22 August 2014

Remembering the Cowboys

Welcome back. Do you miss the cowboys? I don’t mean modern Western-themed-TV-show cowboys you see on Longmire and Justified. I mean cowboys like Tom Mix, who Miriam Biskin mentioned in last Friday’s blog post, My Brother Manny. He was the “idol of every boy in the world,” and if you missed his full-length movies or movie serials, you could find him and Tony, his wonder horse, in circus shows, comic books or souvenir products.
Tom Mix, his wonder horse, Tony, and a poster for a 1935 movie serial that had 15 episodes. Each episode was generally shown for one week and ended with a cliffhanger to be resolved in the next episode.
Growing up, I loved cowboy movies and TV shows; however, I felt a stronger push to write about the topic. An irate reader privately shamed me after viewing my blog post on TV shows from the 1940s and ‘50s (TV Shows Photo Addendum). “But you left out the cowboys!” he emailed. It’s time for me to make amends.

Setting the Stage

Though I’ll focus on TV shows from the 1940s and 1950s, I thought I’d take my lead from the US Postal Service. In 2010, it issued the Cowboys of the Silver Screen stamps, honoring four extraordinary performers who helped make the American Western.

Cowboys of the Silver Screen postage stamp, issued 2010, and silent screen movie star William Hart.
William S. Hart (1864-1946) was one of the most popular leading men of the silent film era, long before my time; Tom Mix (1880-1940) was one of the most celebrated film stars of the 1920s and 30s, which was years before anyone took me to see Pinocchio; and Gene Autry (1907-1998) and Roy Rogers (1911-1998) did it all--acting, singing, live shows and more--their movies, which began in the 1930s, merging with their TV shows in the 1950s.
1933 Movie poster for the first
singing cowboy, John Wayne.
(Photo from multiple websites.)

Before turning on the TV, I have to point to John Wayne, who will always be my Western movie hero. Did you know he was the first singing cowboy?

Lash Larue, king of the bullwhip.
(Photo from multiple websites.)
In the 1940s and 50s, there were a handful of others, like Johnny Mack Brown, Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott and Jimmy Stewart, that I never missed in Westerns; but for me, Lash Larue’s movies--and his many comic books--were the best.

Favorite TV Westerns

OK, on to TV and some of my favorite Westerns, whose choice was driven by my age and the competition.

A year before the Cowboys of the Silver Screen stamps came out, the US Postal Service issued 20 Early TV Memories commemoratives, which included Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger. They were the first Westerns I ever saw and have to be on my list of favorites.

Two US Postal Service Early TV Memories stamps, issued 2009.
William Boyd starred as Hopalong Cassidy in 66 movies, 1935-48, which were edited and released as the first TV Western series beginning in 1949. Fifty-two 30-minute TV shows were added 1952-54, and there was a radio version, 1950-52. Boyd endorsed some 2400 products in merchandising deals, including the first school lunchbox to have a celebrity image.
A comic book featuring Hopalong Cassidy and his horse, Topper. (Photo from comicbookplus.com/?dlid=16312)
The Lone Ranger began in radio and ran on TV 1949-57. Clayton Moore starred as the Lone Ranger, though John Hart had the role 1952-54, and Jay Silverheels costarred as Tonto, with horses, Silver and Scout, respectively. The show was noted for its ideally selected theme music from the William Tell Overture.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto, played by Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. (Photo from multiple websites.)
The Gene Autry Show aired 1950-56. A member of both the Country Music and Nashville Songwriters halls of fame, Autry is the only person to be awarded stars in all five categories on the Hollywood Walk of Fame--film, television, music, radio and live performance.
Gene Autry and Champion. (Photo from multiple websites.)
The Roy Rogers Show was on TV 1951-57, and he and wife Dale Evans were on again in 1962 with The Roy Rogers & Dale Evans Show.
Roy Rogers mounting Trigger. (Photo from multiple websites.)
Guy Madison starred in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, 1951-58, with Andy Devine as his sidekick, Jingles. They also did a radio version, 1951-54. 
Guy Madison and Andy Devine were featured on numerous products, such as this breakfast cereal my mother wouldn’t let me eat. (Photo from www.rubylane.com/item/123265-1072)
 Wrap Up

If my memory’s not overwhelmed by nostalgia, those were my top TV Westerns. Don’t take your shots yet. I’ll be back on Tuesday with other Westerns that I and possibly you used to watch. Thanks for stopping by.

P.S.

-Wikipedia, which you’re likely familiar with, is a valuable resource for general and specific information on cowboy actors as well as Western movies and TV shows.
-Another useful reference for movies, TV shows and celebrities: www.imdb.com/
-Compilation of cowboys, their movies etc: www.jimwegryn.com/Names/Cowboys.htm
-General information on several TV cowboys: www.tv-cowboys.com/
-Bios of William Hart, Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers:
uspsstamps.com/stamps/cowboys-silver-screen

Additional information on…
William Hart: marymiley.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/the-first-cowboy-star-william-s-hart/
John Wayne: www.biography.com/people/john-wayne-9525664
Gene Autry: plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.fil.005
Roy Rogers: www.biography.com/people/roy-rogers-9542070#early-life
Guy Madison: www.westernclippings.com/remember/wildbillhickok_doyouremember.shtml

Video of The Lone Ranger opening with the theme music (26 seconds):
www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxIuIxqo2So

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