(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Al Hoxie, unidentified player, Yakima Canutt, Barney Beasley, Wally Wales, Sherry Tansey and Peggy Djarling in a scene from CARRYING THE MAIL (William Pizor/Imperial, 1934), one of the several two to three-reel (20 minutes to a half hour) oaters churned out by producer William Pizor in the mid-1930s. This was one of Al Hoxie's last film appearances. The Pizor/Imperial series also marked the end of Wally Wales' starring career - a year or two later, he changed his name to Hal Taliaferro and became a prolific sidekick and supporting player in scores of A and B grade westerns and serials into the 1950s.
Meanwhile, brother Jack was still going strong at Universal, and at the height of his career at Universal, was selected in 1926 to play the role of Buffalo Bill in Metropolitan Pictures' THE LAST FRONTIER, starring William Boyd. Metropolitan had arranged with Laemmle to have Hoxie play the role, a move which pleased the Universal head since he felt it would add prestige to Jack's career. Jack considered it his favorite role.
In September of that year, WILD HORSE STAMPEDE was released, the initial entry in his final series at Universal. THE FIGHTING THREE, which came out in July 1927 was Jack's last picture at Universal, ending a four-year stint at that studio. The story goes that Hoxie, apparently dissatisfied with the contract Laemmle had offered him for the coming season, tore it up, an act that pretty much washed up his career.
Nevertheless, Nat Levine, who had formed Mascot Pictures to produce serials, quickly signed Jack to head an all-star cast in one of the last silent serials, a quasi-Western entitled HEROES OF THE WILD. It was a wild serial that at one point had muscleman actor Joe Bonomo and Hoxie engaged in a furious, no-holds barred fight. It was Hoxie's last silent screen work and he would not appear before the cameras for the next five years.
During this period, however, he was not inactive. Jack, who liked 'the sawdust trail' almost as much as making cowboy pictures, performed his Western act with various circuses and shows, including the famous 101 Ranch Wild West Show.
Around 1932, Jack returned to Hollywood looking for work. However, there is some confusion in existing western film histories as well as writeups on Hoxie.
The story goes that the Alexander brothers (Art and Max) were trying to obtain the services of Ken Maynard for a western series. Maynard, who worked for Tiffany and KBS-World Wide in the early 1930s, had signed a lucrative arrangment with Universal for season 1933-1934 as the replacement for Tom Mix. With Maynard unavailable, the Alexander brothers may have shown some interest in Hoxie.
Jack did connect with Majestic Pictures, the home of producer Larry Darmour whose claim-to-fame was the Mickey McGuire shorts. Darmour was the production chief/president of Majestic's film factory. By the mid 1930s, Majestic Pictures was no more, and Darmour took his production unit to Columbia Pictures, where he did serials as well as oaters with Maynard, Bob Allen, Jack Luden, and early entries starring Bill Elliott. Darmour was in charge of Columbia's Ellery Queen series when he passed away in 1942.
The Majestic/Hoxie deal resulted in a group of six low-budget talkies released in 1932-1933. Henry Goldstone was the producer and the directors were Otto Brower, Armand Schaeffer and Lewis Collins. They turned out to be well-made Westerns and featured Jack at his best --- on horseback and in action.
Some critics have unfairly panned the Hoxie sound pictures, pointing out Hoxie's deficiencies in the dialog department. It's true that he had some difficulty delivering lines, but that certainly didn't distract from the excitement and thrills on the screen.
Were better westerns being made during this period --- absolutely. Tim McCoy and Buck Jones were at Columbia, Universal had Tom Mix, and George O'Brien was riding the cinema trails for Fox. Majestic Pictures of 1932 had neither the finances nor production capabilities of a Columbia, Fox or Universal, and instead, was competing with the cheaper, independently produced horse operas starring Bill Cody, Wally Wales and Tom Tyler. Thus, you need to compare Hoxie's screen adventures with similar efforts from other Poverty Row production companies of the early 1930s.
I would rate OUTLAW JUSTICE and GUN LAW as two of the finest, fast-paced, high-action B Westerns made during those early days of the sound oater.
