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Minor B Western Cowboy Stars

The Minor League of B Western Leading Men and Women who did not make it big in the western movies.  


There were many B Western leading men and woman cowboy stars that did not make it big.  These are the “Minor League” of B Western stars.  I only included stars who had a brief career as B Western Leading Men and Women and their movies are available in Archive.Org or You Tube.

Many stars that I did not include (because their movies were not available in Archive.Org or You Tube were):
Bob Allen, Bob Baker, Edmund Cobb, Eddie Dew, Jack Luden, Ray Middleton, John Preston, and Ray Whitley.


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 1-Gene Austin - Singing Cowboy
1.  Gene Austin (1900 – 1972) was an American singer and songwriter, one of the first "crooners". His 1920s compositions "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street" and "The Lonesome Road" became pop and jazz standards.
Gene Austin was famous for his rendition of "My Blue Heaven." Crooner Gene Austin was turned into a Western star by the independent Alexander brothers, Max and Arthur. The movie, Songs and Saddles, was then road-shown on a personal appearance tour throughout the South, where Austin was very popular. Not your typical handsome Western hero, the pudgy Austin was nevertheless able to stay in the saddle long enough to warble such ditties as "I'm Coming Home" and "Rootin' Tootin' Shootin' Man from Texas," both written by himself, and to romance leading lady Lynne Barkeley without appearing too much the fool. Austin played himself, a traveling troubadour coming to the aid of an elderly rancher, "Pop" Turner (Walter Wills), who is about to be cheated out of his property by an evil realtor (Karl Hackett) and his contractor accomplice (Charles King).


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2-Rex Bell
2.  Rex Bell (1903 – 1962),  was Lieutenant Governor of Nevada and a B Western movie star. Rex was born in Chicago and married actress Clara Bow in 1931.
Rex Bell’s  starring western count was small --- only 22 westerns released during 1928 - 1936.

TONTO KID” - “Three saddle aces add up to a full house” pronounced Resolute advertising. Rex Bell (off the screen for two years), Ruth Mix and Buzz Barton all start out on the devious side of the law but wind up on the right to outwit nefarious lawyer Ted Lorch. The first film for the new Resolute company was to be the first of six starrers for Bell/Mix/Barton, only four of which were actually made. Ruth Mix is Tom’s daughter, so Resolute was trading on her name. 








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3-Bill Cody
3.  Bill Cody (1891 – 1948) was a Hollywood B-western actor of the 1920s, 1930s and into the 1940s.  Cody, often called "the reel Bill Cody", began his acting career in the early days of film, and just happened to have the same name as "Buffalo" Bill Cody, although being of no relation. 
The Vanishing Riders (1935) - Bill Cody and his son masquerade as ghosts (see below) to demoralize a gang of despicable, superstitious rustlers. 

 




 
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4-Bob Custer
4.  Bob Custer  (1898 - 1974) 
Kentucky-born Bob Custer was an actual cowboy who left the range to perform in rodeo shows. Like many other rodeo performers, he found out that appearing in western films paid quite a bit more (and was much less dangerous) than bull-riding and steer-roping, and he began to gain popularity as a western star in a series of medium-budget films in the early and mid-'20s. Unlike many other cowboy stars, however, Custer branched out into other genres, using his real name of Raymond Glenn. He returned to making westerns in the late 1920s but the advent of talkies posed a huge problem for Custer: he choked when reading lines. This mike fright was compounded by the fact that he was working at the bottom of the food chain in Hollywood, in micro-budgeted oaters by cheapjack producers like Harry S. Webb and J.P. McGowan; the shoddy productions only served to magnify Custer's limitations as an actor. Consequently, he never regained the measure of popularity he had in the 1920s. He appeared in his last film in 1936.
 
