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(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)
By the late 1920s, silent screen cowboy Buck Jones found himself in a situation shared by Tom Mix, Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson as well as minor league sagebrush heroes such as Bob Custer, Buffalo Bill Jr. (Jay Wilsey), and more --- the silent era was ending and 'talkies' were arriving.

Buck had become a popular silver screen cowboy in Fox silents and his salary had escalated to $2,500.00 per week. Film companies didn't know what or how to incorporate sound into the programmer western, and in particular, how to handle the bulky gear during exterior location shoots.  The contracts of Buck Jones and Tom Mix weren't renewed by Fox (some sources mention that Jones decided to leave Fox because of a disagreement; Dave Smith, in his earlier narrative, notes that Buck left to form his own film production company).

In the November 2, 1927 issue of Film Daily, there was a brief snippet that Jones' contract with Fox had ended and he was negotiating a movie deal with the Tiffany-Stahl production company (and that didn't happen). The May 21, 1928 Film Daily had an announcement about the formation of the Buck Jones Corporation and four films were on tap. In May and June, 1928 issues of Film Daily, Buck's company took out full page ads - some in B&W and others in full color - announcing their plans and searching for independent distributors.

Buck's company completed one film, THE BIG HOP (1928), with Jones in the lead role. A silent with an aviation storyline, THE BIG HOP played theaters during the Summer of 1928. However, the reviews were not kind: "... seems terribly out-of-date and flat."; and "Rates ordinary. Some fair aviation stuff, but story is amateurish and ragged. Fails to build proper suspense." The film died at the box office and became known as "the big flop". And the Buck Jones Corporation passed into Hollywood history, leaving behind unhappy distributors who were counting on a quartet of his cinema adventures.

In 1929, Jones put together his "Buck Jones Wild West Shows and Roundup Days", but after a few months, the show went bust. Some reports indicate that dishonest management caused the failure and Jones lost about a quarter million dollars on his Big Top venture.

To pick up some paydays, Buck appeared as the main attraction with the Robbins Brothers Circus and he was with them for part of the 1929 season.

Buck was in deep financial trouble from the failures of his movie company and circus as well as the 1929 stock market crash. Owing money to various creditors - including circus performers who had not been paid - his only option was bankruptcy. A July, 1930 newspaper article notes that the bankruptcy paperwork was filed in a Los Angeles court and listed Buck with assets of two horses and $500.00 vs. liabilities amounting to $135,852.90.


The Circus Historical Society has an article by circus historian Fred J. Pfening, Jr. on the short-lived "Buck Jones Wild West Shows and Round Up Days". Fred notes that the traveling show had 102 performers and a total payroll of 267 people. And when it closed in late Summer, 1929, many of the railroad cars, wagons, et al were taken to the William P. Hall farm in Lancaster, Missouri, and the photos below were taken at that farm. You'll find a link to Fred's full article on a later webpage.


(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)



(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)



(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)



(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)



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