group "The O'Keefe's", portrayed by "The Sons of the Pioneers". In the plot, "The O'Keefe's" become involved with a robbery and have to contend with "Sheriff Gene Autry".
For Leonard, "The Old Corral" was followed by another Charles Starrett motion picture, 1937's, "The Old Wyoming Trail", a 1937 entry from "The Three Mesquiteers", Robert Livingston, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and Max Terhune, entitled, "Wild Horse Rodeo", with Len billed under the name "Dick Weston", and without "The Sons of the Pioneers". Next, he was back with Gene Autry, still as "Dick Weston", without "The Sons of the Pioneers", in 1938's "The Old Barn Dance".
GENE AUTRY WALKED OUT ON REPUBLIC PICTURES OVER A PAY RAISE!
UNDER WESTERN STARS released on April 20 1938
Smiley Burnett portrayed "Frog Milhouse".
Carol Hughes portrayed "Eleanor Fairbanks".
Both Smiley Burnett and Carol Hughes followed this motion picture with 1938's "Gold Mine in the Sky" starring Gene Autry, the pay raise having been settled.
In his first film as "Roy Rogers":
Roy fights the owner of a water company, who refuses to help the farmers and ranchers by providing free water until they're all on their feet again. The water company's owner's daughter helps Roy against her unreasonable father, as the cowboy singer runs for the "United States House of Representatives".
The first songs of Roy Rogers on film are "Dust", "Listen to the Rhythm of the Range", "That Pioneer Mother of Mine", and, "When a Cowboy Sings a Song".
For his next motion picture, Roy portrayed "Roy Rogers", a look-a-like Deputy Sheriff to the "Good Outlaw" "Billy the Kid". Now that "Billy" is dead, it is up to Roy to carry on his good work and have people believe he was not killed by the evil "Pat Garrick".
Their seventh motion picture was:
Roy Rogers portrayed "Roy Rogers".
Mary Hart portrayed "Jean".
George "Gabby" Hayes portrayed "Gabby Whittaker", Roy's sidekick.
By this time, Roy had become a real competitor to Gene, and Autry didn't like it.
DAYS OF JESSE JAMES released on December 20, 1939
Don "Red" Barry portrayed "Jesse James". "Red" Barry was a solid "B" cowboy actor and would star in the 1940 "Republic Pictures" Cliff-Hanger, based upon a popular Sunday comics character in, "The Adventures of Red Ryder". In 1950, he played "Billy the Kid", and would play "Jesse James" again in 1954. In 1958, Barry appeared with Boris Karloff in "Frankenstein 1970", and after moving to television. Don Barry would appear in several dramatic and Western programs, but also as two different evil characters on 1966's "Batman".
Above left to right, Roy Rogers, Harry Worth as Michael Worth playing "Frank James", behind him is George "Gabby" Hayes, and on the right, Don "Red" Barry.
A bank robbery is blamed on the "James Gang" and it is up to Roy to prove the bank executives pulled off the robbery instead.
Above, Pauline Moore portraying "Mary Whittaker", and Roy.
Next, Roy found himself in a Hollywood biographical Western with a few historical changes.
DARK COMMAND released on April 16, 1940
The motion picture was directed by Raoul Walsh, he had just directed James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, and Humphrey Bogart in 1939's "The Roaring Twenties". Walsh would follow this picture with 1940's "They Drive by Night", starring George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart.
John Wayne portrayed "Bob Seton". Wayne was just in "Allegheny Uprising", and followed this film with a forgotten Western, 1940's, "Three Faces West", co-starring with Sigrid Gurie and Charles Coburn.
Walter Pidgeon portrayed "William 'Will' Cantrell" (The real person was William Clarke Quantrill). Pidgeon had just co-starred with Deanna Durbin and Kay Francis, in the 1940 comedy musical, "It's a Date". He would follow this movie, once more portraying detective "Nick Carter", in the 1940, comedy crime drama, "Phantom Raiders".
Roy Rogers portrayed "Fletch McCloud".
George "Gabby" Hayes, as George Hayes, portrayed "Doc Grunch".
Marjorie Main portrays "Mrs. Cantrell", who is forced to lie, calling herself "Mrs. Adams", that she isn't "Will's" mother.
"Mary McCloud" will marry the seemingly peace loving school teacher, "Will Cantrell". In actuality, he is a leader of a group of outlaws attacking both the Union and the Confederacy. After attacking a Confederate wagon train, "Cantrell" discovers new uniforms, including officers, and his outlaws now become Confederate cavalry.
