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The Western Film ... by the numbers!


The first sound western is a tad difficult to answer since there were early variations on sound --- i.e. sound effects and musical scoring vs. full talking pictures.

By the late 1920s, the studios and production companies were beginning their sound film work, and some of the earliest talkies (westerns included) included sound effects and musical background.  And some early films were released in both silent and sound versions to accomodate theaters that had not installed the new sound equipment. In those early days, there was basically two forms of "sound" - Warners Vitaphone utilized separate sound records/discs that required synching to the film via a turntable that was connected to the projector; others such as Fox used an optical soundtrack on the film itself. By 1933 or so, the "sound on disc" approach was discontinued and optical sound was the winner.

The earliest talking westerns and outdoor adventures included Rin Tin Tin in LAND OF THE SILVER FOX (Warners, 1928), IN OLD ARIZONA (Fox, 1929) with Warner Baxter as the Cisco Kid, and Gary Cooper in THE VIRGINIAN (Paramount, 1929).  The first full-fledged B western talkies included Leo Maloney and Jack Perrin in OVERLAND BOUND (Raytone, 1929) and WEST OF THE ROCKIES (Davis, 1929) starring Art Mix. Then came BEYOND THE RIO GRANDE (Biltmore/Big 4, 1930) with Jack Perrin; BAR L RANCH (Big 4, 1930) with Wally Wales; WESTWARD BOUND (Syndicate, 1931) with Buffalo Bill, Jr. (Jay Wilsey) and Buddy Roosevelt; and several more starring Wilsey --- THE CHEYENNE KID (West Coast Pictures, 1930) and TRAILS OF THE GOLDEN WEST and PUEBLO TERROR (both West Coast/Cosmos, 1931).

Remember that during the transition period from silents to sound, studios and production companies released several versions of their films. For example, Ken Maynard starred in a series of eight at Universal for 1929-1930 - some were silents, some were part-talkies, and some were released in both silent and talkie versions. Western movie heroes who successfully worked both silents and talkies included Tim McCoy, Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, Tom Tyler, Bob Steele and Tom Mix.

As to the the end of the Hollywood B western, that too is a tough question to answer, and requires some explanation.

Regardless of whether you agree with 1954, or a year or two later, the viewing public had other things to do besides B westerns at a Saturday matinee.  Kids (and their parents) were busy watching TV, and Roy and Gene already had their own half-hour shows on the small screen. And if kids and adults went to the theaters, it was to see sci-fi adventures like THEM (Warners, 1954) with James Arness and James Whitmore, or Desi and Lucy in THE LONG, LONG TRAILER (MGM, 1954), or Jimmy Stewart in THE GLENN MILLER STORY (Universal, 1954).

The low budget cowboy film wasn't the only form of American entertainment that had swooned by the mid 1950s.  The Charlie Chan films were no more.  Mickey Rooney was no longer Andy Hardy.  Even the Bowery Boys came to an end.  The 'Big Band Era' had come and gone, replaced by singers such as Patti Page, Dinah Shore and Perry Como.  Radio was also changing --- Jack Benny and Bob Hope moved to TV ... the last new Lone Ranger radio show aired in '55 ... and Amos & Andy, The Great Gildersleeve, Fibber McGee & Molly, and other programs were on their last legs.  And 'Rock & Roll' was just beginning.

The entertainment industry wasn't alone as there were many other changes to the U. S. lifestyle and businesses during this period.  Examples include: the growth of the airline industry (at the expense of the once dominant passenger trains); the building of single family subdivisions and the migration of the family to suburbia; and veterans were given G. I. Bill money to attend college.

Times were changing ... rapidly.  If you wish to read and learn more about the fade of the B sagebrusher, there is a section devoted to that issue on the Old Corral --- go to the menu item marked The End of the Trail ... the B western bites the dust.

Les Adams ran his trusty database on westerns by year and by studio/production company.  Les' database includes A and B westerns, as well as western themed shorts and serials.  During the years 1930-1954, approximately 2700 western films were churned out.  Les and I put together the following numbers and graphs for those of you into trivia or nitty-gritty statistics.


(From Old Corral collection)

Above is the title lobby card for THE PHANTOM STALLION (Republic, 1954), with autographs from Rex Allen and Carla Balenda. This was Rex Allen's nineteenth and last film for Republic Pictures ... and the last series westerns that was done by Republic. Allen was under a Term Players Contract(s) at Republic, from March, 1949 to October, 1953.