 



 

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5-Tex Fletcher- Singing Cowboy
5.  Tex Fletcher (1910 - 1987)  as a youngster lived in South Dakota and picked up some real cowboy skills including riding a horse. He also learned to sing and play a pretty good guitar, and by the 1930s, he was working in radio where he became known as "the Lonely Cowboy". He wound up at New York's WOR radio, part of the Mutual Broadcasting System.
In late 1938, Tex Fletcher connected with the newly formed Arcadia Pictures Corporation and a deal was struck for a half-dozen sagebrush musicals with distribution by Grand National. The initial entry, SIX-GUN RHYTHM (Arcadia/GN, 1939), was lensed and released in early 1939, and Tex portrays a college and pro football star who goes west to discover the killer of his father. As the opening titles roll, Tex is riding his trusty palomino and warbling his signature composition "I'm A Lonesome Cowboy". Pretty Joan Barclay is the heroine and Ralph Peters does one of his occasional sidekick roles as Tex's helper. Tunes came from Johnny Lange and Lew Porter who worked together on dozens of westerns beginning in the mid 1930s.


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6-Dick Foran- Singing Cowboy
6.  Dick Foran (1910 - 1979)  possessed a fine singing voice. He set out in pursuit of a musical career and wound up in Hollywood working in films such as the Shirley Temple starrer STAND UP AND CHEER (Fox, 1934). In these early roles, he was often billed as "Nick Foran".  
Dick Foran inked a contract with Warner Bros., and he would be there for about three years doing bits and supporting roles in various movies such as Bogart's THE PETRIFIED FOREST (Warners, 1936) and THE BLACK LEGION (Warners, 1936). He was also one of the suitors in FOUR DAUGHTERS (Warners, 1938) and the sequels, FOUR WIVES (Warners, 1939) and FOUR MOTHERS (Warners, 1941).
Warners decided to make B westerns, and Foran was selected as their new "singing cowboy".
There were a dozen Foran oaters, six for the 1935-36 season and another half-dozen releases in 1936-37. The first, MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE (Warners, 1935), arrived in theaters during November, 1935. In CALIFORNIA MAIL (Warners, 1936) and SONG OF THE SADDLE (Warners, 1936), you'll even glimpse Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers. And Gordon Elliott, prior to achieving stardom as "Wild Bill" at Columbia, can also be spotted in several. Foran rode a palomino named "Smoke" (Smoky) so that the earlier Maynard stock footage could be utilized again. The series finale was PRAIRIE THUNDER (Warners, 1937), released in September, 1937.
Foran would remain at Warners for another eighteen months or so. The studio gave him an occasional lead such as a RCMP in the Technicolor HEART OF THE NORTH (Warners, 1938). But mostly, his name appeared further down in the cast listing in films such as the Jimmy Cagney WW1 military adventure, THE FIGHTING 69th (Warners, 1940).

Dick Foran in Winners of the West (1940)  - a 13 Chapter Universal Movie Serial  [go to # 9]

Dick Foran and Buck Jones in Riders of Death Valley (1941) - a 13 Chapter Universal movie serial. 

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7-Jack Hoxie

7.  Jack Hoxie (1885 - 1965)  lived on a ranch in Northern Idaho. This is where Jack became a full-fledged, working cowboy.  His main interest, however, was in rodeos and he continued to ride the circuit, winning numerous contests. In 1909 he met Wild West showman/performer Dick Stanley and joined his show.
Universal head Carl Laemmle then became interested in Hoxie, and in 1923, Jack joined the Universal stable of Western stars that included Art Acord, Hoot Gibson, Harry Carey, Pete Morrison, Ted Wells, Fred Humes, Edmund Cobb, and Roy Stewart. His first picture for Universal was DON QUICKSHOT OF THE RIO GRANDE. In short order, Hoxie became second only to Hoot Gibson on the 'Big Universal' lot. 
Over the next five years, Jack made thirty-six features for Universal, elevating him to a spot as one of the top ten box-office draws. The Universal pictures were the highlight of Jack's career. 