"Dark Command" is part of my article, when possible, comparing the real people to the Hollywood version, entitled, "The American Civil War Through the Eyes of Hollywood". It can be read at:
Keeping history off base was Roy's next motion picture, and it was also back to formula "B" Western:
YOUNG BUFFALO BILL released on April 12, 1940
George "Gabby" Hayes portrayed "Gabby Whittaker".
Pauline Moore portrayed "Tonia Regas". Moore followed this picture with two more with Roy and then it was back to a "The Three Mesquiteers" film, and after missing his next film. Pauline Moore would return for one more with Roy, 1940's "Colorado",
Above, left to right, Roy Rogers, Pauline Moore, and George “Gabby” Hayes, in "Young Buffalo Bill".
Then there was Sally Payne, and the previously mentioned Carol Hughes, who would be seen in multiple films, but not in any consecutive order like Mary Hart, or Pauline Moore. All of these ladies returned to films starring Roy Rogers at the whim of the casting directors.
Eventually, George "Gabby" Hayes would leave Roy, and Smiley Burnett would return in some films. During this period, "The Sons of the Pioneers" returned, and co-founder, Bob Nolan, additionally found himself doing dramatic roles in Roy's films.
By 1943, Roy Rogers had bumped Gene Autry from First Place in the "Motion Picture Herald Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars" poll. Roy would remain in number one through 1954, when the poll was discontinued.
Which brings me to:
COWBOY AND THE SENORITA released on May 13, 1944
I will continue with the story of Roy Rogers, after my first singing Cowgirl reaches the same point.
At the age of fourteen, Francis married, on April 8, 1927, William Frederick Fox, and had their son. A year after their marriage, William abandoned his wife and son, William Frederick Fox, Jr., and Francis Fox found herself alone with a baby in Memphis, Tennessee, pursuing a singing career.
One source has Francis working for two Memphis radio stations, WMC and WREC, as both a singer and piano accompanist. Another says she worked full time at an insurance office and only sang on radio, when she could find a spot.
In 1929, depending upon the source, Francis either divorced William, or he had died, making her a widow. While in Memphis, Francis Fox married August Wayne Johns, on November 30, 1930, and they would divorce, no children, in either, 1935 or 1936.
One source states that idea of changing her name from Francis Butts, came from the station manager for WHAS. He believed a more pleasant-sounding name would help her singing career. The story continues that Francis took "Dale" from her husband's middle name, and "Evans", from motion picture actress Madge Evans, that she was a fan.
Dale Evans became a jazz, swing, and big band singer and appeared on "CBS Radio's", "The Chase and Sanborn Hour", starring Edgar Bergen and his dummy, Charlie McCarthy, starting in 1938.
Above, Dale Evans on the left and Ann Rutherford on the right.
One more movie for "20th Century Fox", "Girl Trouble", starring Don Ameche and Joan Bennett, released October 9, 1942, and the singer found herself at "Republic Pictures", in "Swing Your Partner", released on May 20, 1943. The picture was a musical, but I could not locate what songs Dale Evans might have sung.
The screenplay revolves around the county radio comedy team of "Lulubelle and Scotty", actually Myrtle Wiseman and her husband Scotty Wiseman, as fed-up employees. Dale Evans was fourth billed as "Dale Evans".
"B" Cowboy, Don "Red" Barry is billed as Donald Barry, portraying gangster, "Johnny April". This role was book-ended for Barry, by two Westerns from 1943, "Black Hills Express" and "The Man from the Rio Grande".
Henry Hull portrayed "Sam Winston". "Universal Pictures" 1935, "Werewolf of London", was previously seen with Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart, in 1941's, "High Sierra", and Hull would follow this picture with the pro-Russian Second World War, 1943, "Seeds of Freedom".
Dale Evans portrayed "Gloria Winston". Dale would follow this film with the 1943 musical, "Hoosier Holliday". Strangely, in that picture she does not sing, in fact Dale Evans doesn't sing until a 1944 "B" Western.
The plot has depressed newspaper publisher "Sam Winston", who can't bring himself to commit suicide, meeting just released criminal "Johnny April". He wants "Johnny" to kill him, but as the two get to know each other, both men's lives change for the better.
June Havoc portrayed "Lilian Colman". As child star "Baby June", she was her mother "Rose Hovick's" ultra-ego on the vaudeville stage. However, she ran away and never looked back, but her sister stayed under their mother's wing and took the stage name of "Gypsy Rose Lee". June as a child star and some of her acting as an adult, are part of my article about her sister, "Louise Hovick aka Gypsy Rose Lee (January 8, 1911 to January 28 1954)", and it will be found at:
COWBOY AND THE SENORITA released on May 13, 1944
Trigger, was now being billed, as "Smartest Horse in the Movies".