After the series was over, Jack returned to the circus trail. Billed as the 'Famous Western Screen Star', he toured with a number of shows between '33 and '35, including the Downie Bros. Circus. He also started up a dude ranch in Arizona, run by his third wife, Dixie Starr. Called the Broken Arrow Ranch, it lasted for a few years until misfortune struck when a fire swept through the ranch. By 1937 he was back on the circus trail with his own show. It lasted for about a year before folding. Other shows were also forced to quit in the late 30's, among them the famous Tim McCoy Show. But Hoxie's circus act picked up again in the 40's and Jack continued his performance as a Wild West star well into the 50's. He made his last personal appearance tour in 1959 with the Bill Tatum Circus.
(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)
|Left are Jack Hoxie and an unidentified performer with the Downie Bros Circus, 1933. The lady might be Dixie Starr who was once married to Jack Hoxie.|
Got an e-mail from Ray Menasco in May, 2002. Ray writes: "I believe the lady is Dianne (Dixie Starr) Buck who passed away at home here in Utah on April 17, 2002. She was born Dianne Juanita Hodges in Oklahoma on April 12, 1912. She is believed to have performed in wild west shows and several movies with Jack Hoxie. She was also a high wire performer and trick rider with Miller Bros., Downie Bros. Circus and Jack Hoxie Wild West Show. She was also a stunt woman."
In the 1920 census, 7 year old Janita Hodges is living with her parents in Washington, Oklahoma. The Janita (instead of Juanita) may be a census taker spelling error or a mistake when translating the paper forms into a digital record.
(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)
(Courtesy of Fred D. Pfening, Jr.)
Now over seventy, Jack and his fourth wife, Bonnie Baker, who had managed his shows, retired to a small ranch in Arkansas, later moving to his mother's old place in Oklahoma. Jack, who had suffered from leukemia for several years, died March 27, 1965, and was buried in Keyes, Oklahoma.
The Hoxie boys were rough and ready cowboy stars, a breed apart from later cowboy heroes, who brought to the screen non-stop action and heroics, ingredients that fans of that era demanded and appreciated. As for brother Al, he may not have shared the same spotlight as his older brother, but he proved to be a hero in real life.
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, etc. While Jack Hoxie was an extremely popular sagebrush hero of the silent screen, he made only a few sound oaters, and never achieved a ranking in these polls. Likewise for Al Hoxie, whose brief starring career was in silents.
You also may want to go to the In Search Of ... webpage on the Old Corral. Then go to the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and see if you can find a record for Jack Hoxie. Al Hoxie lived in California when he died --- there is a record on the California Death Records database for Alton Jay Hoxie, but it shows an incorrect Social Security number. However, the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) has a record for Al under his correct Social Security number.
One of the best references on the Hoxies is the excellent book by the late Ed Wyatt entitled The Hoxie Boys - The Lives and Films of Jack and Al Hoxie. Thanks to Marshall Wyatt, Ed's son, for allowing us to use the poster of Al Hoxie.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above is Al Hoxie during one of his 1970s film festival appearances.
(Courtesy of Bill Russell)
Above are Marie and Al Hoxie at the 1975 Nashville festival.
Harry Keifer and ye Old Corral webmaster exchanged e-mails during June, 2003. Harry grew up in Mulberry, Arkansas in the 1950s and knew Jack and Bonnie Hoxie. Harry writes:
"I first remember Jack and Bonnie Hoxie when they moved into Mulberry (Arkansas) from their ranch which was located approximately eight miles northwest of town. Mr. Hoxie was retired and Mrs. Hoxie worked as a bookkeeper for the Bank of Mulberry and later the Mulberry Lumber Company. She was also the choir director of the Methodist Church where my family attended. Once the church produced the play, a "Womanless Wedding", and Mr. Hoxie starred as the bride. It was a lot of fun with Mr. Hoxie having more fun than anyone.
I enjoyed visiting with Mr. Hoxie and listening to his stories of growing up on a ranch, being a cowboy in a wild west show and later performing in movies and circuses. I will always remember his pair of custom made Colt double action 45's. They were bright silver plated with ivory handles.
In 1962, Mr. and Mrs. Hoxie sold their property and moved to Keyes, Oklahoma to be near Mrs. Hoxie's daughter. Mr. Hoxie was ill and they wanted to be near family. He died shortly after moving.
Mrs. Hoxie came back to Mulberry many times during the years following Mr. Hoxie's death. She had many friends that she visited. The last time I visited with her was in 1991. "
(Jack Hoxie's wife Bonnie Avis Showalter Hoxie, age 88, passed away on August 16, 2000.)