|Unkempt, rough and tough looking members of the gang, or lynch mob, or vigilantes, or posse riders, or cow herders. They had minimal or no dialog, not much screen time, and were generally not listed in the film credits. Some would show up as a face in the crowd, portraying townspeople, barflies, deputies, wagon drivers, ranch hands, etc. We tend to recognize some of their faces, but have no clue as to their real names.|
Cactus Mack - circa 1936
Cactus Mack - circa 1947
|Depending on the source, Taylor Curtis 'Cactus Mack' McPeters was born in Weed, New Mexico or Texas. His cousin was actor and singer Glenn Strange, and western movie hero Rex Allen was also a cousin. The mothers of McPeters and Strange were sisters.|
In the late twenties, Strange and McPeters joined a group of singing cowboys which ultimately became known as the 'Arizona Wranglers'. He (along with musical cohorts Strange, Jack Kirk, Chuck Baldra and others) became regulars in low budget oaters, primarily doing background music and portraying "cowboys sittin' around the campfire singin' and strummin' and yodelin'". He also did various bits and minor supporting roles in westerns and serials (playing a ranchhand, stage/buckboard driver, deputy, saloon patron, townsman, etc.).
He occasionally got a meaty role ... or some screen time doing tunes. Following are some examples:
Cactus appeared in 21 of Gene's films at Republic and Columbia. And he worked in 14 of Roy Rogers' Republic oaters.
Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Cactus Mack: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0532952/
The Family Search website has census info on the McPeters family:
Speculation: notice that the wife of Cactus Mack is named Etta S. (21 years old and born in Virginia) in the 1930 census, and Sarah E. (32 years old and born in Virginia) in the '40 census. I'm betting they are the same person, and their first and middle name/initial got reversed in one of the census.
Julie Ann Ream has been involved in the Silver Spur Awards, Rex Allen Days, more. "Cactus Mack" McPeters was Julie's grandfather, and on her website, there's a photo of Cactus Mack and a Tony Jr. lookalike hoss that he bought from Tom Mix: http://julieannream.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/Cactus_Mack.93211833_std.jpg
As mentioned, McPeters was a member of various singing groups ... including the Arizona Wranglers, Range Riders, Radio Buckaroos, Wranglers, Texas Cow Town Boys and Girls, and more group variations. Some appeared in the B westerns and most did radio and personal appearances. Click HERE and a separate window will open with an Old Corral webpage showing various singing/musical groups which included Cactus Mack.
"... let me share what little info I have been able to glean re Cactus Mack's work for Disney. I can find no confirmation for him actually supplying Pluto's voice. But your mentioning the 1944 date, my notes tell me that Cactus provided the folksy narration for 1945 Disney cartoon releases, CALIFORNY OR BUST and THE LEGEND OF COYOTE ROCK."
Cactus Mack - circa 1936
The Cactus Mack Hat
As shown on the left, Cactus wore a unique hat in several of his early to mid 1930s film appearances.
(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
From left to right are Charlie/Charley Sargent, Jack Kirk, John Wayne, Cactus Mack McPeters, Chuck Baldra and Glenn Strange in a scene from Wayne's WESTWARD HO (Republic, 1935). On the far right is the non-singing Tex Palmer. In the film's opening titles, Glenn Strange is credited and "the Singing Riders" is listed under Strange's name. These "guys in black shirts" did double duty as singers as well as members of the "Singing Riders" who rode white horses and assisted Wayne. Below are crops/blowups showing the faces in more detail.
Below: Charlie/Charley Sargent, Jack Kirk, John Wayne, Cactus Mack McPeters.
Above: Chuck Baldra, Glenn Strange, and non-singing Tex Palmer.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above are Jean Porter (cowboy hat and buckskin jacket), heroine Fay McKenzie (white blouse & green scarf), Edith Fellows (blue blouse), Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette. The tall galoot in the back row center is 'Cactus Mack' McPeters and a youthful singer/songwriter Johnny Bond is on the far right. Lobby card from HEART OF THE RIO GRANDE (Republic, 1942) which is among the last batch of films that Autry did at Republic prior to entering World War II service.