Now being billed as William instead of Wild Bill, Elliott was moved up to top western features starting with IN OLD SACRAMENTO, with Elliott as a Black Bart-style stage robber called Spanish Jack. But his love for a good woman (Constance Moore) and his effort to save the young man she loves from outlawry dooms him, and he is shot down at the conclusion.
PLAINSMAN AND THE LADY (1946) teams Elliott with Vera Ralston, girl friend and later wife of Republic studio head Herbert Yates, in a story about the Pony Express. Andy Clyde, a sidekick to both Hopalong Cassidy and Whip Wilson, is prominent as is Don Barry, the screen's original Red Ryder, this time as a menacing black-clad gunman on the side of Wrong. Elliott may be William now, but he's back to packing his trademark butt-forward guns that he had dropped temporarily as Spanish Jack.
The next three teamed Elliott with popular leading man John Carroll, but in different kinds of roles each time. First came WYOMING (1947), with Elliott as a big rancher threatened with the loss of grazing land to homesteaders. The movie marks the last teaming of Elliott and Gabby Hayes, with Hayes playing a rancher named Windy (the name Hayes started with in his earlier sidekick roles in the Hopalong Cassidy series) who, no doubt to the shock of the audience, is shot and killed by one of the outlaws near the movie's end. Carroll plays Elliott's foreman, a young man who keeps trying to keep his boss from getting too far outside the law. Vera Ralston plays two roles, first as Elliott's wife, and later as his daughter who is sweet on Carroll. Interestingly, at the end of the movie, Carroll adopts his boss' butt-forward twin-gun rig, only with pearl handles. Roy Barcroft has a rare sympathetic role as a friendly sheriff.
(Courtesy of Pat LaRosa)
Above, Elliott chats with his daughter in WYOMING (Republic, 1947), one of his later, and higher budgeted westerns at Republic which had a running time of about 85 minutes. In the purple dress is Virginia Grey. Mme. Maria Ouspenskaya is looking out from the stagecoach window, and you may remember her as the Gypsy woman in THE WOLFMAN (Universal, 1941) with Lon Chaney, Jr.
In THE FABULOUS TEXAN (1947), Carroll's role is almost more prominent than Elliott's in a story of corrupt state police ruling Texas. In fighting them, Carroll becomes an outlaw himself, and sacrifices his life to save Elliott's from an ambush at the end.
But in OLD LOS ANGELES (1948), Carroll becomes a truly menacing badman named Johnny Morrell, who is so bloodthirsty he ends up killing the boss of his outlaw gang. He even blasts down his own girlfriend (played by Estelita Rodriguez) before Elliott finally nails him. Catherine McLeod is the new leading lady, and Andy Devine is the sidekick.
THE GALLANT LEGION (1948) has Elliott joining the Texas Rangers headed by Jack Holt and including Andy Devine. Adrian Booth almost steals the show as a newspaper woman who rides with the rangers to tell the real story behind them. Bruce Cabot makes a strong villain.
Elliott, Booth, Devine and Holt are re-teamed in THE LAST BANDIT (1949), the first of two Trucolor movies in which Elliott appears. Elliott plays the straight brother of outlaw Forrest Tucker. Elliott finally turns in his two-gun rig for the duration of his time at Republic, opting from now on for a single pistol, usually worn in the regular way but sometimes butt-forward.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from left to right are Bill Elliott, Adrian Booth, Jack Holt, Hank Bell and Andy Devine in THE LAST BANDIT (Republic, 1949).
Next came HELLFIRE (1949), Elliott's other Trucolor western, where he plays a gambler caught with an ace up his sleeve and is nearly shot. A lay minister takes the bullet for him, and Elliott ends up promising the dying man to see that the church for which he has been working will get built -- but the minister insists that Elliott do it in biblical fashion, not by cheating at cards. The first time Elliott tries to pass the hat, a man spits in it and is promptly pounded until he apologizes. Elliott then makes his own apology for losing his temper. "The rule book says I'm supposed to be a peaceable man", he says, using that trademark phrase for the last time. Marie Windsor has an excellent role as Doll Brown, a female outlaw seeking the brothers who attacked her and her sister and being pursued by a marshal played by Tucker. She is looking for her sister, not knowing that she is Tucker's wife. Tucker wants to eliminate Doll Brown before his wife learns that she is her sister. Elliott wants Doll to give herself up to him, so he can collect the $5,000 reward and build his church. The climax has Doll choosing the Bible over her gun as she keeps the wounded marshal alive, learning that he is her brother-in-law. She takes several bullets from outlaw Jim Davis before Elliott shows up with a doctor and guns down the entire gang. We are left unsure whether Doll Brown survives to become the wife of Elliott's character.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from left to right are Forrest Tucker, Marie Windsor and Elliott in a lobby card from the Trucolor HELLFIRE (Republic, 1949).