Special Sub-Topic: Horse Opera Heroes
|I was not a front-line hero but I had a career in Horse Operas and some character roles after that. I was a big man and often was billed by my nickname "Big Boy".|
Guinn Williams. Guinn "Big Boy" Williams was reported to have appeared in 218 movies, beginning in 1919 and ending in 1961, so he was able to bridge the gap between silent movies and "talkies". Williams was an expert polo player and was called the Babe Ruth of polo.
|My career started in a variety of roles but I became stereotyped as a cowboy. My most famous role was Red Ryder. Robert Blake played Little Beaver, a young Indian boy, in that western series. |
Bill Elliot. Elliot was often billed as "Wild Bill" Elliot. He had played "Wild Bill" Hickok in a Saturday Afternoon serial. In the popular movie "Christmas Story", Ralphie wants a Red Rider BB gun. (Be careful. "You'll shoot your eye out.") He also appeared in commercials for a cigarette company. He died in 1965 of lung cancer.
|I was sometimes called the James Cagney of westerns because of some resemblance to Cagney in face and stature. I am remembered mostly for my western movies but I also did a number of character roles in other genres. I was the first to play Red Ryder on the screen. This gave me a nickname that followed through my career.|
Don "Red" Barry. Don "Red" Barry's birth name was either Donald Michael Barry DeAcosta or Milton Poimbeof. It was never clear which was correct. Roles became difficult to obtain in later years and he sometimes did uncredited work in movies. In 1981 police were investigating a reported domestic disturbance at his home. When they confronted Barry, he shot himself in the head.
|You probably know me from the many high profile films I starred in. I began my career, however, in the old black and white Horse Operas of the early 1930s. I became a symbol for ruggedness and determination. My birth name was Marion Morrison but friends just called me Duke.|
John Wayne. "Stagecoach" was the cross-over film that brought Wayne into feature films. One of the interesting things about those old films was that they tried to make Wayne into a singing cowboy, with not a lot of success. My favorite quote, attributed to Wayne, was when he was asked if it was proper for a woman to work outside the home. He was reported to have replied: "It's OK, as long as she gets home in time to fix supper."
|I was not the first singing cowboy but I popularized the singing cowboy concept. I was also a producer for many Horse Operas in the late 1920s and early 1930s, sometimes making both a silent and a talkie version. My first love was the circus. When my film career dimmed, I established my own western circus. My brother Kermit was also a cowboy star. My horse Tarzan was one of first "hero" horses in these films.|
Ken Maynard. Maynard was always trying to find an angle. He frustrated directors and argued about salary. When he put on weight, his appeal dropped. When he was down-and-out toward the end of life, he got a regular anonymous check. Gene Autry was his benefactor but did not want his name used.
|I was born in Texas and attended the University of Texas pre-law and law school, although I did not become a lawyer. The acting bug hit me and I starred on Broadway in "Green Grow the Lilacs" which later became the Broadway musical "Oklahoma". Although I starred in 85 westerns, my singing career was always important to me. My son John went on to become a sitcom star in several series.|
Tex Ritter. Tex's singing lead him to induction in the Country Western Hall of Fame. His records sold long after his Horse Opera career was over. Probably Tex was a premiere singing cowboy, lagging only behind Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Tex sang "Do Forsake Me, Oh My Darling" which won the 1952 Academy Award for best song on the sound tract of "High Noon", starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. My favorite Ritter tune was always "Blood on the Saddle". John Ritter was his son.
|My career in Horse Operas was special, in that I used a bull whip to subdue the bad guys. Using the bullwhip was new to me and I learned on the job. I often went to theaters where my films were playing to demonstrate the whip. Those kids learned that I was the same guy they cheered on the screen.|
Lash LaRue. LaRue extended his career by appearing at many functions honoring film cowboys. LaRue bore a resemblace to Humphrey Bogart. He was reported to have been married and divorced ten times.
|I had a long career in films, spanning fifty-one years, from the silents to some high visibility movies. I was born Robert Adrian Bradbury and a twin. My brother and I were in several silent movies promoted by our father, a vaudeville actor. When I drifted into Horse Operas, I changed my name to a more masculine and colorful name. I continued with bit parts in movies and television for many years.|
Bob Steele. Steele was able to work for many years. He appeared with Clint Eastwood in "Hang Em High", John Wayne in "Rio Bravo", and Humphrey Bogart in "The Big Sleep". Fans may remember him as Trooper Duffy in the TV sitcom "F Troop".
|People always remember me wearing a mask. I wandered the west with a faithful Indian companion. I made movies but my character was also popular on radio and television. My character rode his famous horse, Silver. The "William Tell Overture" was my theme song.|
Clayton Moore. Clayton Moore became the Lone Ranger. His career was enhanced by his personal appearances. He was so closely identified by his role, that people did not know his real name. He took over the radio Lone Ranger but had to train to lower his voice. He was sued by the creator of the "Lone Ranger" for copyright infringement but prevailed. In his first years on television, he helped to promote the fledging ABC network.
|I made my prematurely white hair work to my advantage. I came across more like an older brother than a father figure. My character was so popular that most people forgot my real name and called me by my character. One of my nicknames was "Hoppy".|
William Boyd. Boyd was one of the shrewdest of the Horse Opera heroes. Although many ended up in dire straights, Boyd bought the rights to sixty-six Hopalong Cassidy movies as well as trademarking Hopalong Cassidy so that his name could not used without his permission. In the early days of television, Boyd's movies became a staple of many TV stations. Coupled with his fees for personal appearance, Boyd was one of the more successful Horse Opera heroes.
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