Mary Lee portrayed "Chip Williams". Lee had small roles in five Gene Autry pictures and co-starred in two. Mary Lee would have two more movies and leave Hollywood after 19 feature films.
Dale Evans portrayed "Ysobel Martinez".
The Sons of the Pioneers are featured, but I could not locate what songs they performed.
The town boss and gambler, "Craig Allen", played by John Hubbard, wants the gold mine for himself and had "Chip" kidnapped. "Allen" now arranges to have "Roy" and "Teddy Bear" accused of the deed. Adding to their problem, is that "Chip's" sister, "Ysobel". is to marry "Craig Allen".
Trigger, "The Smartest Horse in the Movies", portrayed Trigger.
Dale Evans portrayed "Betty Weston".
Grant Withers portrayed "Express Agent Lucas", Grant Withers had portrayed "Police Captain Sam Street" in the Boris Karloff, "Mr. Wong Detective" series, and co-starred in the overlooked and excellent, 1945, "The Vampire Ghost". While after this picture, Withers became a member of "The John Ford Stock Company", and appeared in 1946's "My Darling Clementine" as "Ike Clanton", 1948's "Fort Apache", and 1950's "Rio Grande".
There are eight songs, but again, I can name them, but not who sang them.
Roy Rogers, the "King of the Cowboys", portrayed Roy Rogers.
Trigger, the "Smartest Horse in the Movies", played Trigger.
Dale Evans portrayed "Jennie Barrabee", or according to another site, "Joan Barrabee".
Mary Lee, with fourth billing, portrayed "Kitty Hanley". This was her last motion picture and she married Harry J. Banan.
A western girl, "Jennie/Joan Barrabee", left her father, "John Barrabee", played by Thruston Hall, and his ranch sometime in the past. She returns a snob, planning to marry playboy, "Rollo Bingham", played by John Eldredge. "Jennie/Joan" has returned only because she believes her father is dead, but her alive father plans to have his friend, "Roy", straighten her out and return his daughter to her true western values.
Dale Evans portrayed "Dale Kenyon".
This movie is important not for the story, but this was the first time Dale Evans sang on-screen, "SAN FERNANDO VALLEY", as a duet with Roy Rogers.
Oh, I'm packin' my grip and I'm leavin' today
'Cause I'm takin' a trip, California way
I'm gonna settle down and never more roam
And make the San Fernando Valley my home
In 1946, Dale divorced her husband Robert Dale Butts.
Roy Rodgers, the "King of the Cowboys", portrayed Roy Rogers.
Trigger, the "The Smartest Horse in the Movies", portrayed Trigger
George "Gabby" Hayes portrayed "Gabby Whittaker".
Dale Evans portrayed "Connie Edwards".
Above, Roy and Dale, and below, Roy, "Gabby" and Lanny Rees as "Duke Lowery".
Dale Evans and Roy Rogers were married just south of Davis, Oklahoma on the Healey Brothers Flying L Ranch on New Years Eve back in 1947. The cabin house they were married in burned long ago, today only parts of the foundation are still visible
APACHE ROSE released on February 15, 1947
Roy continued making strictly "B"Western movies, Dale appeared in some of those, but in other feature films for "Republic Pictures". Like, 1945's, "Hitchhike to Happiness", 1946's, "Out California Way", and on television, "The Phil Silvers Show", and "The Red Skelton Hour".
The two had only one child together, Robin Elizabeth Rogers, tragedy once more came to Roy, Robin who had Down syndrome, never lived to her second birthday. Dale's and Roy's strong Christian faith kicked in and the two would adopt Mimi, Dodie, Sandy and Debbie.
Roy was still the "King of the Cowboys", and in 1950, Dale appeared without him, in a made for television Western entitled, "Dale Evans: Queen of the West". The basic story line, of this 27-minute movie, had photographer Dale Evans snapping the first ever picture of "Notched Ear Jackson", played by Lane Braford, and he's after Dale to get that photo.
This became the indirect pilot for:
THE ROY ROGERS SHOW
Roy Rogers was introduced as,,"Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys".
Dale Evans was introduced as, "Dale Evans , Queen of the West". Her horse, "Buttermilk" only appeared in one episode.
Trigger was now introduced as, "Trigger, the Smartest Horse in the World".
"Bullet", Roy and Dale's German Shepherd was introduced as, "Bullet, the Wonder Dog".
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, till we meet again.
Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue.
It's the way you ride the trail that counts,
Here's a happy one for you.
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, till we meet again
In 1955, Roy and Dale purchased a 168 acres ranch near Chatsworth, in the San Fernando Valley. The property had a hill-top ranch house and the couple expanded the acreage to 300. Then tragedy once more struck, in 1964, their daughter Debbie was killed in a church bus accident. Roy and Dale moved to the 67 acre "Double R Bar Ranch" in Apple Valley. in San Bernardino, California.
