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(From Old Corral image collection)



(From Old Corral image collection)
But Elliott's new Republic series, starting around mid-1944, was as Fred Harman's comic-strip cowboy, Red Ryder. Republic had done a popular 1940 ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER serial with Don Barry, but dropped Elliott into the role for sixteen movies extending into 1946. The first two, TUCSON RAIDERS and MARSHAL OF RENO, retained Gabby's comic sidekick services; thereafter, Gabby returned to a long pairing with Roy Rogers. Bobby Blake, who grew up to become actor Robert Blake, played Little Beaver, Red's young Indian sidekick, in all sixteen films and Alice Fleming, as mentioned, played Red's aunt from the comic strip. The only wardrobe change was chaps for Elliott and a shirt with arrow pockets. The twin stag-handled butt-forward guns remained, even though Harman had drawn his character in the comics as carrying only one pistol worn in traditional fashion. And Elliott began riding a black horse, Thunder, to fit Red's comic book horse.

Peggy Stewart was the leading lady in the opening film, and has spoken often of what a gentleman and businessman Elliott was. She said he was keeping track of his work long before actors did so traditionally, and advised her to do the same. She didn't and, when she left Republic, the studio claimed she owed it money from advanced payments. She went to Elliott for help, and he was able to use the records he kept for himself to show how many scenes Stewart had performed -- and Republic ended up having to pay her more than what she'd already gotten. Of course, the scenario we'd all prefer to believe is Elliott walking into the accountants' office and saying, "Now then, I'm usually a peaceable man, but you're taking advantage of this little lady...".



(From Old Corral image collection)

From L-to-R are Robert 'Bobby' Blake as Little Beaver, Roy Barcroft, Jack Kirk, Tom London and Bill Elliott in a lobby card from CHEYENNE WILDCAT (Republic, 1944), one of the Red Ryder adventures.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Earle Hodgins, Bobby Blake (as Little Beaver) and Elliott (as Red Ryder) tending to Duncan Renaldo in THE SAN ANTONIO KID (Republic, 1944).


The third movie in the series, THE SAN ANTONIO KID, has future Cisco Kid Duncan Renaldo in the title role as a hired gun who changes sides to wipe out a gang led by Harman's continuing villain, Ace Hanlon (played by Glenn Strange; it may be worth noting that Ace Hanlon had already been killed off once, in the Red Ryder serial when he was played by Noah Beery, Sr.). Linda Stirling was the new leading lady, and seemed to be alternating with Peggy Stewart in future Ryder films: CHEYENNE WILDCAT, VIGILANTES OF DODGE CITY, SHERIFF OF LAS VEGAS (all 1944), THE GREAT STAGECOACH ROBBERY (in which the respected citizen really leading the bandits is a murderous teacher, who kills one of his pupils when she learns of his deception), THE LONE TEXAS RANGER, PHANTOM OF THE PLAINS, MARSHAL OF LAREDO, COLORADO PIONEERS, WAGON WHEELS WESTWARD (ALL 1945), CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH, SHERIFF OF REDWOOD VALLEY, SUN VALLEY CYCLONE and CONQUEST OF CHEYENNE (both 1946), all fine western films.

In WAGON WHEELS WESTWARD, Roy Barcroft plays an outlaw leader role he repeats in a later Ryder movie, VIGILANTES OF BOOMTOWN when Elliott was no longer in the series, possibly the only role Barcroft played twice. SHERIFF OF REDWOOD VALLEY co-stars long-time western leading man Bob Steele as the Reno Kid, an escaped prisoner married to Peggy Stewart and trying to clear his name, which Red helps him to do. SUN VALLEY CYCLONE, though late in the series, tells the story of how Red acquired his trusty steed, and it is Thunder who sees through the disguise of outlaw Barcroft.

At that point, Republic moved Allan Lane from his western series over to the Red Ryder role, with Bobby Blake continuing as Little Beaver. The studio had bigger plans for Elliott.



(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from right to left are Elliott, Alice Fleming, Peggy Stewart and Bob Steele (as the "Reno Kid") in SHERIFF OF REDWOOD VALLEY.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are William Haade, Bud Geary, Wild Bill Elliott (as Red Ryder), and on the far right is Kenne Duncan in a still from SHERIFF OF LAS VEGAS (Republic, 1944).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Elliott and Robert 'Bobby' Blake as sidekick Little Beaver in a lobby card from CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH (Republic, 1946), another of the Red Ryder series.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above are Kenne Duncan vs. Wild Bill Elliott in a lobby card from CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH (Republic, 1946), one of the best of the Red Ryder adventures. The background is the Republic cave set.



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