Western Releases By Year
1930 - 1954

Includes A and B westerns, western shorts, and western-themed serials
Years with highest quantity shown in red

82
90
112
97
79
148
133
134
117
118
129
126
121
104
97
81
99
99
112
117
134
103
106
90
68
1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954


Footnote regarding the relatively high numbers for years 1949 and 1950: 1) film production for 1949 and 1950 consisted of the 'usual' numbers from Columbia, Monogram and Republic, but several of the other companies had higher numbers than in prior years; 2) Screen Guild releases for 1949 were much higher; 3) there were significantly more 'indies' released in 1950 (such as the Lash LaRue films from Ron Ormond's Western Adventures Productions as well as Lippert releases).  Refer to the detailed statistics at the bottom of this page.


Most Prolific Western Film Production Company:
Republic
468 films from 1935-1954

Republic Pictures was not formed until 1935, so there are no statistics or quantities for 1930-34
Includes A and B westerns, western shorts, and western-themed serials
Years with highest quantity shown in red

7
21
33
27
26
30
31
31
28
27
23
26
25
22
24
30
21
17
13
6
1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954



2nd Most Prolific Western Film Production Company:
Monogram
394 films from 1930-1954

Includes A and B westerns, western shorts, and western-themed serials
Years with highest quantity shown in red

17
18
17
17
7
5
0
7
17
17
24
23
18
15
17
15
15
16
21
21
17
19
21
19
11
1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954


Footnote regarding Monogram's releases for years 1935-36-37: this was the period when Monogram (and Mascot and several other companies) were being merged into the new company called Republic Pictures.  Republic was created in 1935, but a year or two later, Monogram Pictures was reformed and began churning out films again.


3rd Most Prolific Western Film Production Company:
Columbia
373 films from 1930-1954

Includes A and B westerns, western shorts, and western-themed serials
Years with highest quantity shown in red

6
10
18
13
4
11
16
13
20
16
15
15
18
13
10
12
17
17
20
23
20
20
19
16
11
1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954



4th Most Prolific Western Film Production Company:
Universal
227 films from 1930-1954

Includes A and B westerns, western shorts, and western-themed serials
Years with highest quantity shown in red

16
2
9
14
8
9
9
9
10
7
11
13
12
7
12
9
7
4
2
4
10
7
9
15
12
1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954



Releases by year for a variety of studios and production companies


Year R
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Totals
by Year 
1930 . 17 6 7 16 . 3 5 3 3 . 4 . . . . 2 9 7 . 82
1931 . 18 10 17 2 . 4 5 5 2 . 2 . . . . 3 11 8 3 90
1932 . 17 18 21 9 . 10 3 6 3 . . . . . . 13 2 4 6 112
1933 . 17 13 20 14 . 6 8 6 3 . . 2 . . . 4 . . 4 97
1934 . 7 4 38 8 . 1 2 3 . . . 12 . . 4 . . . . 79
1935 7 5 11 71 9 . 1 7 5 2 1 . 14 . . 15 . . . . 148
1936 21 . 16 39 9 . 3 12 5 4 2 2 9 . 3 8 . . . . 133
1937 33 7 13 28 9 . 5 10 6 8 . 2 2 . 11 . . . . . 134
1938 27 17 20 6 10 . 7 10 4 4 1 2 . . 9 . . . . . 117
1939 26 17 16 20 7 . 10 7 7 1 1 1 . . 5 . . . . . 118
1940 30 24 15 7 11 8 7 11 6 3 2 5 . . . . . . . . 129
1941 31 23 15 1 13 14 6 12 8 1 . 2 . . . . . . . . 126
1942 31 18 18 . 12 19 8 2 2 2 4 5 . . . . . . . . 121
1943 28 15 13 . 7 19 6 . 2 . 13 1 . . . . . . . . 104
1944 27 17 10 4 12 16 3 . 1 . 5 2 . . . . . . . . 97
1945 23 15 12 1 9 14 3 . 1 1 . . . 2 . . . . . . 81
1946 26 15 17 1 7 17 2 1 2 . 3 2 . 6 . . . . . . 99
1947 25 16 17 1 4 14 5 2 1 3 5 1 . 5 . . . . . . 99
1948 22 21 20 4 2 9 11 4 3 1 8 1 . 6 . . . . . . 112
1949 24 21 23 4 4 5 7 4 4 3 3 1 . 14 . . . . . . 117
1950 30 17 20 19 10 6 8 5 6 6 3 4 . . . . . . . . 134
1951 21 19 20 7 7 2 9 6 2 4 4 2 . . . . . . . . 103
1952 17 21 19 7 9 . 9 6 3 8 3 4 . . . . . . . . 106
1953 13 19 16 4 15 . 1 4 3 6 5 4 . . . . . . . . 90
1954 6 11 11 1 12 . 3 2 7 5 8 2 . . . . . . . . 68
Totals by
Company
468 394 373 328 227 143 138 128 101 73 71 49 39 33 28 27 22 22 19 13 2696


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