On July 6 1988, 86-years old, Roy Rogers passed away from congestive heart failure.
On February 7, 2001, 88-years old, Dale Evans, also passed away from congestive heart failure.
She was a WOMAN!
Dorothy Lillian Stoffett was born on March 4, 1904, in Northampton, Pennsylvania. During the 1920's, Dorothy attended, "Cedar Crest College", in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with a major in music. She was picked by the "Curtis Publishing Company" to be a cover model for the "Saturday Evening Post". About that time, Dorothy tried out for the "Youth of America" singing contest, hosted by popular band leader Paul Whiteman, and won.
Dr. Shipman and his wife, moved to Detroit, Michigan, his hometown, but they now faced "The Great Depression". Thinking of a better life might be found in California, the two moved to the Los Angles area. There, Dorothy Stoffett tried out for an open position of singer in Paul Whitman's Band, and became singer Dorothy Page. In 1932, after having two children, Dorothy and Waldo, divorced.
Dorothy Page's singing career was flourishing, and in 1935, she was a regular on, "Parducah Plantation", a radio program produced by Irvin S. Cobb, who named it for his Kentucky home.
Between 1935 and 1937, Dorothy Page made three motion pictures. In 1935, for "Universal Pictures", Page co-starred in two forgotten musicals, "Manhattan Moon", and, "King Solomon of Broadway". During 1936, she apparently made no motion pictures, but moved to "Republic Pictures". In 1937, with seventh billing, Dorothy Page appeared in the forgotten comedy, "Mama Runs Wild".
Then, in 1938, "Page made another move to "Grand National Films Inc.", a "Poverty Row" studio, located on Gower Street in Hollywood. "Grand National Films" wanted to do something different, a series of "B" Westerns with a " Cowgirl" in the normally male leading role
THE SINGING COWGIRL released on June 3, 1938
"The Singing Cowgirl" was a gamble and unfortunately it didn't pay
Dorothy Page, billed as "The Singing Cowgirl", portrayed "Dorothy Henricks".
Dave O'Brien portrayed "Dick Williams". O'Brien started his acting career in an uncredited role in director Howard Hawks, 1930's "The Dawn Patrol", about World War One aviators. It wouldn't be until 1935, before screenplay writer O'Brien, got his first credited acting role, with thirteenth billing, in the comedy crime picture, "Welcome Home".
However, among his 257 roles, was "Ralph", in 1936's "Reefer Madness", "Detective Waters" in the 1937 "B" Western, "Rough Riding Rhythm", starring Ken Maynard's brother "Kermit Maynard", and, the title role of, "Captain Midnight", in the 1942 Cliff-Hanger.
As a writer, Dave O'Brien would write all 340 episodes of "The Red Skelton Hour", from 1957 to 1970, and he acted in thirteen.
Vince Barnett portrayed "Kewpie". Barnett was a vaudeville comedian turned comedy actor. Among his work is, 1936's, "After the Thin Man", starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, the original, 1937, "A Star is Born", starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, and just before this picture. Vince Barnett was Ken Maynard's sidekick in 1937's "Boots of Destiny".
The story has "John Tolen", played by Stanley Price, after the ranch of "Tom Harkins", played by Edward Peil, Sr., were "Tolen's" men have found gold. "Tolen" has "Harkins" killed, so that he can acquire the ranch, but "Dorothy" and "Dick" investigate and discover, the twist in the story, that the gold is actually on "Tolen's" ranch and a very small amount has washed down river to "Harkins'" ranch.
Above is Dorothy with "Dix Davis" as "Billy Harkins".
In the movie, Dorothy Page sang "I Gotta Sing", "Prairie Boy", and "Let's Round Up Our Dreams".
WATER RUSTLERS released on January 6, 1939
Dorothy Page, "The Singing Cowgirl", portrayed "Shirley Martin".
David O'Brien portrayed "Bob Lawson". O'Brien was just seen in the Tex Ritter Western, 1938's, "Song of the Buckaroo". O'Brien would follow this picture with a Jack Randall and Rusty the Wonder Horse Western, 1939's "Drifting Westward"
Vincent Barnett portrayed "Mike the Cook".
"Robert Weylan", played by Stanley Price, has control of all the water in the area. His long-term scheme is to cut off the other ranchers water, watch their cattle die, and purchase ranch land after they go broke.
"Shirley Martin's" father, "Tim
Martin", played by Ethan Allen, is murdered by
"Weylan's" henchmen and she organizes the ranchers to fight back.
