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(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels), Ray Corrigan, Gene Autry and Alan Sears in a lobby card from Autry's THE SINGING VAGABOND (Republic, 1935).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card from the first of the Renfrew "singing mountie" films, RENFREW OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (Grand National, 1937). The heroine clutching James Newill's arm is pretty Carol Hughes. Among her many roles was the female lead in Roy Rogers' first starring film, UNDER WESTERN STARS (Republic, 1938) and she portrayed Dale Arden in the third Buster Crabbe/Flash Gordon serial, FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE (Universal, 1940). In the canoe are Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) and Lightning, the Wonder Dog.



Released in 1938
 
Released in 1939


While some details of Daniels' early years are unknown or questionable, his Hollywood career is reflected back to us in dozens of cinematic adventures, most of which are westerns and serials.  His film career spanned about twenty-five years, from the beginning of the sound era in the late 1920s through the mid-1950s.

Best remembered as the original Tonto in the two Republic Lone Ranger serials of the late 1930s, Chief Thunder Cloud was more often typecast as a heavy, a good or bad Indian chief, or a member of a band of Indians on the warpath.

During the 1930s and 40s, the predominant entertainment for the masses was either radio or movies.  And youngsters and adults spent their Saturdays at the local Bijou theater watching a western or double feature, a serial chapter, some cartoons and a newsreel.  Cowboy films were produced at prolific levels during this period, and the so-called "B western" was the dominant entry in the genre.

The "B western" was simply an action yarn running about 6 reels of film (which equals about one hour running time).  Additionally, the production budgets were extremely small ("shoestring"), plots were a standard formula, and the films were often ground out in a week or so of shooting.  The stars that rode the dusty trails to adventure included Tim McCoy, Buck Jones, Johnny Mack Brown, Ken Maynard, Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, Wild Bill Elliott, and many others.  In the mid to late 1930s, the "singing cowboy" arrived in the form of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter.

A significant quantity of serials were also churned out, and Universal, Columbia and Republic had special units assigned for production of these chapterplays.  The goal of these serials was basic --- to entice the Saturday matinee audience back week after week to the theaters.  For those not familiar with serials, they consisted of 12 or 15 weekly chapters/episodes, with each running about 15-20 minutes in length.  Each weekly episode would conclude with a nail-biting "cliffhanger", with the hero, heroine, or sidekick in great peril, and "Continued Next Week ... " would flash across the silver screen.

Neither the cliffhanger nor B western were unique to the sound era.  Both had started in the days of silent films, and were popular enough to continue when "talkies" arrived.

An entire "posse" was needed to staff all the supporting roles, character roles, walk-ons and bit parts in these cowboy flicks and chapterplays.  These were the actors and actresses that portrayed villains, lawmen, bandits, wagon train members, and the grizzled old ranch owner.  Many of these players had been real-life cowboys, and came to Hollywood for higher wages ... and their expertise in riding, "hoss wrangling", and driving stagecoaches and wagons quickly paid off.

But the work was not easy or glamorous.  They were constantly looking for their next job, and this generally included a check of the daily casting call sheets that were posted at the studios.  Shooting schedules were difficult, often dangerous, and would run from sunrise to sunset ... or later.

Most worked as "day players", which meant they labored on a one-day-at-a-time basis.  For example, they might work at a major studio like Paramount or Universal for a single day.  The next workday, they would report on the set of a low-budget western which was being done by one of the many independent production outfits that flourished at the time.  These low-budget film companies are commonly referred to as "Poverty Row" and "Gower Gulch", and had names like Tiffany, Ambassador, Victory, Supreme and Reliable.  Most of these production outfits had disappeared by the mid-1940s because of rising production costs and changes in the taste of post World War II film audiences.

Today, these low-budget westerns and serials are often considered nothing more than relics and artifacts from a bygone era in Hollywood.  But back in the 1930s and 1940s, these films were an important and integral part of the basic entertainment available to the citizenry of the good ol' USA.

Victor Daniels  /  Chief Thunder Cloud was a member of the Hollywood "posse" that rode those cinema trails.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is Ruth Mix, the real life daughter of Tom Mix, (as 'Wa-No-Na'), and on the right is Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) in FIGHTING PIONEERS (Resolute, 1935), one of a quartet of sagebrush adventures starring Bell, Ruth Mix and Buzz Barton.  On the left edge is Chief Standing Bear (as 'Black Hawk') and far right is Guate Mozin (as 'Crazy Horse').



(Courtesy of Don Swinford)

Above- Daniels and Lee Powell in a green duotone lobby card from Chapter 11 of THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Duncan Renaldo, Daniels and Robert Livingston in a lobby card from Chapter 1 of THE LONE RANGER RIDES AGAIN (Republic, 1939).



(Courtesy of Don Swinford)

The feature version of Republic's 1938 THE LONE RANGER serial was titled HI-YO SILVER, had a running time of about 68 minutes, and was released by Republic Pictures in 1940. From left to right in the above lobby card are Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett), Lane Chandler, Chief Thunder Cloud and Lee Powell.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

From left to right are Andy Clyde, Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels), William Boyd, Henry Hall, Eleanor Stewart and Russell Hayden in a still from the Hopalong Cassidy oater PIRATES ON HORSEBACK (Harry Sherman Prod./Paramount, 1941).



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