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8-Tom Keene
8.  Tom Keene (1896 - 1963)  wound up on the Broadway stage, and that Cecil B. DeMille saw him and signed him for a role in a Pathe film which he was shooting.
While details of his early life are cloudy, we do know that young George Duryea wound up in Hollywood in the late 1920s in a lead role in DeMille's THE GODLESS GIRL. Over the next couple of years, he appeared in other films at a variety of studios and production units ... but stardom was elusive.
Known for his sharp, pleasant looks and fitness, he was given the new name of Tom Keene and began appearing in a series of RKO "Poverty Row" Westerns in the early 1930s.  Tom's heroes took on different names and appearances -- wearing both black and white western outfits and hats -- and his characters were not two-fisted men by nature. As a result, he remained a second-string, less identifiable Western star for the duration of his career. In addition, Tom purposely returned to the stage and even appeared in lesser roles but better quality films from time to time in order to avoid the typical Western stereotype. Inevitably, however, he would return to the minor studios such as Monogram and Republic Studios in cowboy garb in need of work.  When he worked for Republic in the 1940s, he used the name Richard Powers.

Tom Keene in Pardon My Gun - 1930





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9-Fred Kohler Jr.
9.  Fred Kohler Jr. (1911 - 1993) was the son of famed movie villain Fred Kohler and actress Maxine Marshall. American actor Fred Kohler Jr.'s own film career began in 1930. Big and brawny, the younger Kohler was a natural for outdoor films, westerns in particular. In 1935, producer William Berke starred Kohler in a brace of "B" horse operas, Toll of the Desert and The Pecos Kid. But like his father before him, Fred seemed more at home on the wrong side of the law. He played minor heavies and utility roles at several studios, mainly Paramount and RKO. He frequently showed up in the films of directors Cecil B. DeMille and John Ford; in Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln, he played small-town lout Scrub White, whose murder sets in motion the film's classic courtroom finale. He remained active until 1968, nearly always in westerns.

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10-Rex Lease
10.  Rex Lease (1903 -1966) When Rex was in his early thirties he was able to star in about a dozen low-budget B Westerns and western themed serials. By the late 1930s, Lease's starring career was over, and he migrated to supporting roles and bit parts. As time progressed, he added some poundage around his waist and played heavies, sheriffs, etc. His later roles included many of the Abbott & Costello and Ma & Pa Kettle comedies.  Rex Lease was one of many who had a fling at B western stardom ... and failed. This could have been because his screen persona was relatively mild ... or because there was a glut of new and old cowboy heroes riding the cinema trails in the 1930s, and they were more dynamic and well known, thereby increasing the probability of film profits. On the upside, Lease was able to move into bit parts and supporting roles, and his Hollywood career, both silents and talkies, lasted about thirty five years. He was often employed by Republic Pictures, mostly in programmer westerns and serials, and his film credits at that studio number about 85 from 1937 - 1953. 




Rex Lease in Custer's Last Stand - 1936  A 15 Chapter Movie Serial [added]


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11-Kermit Maynard
11.  Kermit Maynard (1897 - 1971) was the younger brother of Ken Maynard, and the brothers were born in Vevay, Indiana - Ken in 1895 and Kermit in 1897.  Kermit was a former all-star athlete at Indiana University with letters in football, baseball and basketball even though he never did graduate.
Kermit started doing stunt work and doubled for many of the cowboy stars of the early 1930s (such as Tom Tyler and George O'Brien). He even doubled for brother Ken in his 1930s work at Tiffany, KBS WorldWide and Universal. Edith was busy also, and she ultimately became the head of the Fox script department.
Maurice Conn dreamed of new series of Canadian Mounted Police yarns based loosely on the writings of James Oliver Curwood, a prominent author whose stories were the basis for many cinema adventures.  Aware of Kerm's horsemanship talents as well as his tall and lean physique, Conn approached the younger Maynard with a proposal and a contract ... and a near three year association began. The collaboration resulted in eighteen films - ten mountie flicks followed by eight traditional western programmers.
Kermit would eventually come to star in a few other minor westerns himself and later become a character player, often in the role of outlaw.