Dorothy Page sings "Let's Go on
Like This Forever", "When a Cowboy Sings A Doggie
Lullaby", and "I Feel at Home in the Saddle".
RIDE 'EM COWGIRL released on January 20, 1939
Dorothy Page, "The Singing
Cowgirl", portrayed "Helen
Vince Barnett portrayed "Dan Haggerty".
"Sandy Doyle", played by Harrington Reynolds, wants the control of the Bar-X ranch owned by "Ruf Rickson", played by Joseph W. Girard, and counts on "Ruf's" gambling as a means to gain control. However, two government agents, "Dan Haggerty", and "Oliver Shea", played by Milton Frome, arrive and join forces with "Helen Rickson" against "Doyle".
Dorothy Page's movie career ended with the box office failure of her third
On December 20, 1939, Dorothy married Los Angeles attorney Frederick D. Leuschner, he passed away on December 8, 1941, and she started a new career. Dorothy Leuschner purchased run-down houses, redesigned and remodeled them, selling the house at a very nice profit.
Dorothy's final marriage was to Henry Clark McCormick. He owned a large ranch in Fresno, California, and Dorothy oversaw the running of the ranch Later, she purchased an additional 1700-acre cotton ranch in Pecos, Texas.
In the mid-1950's, Dorothy was diagnosed with cancer, and apparently unable to deal with his wife's illness. Henry Clark McCormick left her and at that point in her life, she moved to LaBelle, Florida, to be near the hospital treating her cancer.
On March 26, 1951, Dorothy Page passed away from the disease.
Betty Jeanne Grayson was born on October 5, 1925, in Little Rock, Arkansas. She studied both singing and dancing from childhood and after graduating from "Little Rock High School". Betty attended "Harcum Junior College for Girls" in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and the "University of Texas" in Austin.
Betty Grayson performed trick riding and shooting in rodeos, and, in 1944, she married Bob Davis, they would have one child, their daughter, "Terrie".
According to Gail Davis in the 1994 Summer/Fall issue of "Trail
I went under contract to MGM around 1946. They told me 'we can't have a Betty Davis, because of Bette Davis, and we can't have a Betty Grayson because of Kathryn Grayson'.... Then a guy in the casting department said 'how about Gail Davis?' So that's where it came from.
Gail Davis might have been under contract to
"MGM", but her first on-screen appearance was in a seventeen-minute, 1947
musical short, for "RKO", entitled, "In Room
303", followed by another, 1947, twenty-minute, "RKO" musical short,
entitled "Let's Make Rhythm".
Her first full-length feature film was "MGM's", 1947, "The Romance of Rosy Ridge", starring Van Johnson, Thomas Mitchell and Janet Leigh. Gail Davis had the uncredited role of one of the "Baggett" family's daughters.
Three more uncredited roles followed and, next, Gail Davis was working for "Republic Pictures" and singing with the studio's two main "B" Cowboys.
THE FAR FRONTIER released on December 29, 1948
Roy Rogers, the "King of the Cowboys", portrayed Roy
Trigger, the "Smartest Horse in the Movies", portrayed "Trigger".
Gail Davis portrayed "Susan Hathaway". At the time, Dale Evans Rogers was pregnant, and Gail became her one film replacement.
Andy Devine portrayed "Judge Cookie
Bullfincher". This was Devine's ninth Western as Roy's sidekick "Cookie Bullfincher". In 1951, Andy
Devine became Guy Madison's sidekick on televisions, the "Adventures
of Wild Bill Hickok", through 1958. My article on
the career of Andy Devine, entitled, "Andy Devine: 'Hey Wild Bill,
Wait for Me", can be read at:
This entry has two interesting actors in
Francis Ford portrayed "Alf Sharper", an old border patrol agent. Ford is the older brother of director John Ford and started acting in 1909. Among his films is director D.W. Griffith's, 1930's, "Abraham Lincoln" starring Walter Huston, Ford had an uncredited role in director James Whale's, 1931, "Frankenstein", and among his brother's films. Francis Ford appeared in 1934's "The Lost Patrol", 1935's, "The Informer", both 1939's, "Stagecoach" and "Young Mr. Lincoln", and 1940's, "The Grapes of Wrath", and at the end of his career, Francis Ford had to his credit 496 different film roles.
Roy Barcroft portrayed "Bart Carroll". Barcroft was known as a Western bad guy, but he also was the title Martian villain in the 1945 Cliff-Hanger, "The Purple Monster Strikes", and portrayed, "Retik", in the 1952 Cliff-Hanger, "Radar Men from the Moon". One of his best-known good guy roles, was portraying "Colonel Jim Logan", owner of the "Triple R Ranch", on Walt Disney's "The Adventures of Spin and Marty" series seen on the original "Mickey Mouse Club" television program.
