In THE SAVAGE HORDE (1950), Elliott plays a gunfighter called Ringo who gives up his gun when he accidentally wounds his own brother (Jim Davis), a cavalry officer charged with pursuing him. The now-pacifist Elliott rides into the middle of a range war, with Bob Steele as the head gunman of a gang headed by Grant Withers and including Roy Barcroft. Adrian Booth returns as Elliott's former love interest, who is being courted by Withers until she realizes his evil intent toward the ranchers. After a shootout with Steele's character, Elliott gives himself up to the army to face whatever charges it has against him. The last thing we see is Booth watching him ride away and, again, we don't know if he will be cleared and return to her or not.
Elliott's last Republic movie is THE SHOWDOWN (1950), in which he agrees to head a cattle drive for rancher Walter Brennan and investor Marie Windsor to find which member of the crew murdered his brother. The movie is full of surprises which should not be spoiled by too many details, for those who have not seen it. It was not at all a bad picture for Elliott's Republic career to end on.
In 1951, Elliott made his last studio jump, to Monogram (later Allied Artists) for his last western series, where he played different characters
each time but was once more billed in the cast as Wild Bill Elliott (complete with a return to the familiar stag-handled butt-forward pistols). THE LONGHORN has him and Myron Healey hiring ex-cons to bring Herefords to Wyoming for cross-breeding. Healey, who is Elliott's rival for Phyllis Coates, is also betraying him to rustlers led by future TV Lone Ranger John Hart. But he changes sides in time to stop a bullet. Allied Artists re-made the picture in color in 1956 as CANYON RIVER, with George Montgomery and Peter Graves in the Elliott-Healey roles.
In WACO (1952), Elliott starts as an outlaw but reforms to become a lawman, and must fight some of his old gang to save his town. KANSAS TERRITORY (1952), which reunites Elliott with Peggy Stewart, has Elliott again seeking revenge for a brother's murder. Veteran sidekick Fuzzy Knight joins the cast. FARGO (1952) has Elliott losing still another brother to Healey, an out-and-out villain this time. Coates and Knight are back in the cast. Elliott is a cavalry officer in THE MAVERICK (1952), Healey is his sergeant, and Coates again the leading lady. THE HOMESTEADERS (1953) has Elliott hiring ex-soldiers (much as in the ex-outlaws of The Longhorn) to pack dynamite to his fellow homesteaders in Oregon to clear their land. This time his betraying partner is played by Robert Lowery, but Lowery reforms in time to avoid being killed off. REBEL CITY (1953) has Elliott seeking revenge for his father's murder this time, and uncovering the culprit. TOPEKA (1953) starts Elliott off as an outlaw again, but his gang ends up getting rid of a town's rival gang headed by Harry Lauter. Elliott and partner Rick Vallin end up as lawmen, but must then fight their own gang members. Coates and Knight are back in the cast. VIGILANTE TERROR (1953) pits Elliott against masked terrorists headed by Healey. Mary Ellen Kay, a frequent Rex Allen leading lady, shows up here with Knight again. BITTER CREEK (1954) has Elliott yet again seeking his brother's killer, Beverly Garland trying to keep him from breaking the law, and Carleton Young as the prominent rancher who, it turns out, is behind it all.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Wild Bill Elliott is re-united with Republic leading lady Peggy Stewart in KANSAS TERRITORY (Monogram, 1952), one of Elliott's best from his post Republic days. He's back wearing a brace of stag-handled six shooters. Note the "Filmed in Glorious SEPIA TONE" blurb on this lobby card.
Above from left to right are Myron Healy, Henry Rowland and Bill Elliott in a scene from VIGILANTE TERROR (Allied Artists, 1953).
Elliott's last western movie is THE FORTY-NINERS (1954), in which he plays marshal assigned to track down three murderers in a California boom town. Veteran badman Lane Bradford plays the sheriff, complete with two pearl-handled guns, but he's still bad and ends up on the losing side of a gunfight with Elliott's character. Harry Morgan plays a cardsharp who leads Elliott to the killers.
Wild Bill Elliott was no more. But Elliott, simply as Bill Elliott, still had five Allied Artists movies to go in 1955-57. In each of them, he plays a Los Angeles detective, in the first (DIAL RED O) as Lieutenant Flynn and the others as Lieutenant Doyle. SUDDEN DANGER, CALLING HOMICIDE, CHAIN OF EVIDENCE AND FOOTSTEPS IN THE NIGHT completed his movie career. He did a TV pilot for a show called MARSHAL OF TRAIL CITY, which reunited him with Dub Taylor, but the series never sold. Neither did PARSON OF THE WEST, along the lines of his old HELLFIRE picture.
On a personal level, Elliott's 34-year marriage to Helen Josephine Meyer ended in 1961. His second wife was model Dolly Moore. He moved to Las Vegas where he hosted a weekly TV show interviewing guests and showing one of his old movies. He became an advertising spokesman for a cigarette manufacturer, and died of cancer November 26, 1965.
Elliott's B-westerns always seemed a cut above the average, from Wild Bill Hickok to Red Ryder, and his A's were tops in practically everyone's western lists. He perfected the badman-turned-good role pioneered in silent movies by Hart, and was a worthy successor.
The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s. With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars. In most cases, the winners were what you would expect --- Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, Johnny Mack Brown ... and Bill Elliott.
|Popularity Rankings of Bill Elliott|
Elliott's highest rating shown in this color
|Year||Motion Picture Herald
|1943||9th||No poll conducted|