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(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above, Jim Bannon guesting at the 1974 Memphis Western Film Festival.
Jim Bannon

Full name:
James Shorttel Bannon

1911 - 1984




Jim Bannon was born in Kansas City, Missouri on April 9, 1911.  His radio career began in Kansas City, Kansas on KCKN followed by a stint at the CBS station KMOX in St. Louis.  Around 1937, Bannon was hooked on radio work and had a decision to make - head to Chicago or to California.  He chose sunny California.

Bannon had a superb voice and did announcing and narration on a variety of radio programs, including: THE JOE PENNER SHOW (1939-40), STARS OVER HOLLYWOOD (early 1940s), THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE (1941-42), THE ADVENTURES OF NERO WOLFE (1943-44), THE EDDIE BRACKEN SHOW (1945-46), others.

Bannon did a screen test and became a contract player at Columbia Pictures in the mid 1940s.  He did a variety of bit and supporting roles and also starred as 'Jack Packard' in a trio of adventures based on the I LOVE A MYSTERY radio adventure which was authored by Carlton E. Morse (who also created the long running radio soap opera, ONE MAN'S FAMILY).  After several years as a Columbia contract player, Bannon opted to free-lance and got the lead in the cliffhanger DANGERS OF THE CANADIAN MOUNTED (Republic, 1948).  Later, he and comedian Fuzzy Knight were the trail pards to Whip Wilson in a handful of oaters at Monogram.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Whip Wilson (right) starred in 22 sagebrushers for Monogram circa 1949-1952, and his most frequent sidekick was comedian Andy Clyde. However, in five of his films, he was teamed with Fuzzy Knight (far left) and Jim Bannon (center).


However, Bannon is best remembered as the fourth cinema Red Ryder (after Don Barry, Wild Bill Elliott and Alan Lane) in a quartet of Cinecolor westerns released by Eagle Lion in 1949-1950.  These were produced by Jack Schwartz and the father-son team of Harry and Jerry Thomas.  Sadly, the Bannon reincarnation of Red Ryder was doomed to a short life - the encroachment of TV was impacting theater audiences and box office receipts and Jack Schwartz had gotten involved in some other films. You can only wonder what Bannon's western film career would have been like if he - instead of Elliott and/or Lane - had connected with Republic Pictures half a dozen years earlier and got the starring role in their Red Ryder film series.



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

In the above lobby card from THE FIGHTING REDHEAD (Eagle Lion, 1950) are Bannon and Peggy Stewart, the heroine in many great Republic westerns. Peggy was the leading lady in two of the four Bannon/Red Ryder films. Does the guy on the left look familiar? Think the LONE RANGER TV show ... and John Hart who played the masked man for one season.


The Red Ryder Films starring Jim Bannon:

RIDE, RYDER, RIDE (Eagle Lion, 1949)
ROLL, THUNDER, ROLL (Eagle Lion, 1949)
THE FIGHTING REDHEAD (Eagle Lion, 1950)
THE COWBOY AND THE PRIZEFIGHTER (Eagle Lion, 1950)



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Don Kay 'Little Brown Jug' Reynolds (as Little Beaver), Bannon and sidekick Emmett Lynn in a scene from RIDE, RYDER, RIDE (Eagle Lion, 1949), the first of four Bannon Red Ryder adventures.  You'll find a bit more info on Reynolds and Lynn in the 'Saddle Pals & Sidekicks + the Kids' section on the Old Corral.


Jim also played 'Uncle Sandy North' in the short-lived ADVENTURES OF CHAMPION TV show for Gene Autry's Flying A production company in the mid 1950s.  Also in the 1950s, Bannon had the lead in a proposed Red Ryder TV show and a pilot episode was filmed (Allan 'Rocky' Lane also filmed a Red Ryder TV pilot). The Bannon and Lane television shows didn't sell and were not picked up for broadcast.

More on the Bannon TV pilot follows:

The first TV pilot starred Bannon, was titled "Whiplash", and made circa 1951. Bannon appears to be wearing the same outfit that he wore when he starred in that quartet of 1949-1950 Red Ryder films for Eagle-Lion --- his outfit consisted of a single gun, chaps, and a super-sized, big brimmed white hat. Olive Carey, the wife of Harry Carey Sr., plays the Duchess, and other cast members were Lyle Talbot and Dick Curtis as the villains, along with Monte Blue, Earle Hodgins and Kenneth MacDonald in support roles. There's lots of stock footage - for example, during the introduction at the beginning of the show, you can easily spot Tex Ritter (on White Flash) and Dave O'Brien from their PRC Texas Rangers films, as both lead a band of men that gallop into town. At the end, Bannon leans on a hitchin' rail and gives a sales pitch to prospective sponsors of the show. The director was Thomas A. Carr, who did a lot of work at Republic Pictures. This had to have been made circa 1951 as western movie baddie Dick Curtis passed away in January, 1952.

Bannon was married to prolific radio and TV performer Beatrice 'Bea' Benaderet who is best known as 'Blanche Morton' on the George Burns & Gracie Allen radio and TV shows, 'Kate Bradley' on the PETTICOAT JUNCTION TVer, 'Pearl Bodine' on THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, and the voice of Betty Rubble on THE FLINTSTONES. They had a son and daughter, and were divorced in 1950. Son Jack also got into films and TV, and his most remembered role was as 'assistant city editor Art Donovan' in the LOU GRANT TV program which aired from 1977-1982 and starred Ed Asner.

Bannon did a few TV and movie supporting roles and bit parts into the 1960s - an example is his portrayal of a forest ranger in the Rock Hudson comedy MAN'S FAVORITE SPORT (Universal, 1964).

In his later years, he resided in Plano, Texas, but returned to California. Jim Bannon passed away in Ojai, California on July 28, 1984 and was cremated.

Les Adams has Bannon in 54 films of which 26 are westerns along with a single serial.

The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s.  With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars.  In most cases, the winners were what you would expect - Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc.  Bannon was not ranked in either poll.



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above - Bannon in his Red Ryder costume and galloping on Thunder.



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