Above, Roy Rogers, Francis Ford, and Roy Barcroft, below, Gail Davis and Roy Rogers.
"Willis Newcomb", played by Robert Strange, and "Bart Carroll" are the heads of a gang of smugglers. The two bring wanted criminals, hiding out in Mexico, back into the United States. It is up to border patrol agent Roy Rogers to stop them and find out what happened to his friend "Alf Sharper".
DEATH VALLEY GUNFIGHTER released on March 29, 1949
Allan Lane portrayed "Rocky Lane". Lane
started out in "B" dramas and the occasional "B" Western
in 1929. In 1946, Allan Lane became the
Sunday Comic Strip character "Red Ryder" for seven
feature films and after that series run. His name was changed to "Rocky Lane", for 1947's "The Wild Frontier" through 1953's
"El Paseo Stampede". From 1961 through 1966, television
audiences knew Lane as the voice of "Mr. Ed", the
Gail Davis portrayed fifth billed "Trudy Clark". Second billed was "Rocky's" horse, "Black Jack".
The plot revolved around two prospecting brothers, one is killed by outlaws, and "Rocky" helps the other brother, who wants no help from the regular law.
Gail Davis made one other picture with "Rocky" Lane, one each with Cowboy singers, "Monte Hale", and "Jimmy Wakely", and a picture with non-singing Charles Starrett.
Gene Autry was, the "World's Greatest Cowboy", portraying Gene Autry. Gene had just been seen in 1949's "Riders in the Sky", with Gloria Henry.
Champion was second billed as, the "World's Wonder Horse".
Gail Davis portrayed "Eileen MacDonald".
Frankie Darro portrayed "Gig Jackson". Darro had just appeared with the other "Bowery Boys", in 1949's, "Hold That Baby". He would follow this picture with director Frank Captra's, 1950, "Riding High", starring Bing Crosby and Coleen Gray.
Back on March 2, 1950, Gail Davis entered the world of television Westerns portraying "Edith Foster" in "Buried Treasure", an episode of "The Lone Ranger", she would appear three more times on that series.
On October 3, 1950, Gail Davis portrayed "Ruth Drake" in "The Cisco Kid" episode, "Convict Story". Her name was shown as Gale Davis", and she would appear four more times on the show.
Above, Tim Holt and Gail Davis.
Hugh Beaumont portrayed "Brad Roberts". The future father on televisions "Leave It to Beaver", had just been seen in the Science Fiction movie, 1951's, "The Lost Continent", starring Caesar Romero, and would follow this picture with 1952's "Wild Stallion", starring Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan, and Martha Hyer.
From 1950 through 1954, Gail Davis appeared in fifteen different roles, in fifteen different episodes of televisions "The Gene Autry Show".
Back in 1952, Gail and Bob Davis divorced.
From January 9, 1954 through February 24, 1957, Gail Davis was televisions "Annie Oakley", in eighty-one episodes, of the "Gene Autry Flying A Production" show.
Brad Johnson portrayed her love interest, "Deputy Sheriff Lofty Craig". Johnson was a television actor who had appeared on "The Cisco Kid", "Cowboy G-Men", and "The Range Rider", before getting this role.
On March 15, 1997, Gail Davis passed away from cancer.
We do know that after the war, in 1945, Ken Curtis returned to school at "Colorado College", in Colorado Springs, studying medicine, but he dropped out to continue his music career.
Additionally, in 1945, "Columbia Pictures" signed Curtis to a contract.
RHYTHM ROUND-UP released on September 7, 1945
Ken Curtis portraying "Jimmy Benson", sang "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", and, "Empty Saddles".
SONG OF THE PRAIRIE released on September 27, 1945
Ken Curtis portrayed "Dan Tyler".
June Storey portrayed "Joan Wingate". Storey appeared opposite Gene Autry in ten 1939 and 1940's movies, and after this picture, her roles became smaller and smaller.
Jim Bannon portrayed the submarine commander, "Captain Favorsham". Bannon was a "B" supporting actor and appeared in dramas and Westerns.
Ross Hunter portrayed the passenger, "Clayton Shepherd". Hunter became a major producer and his work included 1954's, "Magnificent Obsession", starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, 1957's, "Battle Hymn", starring Rock Hudson, 1959's, "Imitation to Life", starring Lana Turner, John Gavin, and Sandra Dee, 1959's, "Pillow Talk", starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson, and 1970's, "Airport", starring Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin, and Jean Seberg.
Ken Curtis portrayed "Seaman Buck Clayton".
