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(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - heroine Ann Jeffreys and Wild Bill Elliott in a lobby card from CALLING WILD BILL ELLIOTT, Elliott's first film for Republic Pictures.  Les Adams was able to ID the prone player as Forbes Murray (playing Judge Anson Richards).


For the 1943-44 season, Elliott moved to Republic which is where he made probably his best pictures and where he would eventually be elevated to A-budget features.

In his first eight films, the first appropriately titled CALLING WILD BILL ELLIOTT, Elliott played a character with his own screen name for the first time. He was teamed with George Gabby Hayes, probably filmdom's top comic sidekick, and leading lady Anne Jeffreys who demonstrated her versatility as a schoolmarm, Indian maiden, saloon singer and other roles. The opening film had Wild Bill and Gabby meeting for the first time, despite Gabby's tall stories to young Buzz Henry about being an old pal of Wild Bill. Top Republic villain Roy Barcroft has his first outing against Elliott as one of a militia headed by a self-styled territorial governor. Elliott continued with the trademark firearms and paint horse, called Sonny, and a new shirt (back to the square frontal button arrangement).



(From Old Corral image collection)
Left - Anne Jeffreys with Wild Bill Elliott and George "Gabby" Hayes at Republic.

Elliott's range costume now consisted of a shirt with a 'storm flap' and 'many buttons', which is a significant change from the buckskins he wore during much of his earlier westerns for Columbia Pictures.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Wild Bill has baddie LeRoy Mason under control in this lobby card from MOJAVE FIREBRAND (Republic, 1944).  The youngster is Harry McKim (Sammy McKim's brother).


The winning formula continued with MAN FROM THUNDER RIVER, BORDERTOWN GUN FIGHTERS, WAGON TRACKS WEST, OVERLAND MAIL ROBBERY, DEATH VALLEY MANHUNT, MOJAVE FIREBRAND and HIDDEN VALLEY OUTLAWS. OVERLAND MAIL ROBBERY has an unusual gang leader, a woman played by Alice Fleming (who would later portray The Duchess, aunt to Red Ryder, when Elliott moved on to that series) with two outlaw sons, played with amusing competitiveness by Barcroft and Weldon Heyburn. But the highlight is Kirk Alyn, later famous as Columbia's Superman in two serials, as a timid Bostonian whose gunshy ways make for great comedy (Alyn once said there had been plans to spin off the character in his own western series, but it never happened) and who is also the romantic interest for Anne Jeffreys. BORDERTOWN GUN FIGHTERS has Bill and Gabby up against a gang that includes Ian Keith, Charles King and Barcroft, but gives him Harry Woods as a competent marshal instead of a villain for a change. HIDDEN VALLEY OUTLAWS has one of the funniest lines from a crook in a B-western, from Kenne Duncan as one of Barcroft's outlaws about to fake the murder of an actor played by Earle Hodgins. "I never did like actors", Duncan tells one of his fellow conspirators. "My wife ran off with one. But I still don't like 'em."

Just as the Hickok association with Elliott ended after Columbia, Elliott would no longer play Wild Bill anybody after HIDDEN VALLEY OUTLAWS with one exception (although he would usually be billed in the cast listing as Wild Bill Elliott). The exception was in BELLS OF ROSARITA (1945), a Roy Rogers picture in which Republic stars Sunset Carson, Bob Livingston, Allan Lane, Don Barry and Elliott all play themselves as actors lending their fame to Roy's efforts to save Gabby's and Dale Evans' circus. The finale has the actors all actually chasing down a gang of crooks, too. Elliott chases Barcroft, and pretends to be shot by him before jumping up and clobbering him. I'm sorry I had to do that, Elliott tells his old nemesis. Normally, I'm a peace-loving man. Yeah, right.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - sidekick George 'Gabby' Hayes and Elliott in a lobby card from BORDERTOWN GUN FIGHTERS (Republic, 1943).


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are George 'Gabby' Hayes, Elliott and John James in MAN FROM THUNDER RIVER (Republic, 1943).


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from L-to-R are Ian Keith, Bill Elliott, George 'Gabby' Hayes and Herman Willingham in a scene from BORDERTOWN GUNFIGHTERS (Republic, 1943).  Was Willingham a relative of Riders of the Purple Sage member Foy Willing (Willingham)?



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