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Above - face shot of Horner from a 1927 tradepaper ad.
Robert J. Horner
Robert John Horner
Bob Horner

1894 or 1896 - 1942

and his company names included:
Robert Horner Pictures, Inc.
Robert J. Horner Productions, Inc.
Roadshow Classics
American Pictures Corporation
et al

Robert John Horner arrived in Tinseltown circa 1916 and found work penning stories and scripts and his employers included Universal on some Hoot Gibson oaters.

From about 1920 through the mid 1930s, he ran his own Poverty Row film production company(s) churning out ultra cheap features for the independent market. During those dozen or so years, he was often associated with the Aywon Film Corporation. Pronounced A-One, just like the steak sauce, Aywon was formed in 1919 by Nathan Hirsh (sometimes spelled Hirsch or Hirisch). Perhaps Horner had some financial interest in Hirsh's company which disappeared into Hollywood obscurity around 1935.

Horner often did multiple functions - he produced, directed and even wrote stories and scripts. Released through independent film exchanges, his cinematic underachievements wound up as the second feature on a double bill at lesser theaters in rural areas.

His silent era oaters featured Art Acord, Jack Perrin, Fred Church, and Ted Wells (as "Pawnee Bill, Jr."). When sound arrived, he continued employing second echelon range riders, including Buffalo Bill, Jr., Bill Cody, Perrin and Wells.

If his films were reviewed in the trade publications, the results were negative. Couple of excerpts below from Variety:

Jack Perrin's KID FROM ARIZONA (1931): "Western contains nothing unusual to recommend it beyond the smallest houses."

Jack Perrin's WILD WEST WHOOPEE (1931): "One of the poorest independent westerns turned out since dialog. Too weak for anything but the 10-15 grinds and only on a double bill."

In the book Hollywood Corral (Film Fan Monthly, 1976), the late Don Miller had words about Horner and his westerns:

"Mr. Horner was a man with ... small resources, and his artistic pretentions were forthrightly nonexistent."

Relating to Bill Cody's trio for Horner: "These odorous efforts were apparently produced around 1935; difficult to tell, since they played in so few theaters ..."

"Sometimes descriptions of films at the nadir are impossible, since the printed word can only fail to adequately impress upon the senses the depths to which bad filmmaking can plummet. One can only point, gagging, to Border Menace, directed by Jack Nelson, and run. Another Aywon debacle is Phantom Cowboy, directed by Horner personally ..."

Horner and his companies operated under many names. Circa 1923, he was Robert Horner Pictures, Inc. Then Robert J. Horner Productions, Inc. In the 1937 Film Daily Product Guide and Directors' Annual, Horner is the president of two companies, Roadshow Classics and American Pictures Corp., and both were located at 4376 Sunset Drive, Hollywood.

Horner was the victim of an accident or birth defect, and was missing both legs at the hip. The story goes that he used a small four-wheeled cart to maneuver himself around on the sets. The Variety tradepaper had a couple mentions of his 1923 marriage, an accident being the cause of his missing legs, and a bankruptcy filing in 1933:

September 27, 1923 Variety had a blurb about Horner's Los Angeles marriage to Freda Bohm of Chicago, and "... losing his legs in an accident when six years old."

October 18, 1923 Variety: "Frieda Bohnn ... was married to Robert J. Horner, a legless movie director, of Los Angeles, Sept. 17."

February 7, 1933 Variety: "Los Angeles, Feb. 6. Practically the only assets listed by Robert J. Horner, independent producer, who filed a bankruptcy petition here, were six silent western negatives. Horner's liabilities amount to $29,573 and include a large proportion of unpaid labor claims. Assets total $1500."

He tried to scrounge money for his next film venture from whomever ... and had problems making payroll ... and got into legal wranglings. Check out the newspaper clippings further down this webpage.

Horner's film creation days were over by the mid 1930s, around the time he tried to bring silent screen cowboy Ted Wells back as a western hero. The August 21, 1934 Film Daily had an article that Horner was shooting "The Phantom Bandit" with Wells (and I assume that became THE PHANTOM COWBOY). A month later, Film Daily noted that Horner was planning an eight film series for Wells, and DEFYING THE LAW (Aywon, 1935) had just completed and was the first of the batch. However, the remaining seven never happened. Likewise with a 1939 Spanish language series (see blurb on the right).