It was back to Country Western music movies, between 1946's, "Throw a Saddle on a Star", to 1947's, "Over the Santa Fe Trail", Ken Curtis and "The Hoosier Hotshots" made six Country Western musicals.
For the majority of 1948, instead of making motion pictures, Ken Curtis sang and hosted the radio program, the WWVA Jamboree, aka: Wheeling Jamboree". Historically, this was the only Country Western radio program older, then "The Grand Ole Opry".
In 1949, with "Riders of the Pony Express", Ken Curtis started acting in a small series of actual "B" Westerns, but he did sing in them. At the same time, he joined, and became the lead singer for, "The Sons of the Pioneers".
STALLION CANYON released on June 15, 1949
Ken Curtis portrayed "Curt Benson".
Carolina Cotton portrayed "Ellen Collins". Cotton was known by several nicknames, the "Yodeling Blonde Bombshell", "Queen of the Range", and, "Western's First Lady". She had been in a, 1944, three-minute short, with Tex Williams and Spade Cooley and His Western Dance Band. Her first actual "B" Western, was 1945's, "Outlaws of the Rockies", starring Charles Starrlett. Also, in 1945, Cotton had tenth billing, in the Ken Curtis Country Western jamboree musical, "Song of the Prairie".
The 12-Chapters are about "Stratton's" gang scaring off land owners, so he can buy the land cheaply. Helping "Patricia Doyle", "Lee Hadley", puts on his grandfather's costume and fights the land grabbers.
THE WINGS OF EAGLES released on February 22, 1957
THE HORSE SOLDIERS released on June 17, 1959
HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL
Richard Boone starred in the series as "Paladin", a gunfighter whose card said:
Have Gun Will Travel, Wire Paladin, San Francisco
The series ran from September 14, 1957 through April 20, 1963, and Ken Curtis appeared in six episodes in six different roles, between 1959 and 1962.
In the episode entitled, "Love's Young Dream", September 17, 1960, Ken Curtis as "Monk", sings "Dink's Song (Fare Thee Well)".
Ken Curtis's first appearance on the television series was as "Phil Jacks", on January 31, 1959, in Episode 21, of Season 4, entitled "Jawhawkers", and directed by Andrew V. McLagen.
Curtis would appear five more times, before he became a regular on the series. The fourth of those five, introduced the character of "Festus Haggen". The episode was entitled, "Us Haggens", and was first shown on December 8, 1962, and was another of director Andrew V. McLagen's, ninety-six, out of the six-hundred-and-thirty-five, episodes.
EPISODE 9, of SEASON 16, "PRAIRIE WORKER", made Ken Curtis's character of "Festus" a permanent character of "Gunsmoke". By the end of his run with the series in "The Sharecropers", Episode 24, of Season 20, March 31, 1975, Curtis would have played "Festus" an additional three-hundred times.
Back on July 23, 1964, Ken Curtis and Barbara Ford Curtis divorced.
On March 12, 1966, Ken Curtis married Torrie Ahern Connelly, and only his death on April 28, 1991, from a heart attack while asleep, separated them.
In 1928, his career took a solid turn and Tex Ritter was heard singing on KPRC-AM, Houston. Later in the year, he moved to New York City and appeared on "Broadway" as "Cord Elam", in the original 1931 production of "Green Grow the Lilacs", that Rodgers and Hammerstein would turn into their musical "Oklahoma".
In 1932, Tex starred in New York City's first locally made Western radio broadcast program, WOR-AM's, "The Lone Star Rangers", and weekly sang and told stories about the old west. In 1933, Ritter wrote his own children's show, "Cowboy Tom's Roundup", on WINS-AM.
In 1936, Tex Ritter moved to Los Angeles to pursue a motion picture career.
The plot is familiar, "Tex", an undercover Texas Ranger, infiltrates a hacienda to find the leader of a gang murdering miners to steal their mineral mines.
White Flash was back as "White Flash".
Eleanor Stewart portrayed "Laura Hart". Stewart was a "B" Western heroine and among others, appeared with Bob Steele, Ken Maynard, and William Boyd's "Hopalong Cassidy".
Below the title song for this movie, Tex wrote songs and sang in every one of his motion pictures.
Tex sings four songs with three written by himself. Below, Tex is in a fight with "Pete", a henchman of the villain, "Harry Price", played by Forrest Taylor.
Jumping ahead six movies finds:
TEX RITTER AND THE BOY SCOUTS released on November 26, 1937
Marjorie Reynolds portrayed "Norma Willis". Reynolds was mainly a "B" Western heroine, but she also co-starred with Boris Karloff in two of his detective entries, 1939's, "Mr. Wong in Chinatown", and, 1940's, "Doomed to Die". In 1942, Reynolds co-starred with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in Irving Berlin's "Holiday Inn", and also in the 1946, Abbott and Costello "The Time of Their Lives".