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12-Lee Powell
12.  Lee Powell (1908 - 1944) was an overlooked and nearly forgotten western and serial star.  He was the silver screen's first Lone Ranger.  Powell was a pretty good action hero, and had demonstrated same as the star of two classic Republic serials of 1938, THE LONE RANGER and THE FIGHTING DEVIL DOGS. There's a bit of eerieness about Powell's starring role as a Marine in THE FIGHTING DEVIL DOGS, as he would be wearing a real Marine Corps uniform during World War II and fighting his way through various Pacific island jungles.
Lee enlisted in the Marines on August 17, 1942 in Los Angeles, and reported to the Marine base at San Diego, California as a recruit. After boot camp, he was assigned to the 2d Battalion, 18th Marines (Engineers), 2d Marine Division at Camp Elliott, California. Powell saw action at Tarawa (in 1943) and Saipan (in 1944). On July 30, 1944, Sgt. Lee Powell died on Tinian (Marianas Islands) after he lived through some of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific War. 





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13-Reb Russell
13.  Reb Russell (1905 - 1978)  became an outstanding fullback with the Northwestern Wildcats (during the 1930 and 1931 seasons).  Reb had honors including the Big-Ten scoring championship, All-Big Ten honors, All-American status (in 1930), and a six-yard-per-carry average. Even Notre Dame's fabled coach Knute Rockne added praise by saying that Reb "was the greatest plunging fullback I ever saw" (in reference to Reb's play in the 14-0 loss to Notre Dame in 1930, which was the year the Fighting Irish were undefeated and crowned National Champions).  In 1933, Reb played briefly with two professional football teams, the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
Reb later got into making movies.  His westerns were average fare for the Saturday matinee double-feature crowd of that time period.  Russell just couldn't overcome his drawl and the lines he had to deliver.  On a positive note, the supporting and character actors of his movies were top-notch, and their professionalism helps overcome some of Reb’s shortcomings. And Reb looked good as a cowboy hero, was a pretty good rider, and gave it a good try.  



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14-Fred Scott- Singing Cowboy
14.  Fred Scott (1902 - 1992) as a youngster learned how to ride. But he soon became interested in singing, which included several years of operatic voice lessons with a teacher in Los Angeles. Ultimately, Scott became a professional singer, and had jobs in concerts, theaters, opera and night clubs.  Fred made a total of 13 Fred Scott westerns from 1936-1939, all released under the Spectrum banner. But Spectrum got into financial difficulty and would soon disappear.  In retrospect, Fred Scott and his western features had little impact on the genre. He was simply another talented singer who tried to overcome shoestring budgets and production ineptitudes with a Poverty Row production company. While Scott had a marvelous voice, it was probably too formal for a cowboy hero.  Fred Scott retired from the screen in 1942.   He worked for a time as the singer and manager of the Florentine Gardens Review and later, in MGM's sound department. He later became a successful (and well known) Los Angeles area realtor, 

FIGHTING DEPUTY (1937 Spectrum) co-starred Fuzzy St. John. The movie was helped a bit by the always enjoyable menace of Charles King. Songs assigned Fred were adequate. 



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15-Big Boy Williams
15.  Guinn "Big Boy" Williams (1899 – 1962) was an American actor who appeared as a sidekick in many memorable westerns such as Dodge City (1939), Santa Fe Trail (1940), and The Comancheros (1961). He was nicknamed "Big Boy" as he was 6' 2" and muscular from years of working on ranches and playing semi-pro and pro baseball.
Throughout the 1930s, Williams acted in several supporting roles, mostly in westerns, sports, or outdoor dramas. Although not the lead actor in any of them, he was always employed, and was successful as a supporting actor. He often played alongside many major B Western stars during that period.
Williams played the lead in only a few movies.   This is one of them.

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16 - Jack Perrin
16.  Jack Perrin (1896 – 1967) was an American actor specializing in westerns.  During the 1920s, Perrin made a name for himself, starring in a number of cliffhanger, melodrama, and serial films.
Perrin found a niche in B-movie westerns of the 1930s. He usually played leads as Jack Perrin, but occasionally adopted the pseudonyms Jack Gable or Richard (Dick) Terry. Perrin was then co-producing low-budget films with Hollywood veteran William Berke, and the pseudonyms may have been intended to mislead exhibitors as to the depth of the Berke-Perrin company's talent pool.
Perrin's last major role was as Davy Crockett in 1937's The Painted Stallion (See Below), for Republic Pictures.
For his contributions as an actor in motion pictures, Jack Perrin was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.