Too bad Wells had to attempt a return to stardom with Horner, as THE PHANTOM COWBOY (Aywon, 1935) is a mess. Wells has a dual role and also plays the caped "phantom cowboy". Jimmy Aubrey is his overacting sidekick "Ptomaine Pete". This thing has rotten dialog, a stationary camera, and other issues. But the worse is when Wells and Aubrey decide to go swimming and strip down to their skivvies. A substitute phantom steals their clothes, gunbelts and horses, and Ted and Jimmy spend about 10 minutes doing scenes in their underwear.

Just prior to that short-lived comeback try for Wells, Horner had Bill Cody doing three. BORDER MENACE (Aywon, 1934) is a film that many consider to be the worst, most inept B western that was ever lensed. Jimmy Aubrey is in this one also, portraying Cody's over-the-top sidekick "Polecat Pete" (and billed as "Jimmie Aubrey" in the opening titles). He also picked up an extra dollar or two as the film editor (and gets credited as the more formal "James Aubrey"). And Cody wears two outfits - there's a multi-colored cowhide vest and the other is a slick, black shirt (sans the vest). Sometime during filming, he tore the black shirt behind his right armpit. No time for a wardrobe change or sewing repair on a Horner film.

Horner must have liked Aubrey as he employed him in three with Jack Perrin, the pair with Ted Wells, and two of the Bill Codys. As mentioned, he even did film editing for BORDER MENACE. Likewise with George Chesebro who turns up in a dozen of Horner's 1930s cheapo sagebrushers (the two with Wells; all three of the Codys; one each with Jay Wilsey (Buffalo Bill Jr.) and Wallace MacDonald; and five with Perrin).

Horner passed away on July 29, 1942 at the City-County Hospital in El Paso, Texas, and the cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver.

On the next webpage, you'll find more on Robert J. Horner, producer, director, et al. And there's also info on the 25 year old Robert J. Horner who was killed in a car accident in 1935.


Above - a 1925 theater ad for one of Horner's western silents with Jack Perrin.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Horner was planning a new film series as of this September 26, 1939 article. These never happened.

(Courtesy of Renee Brouillette)
October 20, 1927

(Courtesy of Renee Brouillette)
October 24, 1932

Above - Jack Perrin had to sue Horner to get his contracted salary for a western series. Unknown whether Perrin actually collected the money owed him. Perrin's wife Josephine Hill was the heroine in several of these - wonder if she also had a problem getting paid.

(Courtesy of Renee Brouillette)
October 23, 1927

(From Old Corral image collection)

During 1930-1932, Perrin starred in a half dozen for Horner, and had trouble getting all of his pay (newspaper article above).

The above lobby card is from one of the earliest of the western talkies, THE APACHE KID'S ESCAPE (Robert J. Horner, 1930), and the photo inset shows Jack Perrin and his horse Starlight.

Below is the title lobby card for Perrin's LARIATS AND SIX-SHOOTERS (Robert J. Horner, 1931) which is among the lost/missing westerns.

(Courtesy of Richard Harrison)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a photo of a title card showing Franklyn Farnum and Bill Cody in BORDER GUNS (Aywon, 1934), one of a trio of films that Cody did for Horner.

(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)

TEX TAKES A HOLIDAY (Argosy, 1932) was shot in "Multicolor", an early two-strip color process. The star was Wallace MacDonald (with light blue shirt and moustache above), and he had a brief fling in front of the camera before becoming a B film producer at Columbia Pictures. He also worked for Multicolor. The player with the handful of knives is Steve Clemento/Clemente, who was a knife-throwing expert. TEX TAKES A HOLIDAY (Argosy, 1932) is one of the lost/missing westerns.

(Courtesy of Ed Tabor)

Above are Wallace MacDonald with heroine Virginia Brown Faire in another lobby card from TEX TAKES A HOLIDAY (Argosy, 1932).

 The Variety review of TEX TAKES A HOLIDAY was not kind to the film and color process. Excerpts from the review: "In black and white this might have eased through as a second-grade western, but in color, it is very weak.  It is wholly spoiled by about as poor an exhibition of bad color work as has been brought forward yet. On top of this, much of it seems to be slightly out of register, giving an out-of-focus effect. It will not be in the running even in the minor houses."