On June 14, 1941, Tex Ritter married Dorothy Fay and they would remain married until his death. The couple would have two sons, actor John Ritter, and documentarian Tom Ritter.
KING OF DODGE CITY released on August 14, 1941
Bill Elliott with his "B" Cowboy persona of "Wild Bill Elliott", portrayed "Wild Bill Hickok". Elliot would play the role twelve-times, and later became the Sunday comic hero, "Red Ryder". Bill Elliott had been appearing in movies since 1925, but didn't switch to starring roles as "Wild Bill Elliott" until 1938's "In Early Arizona".
Tex Ritter portrayed "Sheriff Tex Rawlings".
Dub Taylor portrayed "Cannonball Boggs". Character actor Taylor had been acting since 1938 and over his career, besides "B" Western movies and television. Taylor would be seen in the 1954, Science Fiction classic, "THEM!", Judy Garland's, 1954, "A Star is Born", the Frank Sinatra, 1959 comedy, "A Hole in the Head", James Stewart and Dean Martin's, 1968, Western "Bandolero", the John Wayne and Rock Hudson Civil War Western, 1969's, "The Undefeated", and director Sam Peckinpah's classic end of an era Western, 1969's, "The Wild Bunch".
Tex Ritter portrayed "Brent Gordon". His previous film was his last with Elliott, 1942's, "Vengeance of the West".
Fuzzy Knight portrayed "Happy' T. Snodgrass". Knight was Johnny Mack Brown's sidekick and his previous film was "Boss of Hangtown Mesa".
Tex Ritter, backed by the Jimmy Wakely Trio, sang the title song, "Deep in the Heart of Texas". Their recording went to number one on both the "Country Western" and "Pop" charts, a first for a Country Western singer.
Ritter's first motion picture after his last with Johnny Mack Brown was a small role in a "Universal Pictures" "B" Western.
FRONTIER BADMEN released on August 6, 1943
Noah Beery, Jr., the son of actor Noah Beery, and nephew of actor Wallace Beery, portrayed "Jim Cardwell". His work includes the 1939 version of author John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men", starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr., 1941's, "Sergeant York", starring Gary Cooper, director Howard Hawks', 1948, "Red River", starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, and televisions, "Circus Boy", 1956 through 1957, and "The Rockford Files", 1974 through 1980.
Leo Carrillo portrayed "Chinito Galvez". Carrillo had been acting since 1927, but is best known for portraying "Pancho", on televisions "The Cisco Kid", from 1950 through 1956.
Andy Devine portrayed "Slim, a Cowhand".
Anne Gwynne portrayed "Chris Prentice". "Universal Pictures" contract player Gwynne appeared in several Horror entries. She was "Jean Sovac" in, 1940's, "Black Friday", starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, "Sonja" in, 1940's, "Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe", "Elaine Winslow" in, 1941's, "The Black Cat", starring Basil Rathbone and Broderick Crawford, she was "Kit Logan Church" in, 1942's, "The Strange Case of Doctor RX", starring Lionel Atwill, for 1944's, "Weird Woman", co-starring with Lon Chaney, Jr. and Evelyn Ankers, she was "Paula Reed". Gwynne was also "Rita Hussman" in, 1944's, 'House of Frankenstein"
Diana Barrymore, the daughter of John Barrymore, portrayed "Claire". This picture was her fifth of only eight on-screen appearances. It was her wild personal life that the audience followed.
THE WHISPERING SKULL released on December 29 1944
In the above poster, Wilkerson is in lower left corner.
Someone called "The Whispering Skull" is murdering people in the middle of the night. This is actually a classic murder mystery with a lot of possible suspects , but moved to the old west.
The Fred Zinnemann directed Western, opens with three men, Lee Van Cleef as "Jack Colby", Robert Wilke as "Jim Pierce", and Sheb Wooley as "Ben Miller", meeting each other on horseback and riding toward the railway station at Hadleyville, New Mexico. This all happens as the films opening credits are being shown.
The song Tex Ritter sings is credited in the movie as "High Noon", but became also known by its opening lyrics, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling". However, the Academy Award Best Song with music by Dimitri Tiomkin, and lyrics by Ned Washington, was listed at the Oscars as "The Ballad of High Noon".
However you call it, Tex Ritter's original version became a major hit on the Country Western Charts for Ritter and he performed it at the First ever televised Academy Awards Ceremony.
On January 2, 1974, ten-days before his sixty-ninth birthday, Tex Ritter passed away from a heart attack.