The Painted Stallion - Movie Serial [co-starring Jack Perrin]



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17 - Wally Wales
17 - Wally Wales (1895 - 1980) Because of his horsemanship ability became a cowboy star of lower echelon films during the silent era. He appeared in over 220 films between 1921 and 1964.  From 1921 through 1928 he appeared in twenty-two silent films, starring in many (mainly Westerns) under the name Wally Wales, and in 1929 made the successful transition to sound. Subsequently his star faded and he began appearing in much smaller roles, usually as Hal Taliaferro.
Wales/Taliaferro in one of his most remembered roles - as a member of the five Texas Rangers in THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) movie serial. He portrayed Bob Stuart, the second Ranger to be killed off as the cliffhanger progresses. 
Most fans and critics feel that Wales/Taliaferro was among the finest of the supporting players in the western and serial genres. He did all kinds of roles - buddy to the hero, henchman, lawman, villain assistant, etc. 


The Lone Ranger Serial - 1938 (Wally Wales as Bob Stuart 2nd Lone Ranger Killed)
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18 - Smith Ballew - Singing Cowboy
 
18.  Smith Ballew  (1902 – 1984) was an actor, sophisticated singer, orchestra leader, and finally, a Western singing star. He began his singing career on the radio, and in the 1930s became one of the earliest of the singing cowboys on the movie screen. He did a series of musical Westerns for Paramount Pictures and one for 20th Century Fox, continuing in supporting roles until the 1950s.

Prior to his singing cowboy career, starting in the late 1920s, he became one of the most recognizable vocalists on hundreds of dance band and jazz records. He organized his own short-lived band in 1931.

Between 1929 and 1935, he made scores of phonograph records which were issued under his own name. Few of these popular records gave any indication of his future Cowboy style

Smith Ballew in Roll Along, Cowboy - 1937 

Smith Ballew in Rawhide -1938: with Lou Gehrig (of the NY Yankees)
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19. Art Mix
19.  Art Mix (1896 - 1972) was actor George Kesterson who changed his name to Art Mix, a name that Kesterson used for the rest of his career in making westerns.  Art was known for his very tall White hat.  He most often played the "good guy".  He is not to be confused with Tom Mix.


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20.  Lane Chandler
20.  
Lane Chandler (1899 – 1972) He starred in a few low-budget westerns in the 1930s, but was more often cast as the leading man's partner, or saddle pal, or a sheriff or army officer. With the advent of television Chandler began making appearance on numerous series, often making appearances in TV Westerns.


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21.  Dennis Moore

21.  Dennis Moore (1909 - 1964) A cowboy actor equipped with a strong stance and taciturn seriousness both on and off camera, Dennis Moore was cast as both hero and villain in his three-decade-long career. A player in well over 200 hundred "B"-level oaters and serials during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Moore never reached the rugged heights of top-flight stardom but did manage to find steady employment.





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22. Jay Wilsey aka Buffalo Bill Jr.

22.  Jay Wilsey (1896 – 1961) was an American Western actor. He appeared in nearly 100 films between 1924 and 1944. He starred in a series of low-budget westerns in the 1920s and 1930s, billed as "Buffalo Bill Jr."  He learned to ride a horse at a very young age, and when he got older he began appearing on the rodeo circuit. In 1924 he found himself in Hollywood and, hearing that producers were looking for good horsemen for western movies, went looking for work. A movie studio gave him the stage name "Buffalo Bill Jr.", although he had no connection whatsoever with the real Buffalo Bill (William F. Cody)




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23.  Buddy Roosevelt 

Buddy Roosevelt (1898 — 1973) was an American film and television actor and stunt performer from Hollywood's early silent film years through the 1950s.  He was an athlete and a cowboy in his youth. He started performing as a stuntman in 1916, his first work being on the film Hell's Hinges. He continued working as a stuntman as well as an actor throughout his long Hollywood career.  He would star in thirty-seven films from 1924 to 1929, most of which were western films. He made a successful transition to "talking films", mainly because of his abilities as a stuntman.


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