On a positive note, give Horner credit for trying color (in 1932).  On the negative side, why did Horner even attempt to use an early color process on a dirt-cheap western in 1932? Answer probably follows below.

Les Adams did some scouting through his copies of Film Daily:

A 1932 Film Daily has Wallace MacDonald, hero of TEX TAKES A HOLIDAY, as the sales manager for Multicolor, Ltd. (700 Romaine St.).

Robert J. Horner shared the following with Multicolor Productions - location, address and telephone number - Cinephone Studios, 4376 Sunset Drive, OLympia 8701. So did Burton King. And Harry S. Webb and Flora E. Douglas and Cliff Broughton Productions. And Thrillo-dramas and United Producers, Ltd and Action Pictures.

The Productions of Robert J. Horner
Sound films only
Westerns only
Special thanks to Les Adams for providing this filmography

Date Title Company Producer Director Writer(s) Star Leading
5/1/30 CHEYENNE KID, THE Cosmos/
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Jacques Jaccard Jacques Jaccard and Yakima Canutt Buffalo Bill, Jr. Joan Jaccard
11/22/30 APACHE KID'S ESCAPE Cosmos/
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Jack Perrin Josephine Hill
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Leander De Cordova L. V. Jefferson Buffalo Bill, Jr. Wanda Hawley
3/8/31 WILD WEST WHOOPEE Cosmos/
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Jack Perrin Josephine Hill
4/12/31 PUEBLO TERROR , THE Cosmos/
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Alvin J. Neitz (Alan James) L. V. Jefferson Buffalo Bill, Jr. Wanda Hawley
5/10/31 KID FROM ARIZONA, THE Cosmos/
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Robert Walker and Robert J. Horner Jack Perrin Josephine Hill
6/14/31 SHERIFF'S SECRET, THE Cosmos/
West Coast
Robert J. Horner James Hogan James Hogan Jack Perrin Dorothy Bauer
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Alvin J. Neitz (Alan James) Carl Krusada Jack Perrin Ann Lee
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Clifford Smith Yakima Canutt Buffalo Bill, Jr. Mary Dunn
2/5/32 45 CALIBRE ECHO Cosmos/
West Coast
Robert J. Horner Bruce Mitchell Carl Krusada Jack Perrin Elinor Fair
12/2/32 TEX TAKES A HOLIDAY Argosy Productions Robert J. Horner Alvin J. Neitz (Alan James) Robert Walker and Alan James Wallace MacDonald Virginia Brown Faire
4/1/33 WHIRLWIND RIDER, THE American Pictures Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Royal Hampton (RJH?) Buffalo Bill, Jr. Jeanne (Genee) Boutel
5/1/33 TRAILS OF ADVENTURE American Pictures Robert J. Horner Jay Wilsey (Buffalo Bill, Jr.) Donald Kent Buffalo Bill, Jr. Edna Aselin (Aslin)
2/1/34 BORDER GUNS Aywon Pictures
Nathan Hirish & Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Oliver Drake Bill Cody Janet Morgan (Blanche Mehaffey)
4/1/34 BORDER MENACE, THE Aywon Pictures
Nathan Hirish & Robert J. Horner Jack Nelson Robert J. Horner Bill Cody Miriam Rice
5/1/34 WESTERN RACKETEERS Aywon Pictures
Nathan Hirish & Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner James P. Hogan Bill Cody Edna Aselin (Aslin)
6/16/34 RACKETEER ROUND-UP (alternate title: GUNNERS AND GUNS) Fred Thomson Prod/H&H Nathan Hirish & Robert J. Horner Robert Hoyt (Horner) Eddie Davis and Ruth Runnell Edmund Cobb Edna Aselin (Aslin)
2/1/35 PHANTOM COWBOY, THE Aywon Pictures
Nathan Hirish & Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Carl Krusada Ted Wells Doris Brook
5/1/35 DEFYING THE LAW Aywon Pictures
Nathan Hirish & Robert J. Horner Robert J. Horner Carl Krusada Ted Wells Edna Aslin
Notes from Les Adams: SOUTH OF SONORA with Buffalo Bill, Jr. probably belongs to Horner. The only thing I have on it is the cast and Jacques Jaccard as the director, but it is shown in Film Daily as a West Coast production. And it's possible that something called THE TIA JUANA KID with Pat Carlyle and Bobby Nelson (circa 1935, if it ever got released) came out of Horner's camp.

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