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(Courtesy of Lad Moore)
Full name:

Timothy John Fitzgerald McCoy


1891 - 1978


Click HERE for the filmography on Tim McCoy which includes the directors, leading ladies and sidekicks.


One of the things that really intrigues me about the B western is the 'musical chairs' that occurred as western movie stars moved between different studios and production units, on their way up or down the cowboy hero ladder.

A classic example is Tim McCoy, who reached the height of his western starring career in the 1930s at Columbia Pictures, and then spiraled downward as he found lesser quality work at other production outfits.  Fans generally remember McCoy from his 1930s Columbia work, or in later flicks where he portrayed a steely-eyed, strong man of the west with names like Lightnin' Bill Carson, Trigger Tim Rand, or U.S. Marshal Tim McCall.

McCoy was born in Saginaw, Michigan, but migrated to the west and settled on a ranch in Wyoming.  He served in World War I, and over time, became an expert on the old west and Indian lore.  The retired US Army (Lt) Colonel came to Hollywood to provide technical details and help on THE COVERED WAGON film which was released by Paramount in 1923.  During that film, McCoy was the interface between the production crew and the Native American participants, as he was able to converse with the Indians via sign language.

Young and good looking, McCoy was hired by MGM and became their silent film cowboy and outdoor star in about twenty films.  When sound arrived, Colonel Tim starred for Universal Pictures in a pair of chapterplays, THE INDIANS ARE COMING (1930) and HEROES OF THE FLAMES (1931).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Dorothy Sebastian, the female lead to McCoy in MORGAN'S LAST RAID (MGM, 1929), was at one time married to William Boyd of Hopalong Cassidy fame.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Left to right in the above lobby card from the silent SIOUX BLOOD (MGM, 1929) are Marian Douglas, Robert Frazer (as "Lone Eagle"), and the trussed up hero, Tim McCoy.


Why Universal didn't hire McCoy for a western series is unknown.  That studio wasn't avoiding cowboy flicks during the first half of the 1930s, for they did utilize the services of Tom Mix and Ken Maynard in some very fine films.  And they were arranging for McCoy to star in another Universal chapterplay, BATTLING WITH BUFFALO BILL.  But Tim signed with Columbia Pictures in 1931, and Universal brought in Tom Tyler to do the cliffhanger.

Over his four plus years at Columbia, McCoy made nearly three dozen pictures.  Most of these would be good, solid, memorable oaters.  But for release season 1933-1934, Columbia opted to place him in some crime and adventure dramas, and those eight non-western films were not successful.  McCoy was "back in the saddle" for his next (and last) batch of films for Columbia which were released during 1934-1935.  It should be noted that during Tim's first couple years at Columbia, the studio also had Buck Jones doing series westerns --- and both the McCoy and Jones pictures were extremely popular and financially successful.  But all good things come to an end, and in 1934, Buck Jones moved to Universal Pictures.  A year later, McCoy was also gone.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)
During McCoy's next to last season with Columbia Pictures, he traded his western uniform for a suit and did eight eastern/crime adventures which were released in 1933-1934.

This 1934 Whitman book measures 11 x 14, has color covers and 32 B&W comic-strip pages, and is a tie-in to the initial entry of the McCoy non-western series, POLICE CAR 17.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are McCoy, a young John Wayne and Wallace MacDonald in a scene from TWO-FISTED LAW (Columbia, 1932). Les Adams added that Wallace MacDonald became a Columbia B film producer. After a brief stop at Columbia, Wayne had the lead in a half dozen oaters released by Warners as well as a trio of cliffhangers for Nat Levine's Mascot company. Then Wayne starred in lengthy series of Lone Star westerns which were released by Monogram.



(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above is McCoy on a white horse during his days at Columbia. This was one of many mounts that McCoy rode during his film career.



(Courtesy of Boyd Magers)

Above - the title lobby card from CORNERED (Columbia, 1932).




(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - the title lobby card for McCoy's THE WHIRLWIND (Columbia, 1933).




(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are McCoy, Geneva Mitchell and Ward Bond in a lobby card from FIGHTING SHADOWS (Columbia, 1935), one of the films in McCoy's last season at Columbia.  At the time, Wardell 'Ward' Bond (1903-1960) was part of Columbia's stable of bad guys.  He would do a lot of later films for director John Ford, would work often with his buddy John Wayne, and star in the WAGON TRAIN TV series.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above from left to right are Bob Allen, former Ziegfeld girl Billie Seward and Tim McCoy in a still from McCoy's LAW BEYOND THE RANGE (Columbia, 1935). Allen worked as McCoy's helper in two other films: THE REVENGE RIDER (Columbia, 1935) and the mountie flick FIGHTING SHADOWS (Columbia, 1935).


Scuttlebutt is that McCoy signed a new deal with independent Puritan Pictures a few hours before Columbia decided to renew his contract.  The real scoop may be in the book Tim McCoy Remembers the West (Doubleday, 1977). McCoy relates that he wanted to do circus tours from May thru November, with film work in the off months. Columbia said "nope". However, Puritan said "yes". At the last minute, Columbia had a change of heart and offered to continue the McCoy series. Their proposal came too late as Tim had already agreed to the Puritan deal.

McCoy's replacement at Columbia was Ken Maynard (who had completed a very good western series at Universal, left Universal, and went to work for Nat Levine's Mascot film factory in the MYSTERY MOUNTAIN (1934) serial and IN OLD SANTA FE (1934) oater).  In addition to Maynard, another hero was also saddling up at Columbia - his name was Charles Starrett, and he'd do westerns at Columbia for almost twenty years, including a lengthy run as the masked Durango Kid.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Jack Rockwell, Karl Hackett, John Merton, Tim McCoy, Joe Girard and Lafe McKee in a lobby card from LIGHTNIN' BILL CARSON (Puritan, 1936). This was one of ten sagebrush adventures that McCoy did for Puritan circa 1935-1936, eight of which were directed by Sam Newfield (Neufeld), including GHOST PATROL (Puritan, 1936) shown below. Newfield and Tim worked together in a total of 25 westerns: 8 at Puritan, 2 Monograms, 8 at Victory, and 7 for PDC/PRC.



(From Old Corral image collection)


After the Puritan films, McCoy contracted for a new series with William Pizor and his Imperial Pictures, and his salary was to be $32,000.00 ($4,000 X 8 films).  But something happened with the financing or whatever, and Pizor reneged on the contract. My guess is that Pizor/Imperial wound up in a cash crunch problem as they were at the bottom of the Poverty Row film production companies. Pizor's films were distributed on a 'states rights' basis to lower echelon theaters ... and the mid 1930s was a difficult time for westerns because of the Depression, better product from other companies, and the arrival of the singing cowboy. Don't remember Imperial Pictures? William Pizor did some westerns starring Wally Wales (Hal Taliaferro), and you can view a lobby card from same by clicking HERE.

A lawsuit was filed and Tim McCoy was off the screen for about a year and a half.

He kept busy headlining the 1936 and 1937 seasons of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. Around late 1937, McCoy began assembling his own traveling show. In April, 1938, "Colonel Tim McCoy's Real Wild West Show" opened in Chicago indoors at the International Amphitheater and then proceeded on tour. However, the show quickly folded, and in his book Tim McCoy Remembers the West (Doubleday, 1977), McCoy notes that his losses were about $300,000.00.

In late 1939, Tim won the lawsuit against Pizor and you'll find more on that on a subsequent webpage.



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