Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail

By Peter Stanfield | Go to book overview

2
Series Westerns, Will Rogers and the
Emergence of the Singing Cowboy
1931–1935

This chapter examines the fall and rise in Western production between 1931 and 1935, by considering the shifting fortunes in the careers of the leading Western stars, the domination of the series Western by independent producers, and the consolidation of independent production with the formation of Republic Pictures. The phenomenal success of the singing cowboy (particularly Gene Autry) is examined through an overview of his antecedents in the radio and phonograph industries.

The attrition of passing years had a substantial effect on the fortunes of the series Western. Of the great silent Western stars, William. S. Hart, Dustin Farnum, Art Acord and Fred Thomson had all retired or died before the advent of synchronised sound. Tom Mix’s long career at Fox came to an end in 1928, and after short stints at FBO and Universal his film career came to an ignominious halt in 1935 with a serial made for the Poverty Row studio Mascot. Harry Carey, already in his forties, moved from Pathé to a short starring stint at MGM, most notably in Trader Horn (1931), but thereafter he made serials for Mascot, starred in Poverty Row productions by Art Class, Ajax/ Commodore, and played down the bill from Randolph Scott in some of Paramount’s series adaptations of Zane Grey’s novels. Buck Jones’s contract with Fox ended in 1929, whereupon he moved first to Beverly/Columbia and then to Universal in 1934. Tim McCoy, who was MGM’s only series Western star, moved to Universal for a one–off starring appearance in a serial, and then joined Buck Jones at Columbia before leaving in 1934. He played out his career at a number of Poverty Row studios: Puritan, Victory, PRC and Monogram. Hoot Gibson left

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Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s: The Lost Trail
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The First Cycle of Sound Westerns 15
  • 2 - Series Westerns, Will Rogers and the Emergence of the Singing Cowboy 1931–1935 56
  • 3 - Series Westerns Masking the Modern 78
  • 4 - Class–A Western Features 1935–1938 117
  • 5 - Democratic Art Westerns 1939–1941 148
  • 6 - Dixie Cowboys Representing the Nation 193
  • Conclusion 225
  • Notes 228
  • Bibliography 248
  • Index 255
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