(From Old Corral image collection)
Am unsure what horse Monte is riding in the above lobby card from UNDER COLORADO SKIES (Republic, 1947). Don't be fooled by the gray/black color of this horse - that color shows up in the lobby card, but when viewing the film, Monte's horse is brown with a tannish mane. It isn't Banner which had been earlier used by Don Barry and Allan Lane. Banner had a thin face blaze that ended above the nostrils. Click HERE for Andy Devine, Roy Rogers on the original Trigger, and Bob Nolan in a scene cropped from a lobby card from the Trucolor UNDER CALIFORNIA STARS (Republic, 1948). Devine is riding Banner, and Nolan is riding the same horse in the above lobby card.
CALIFORNIA FIREBRAND started out Monte's 1948 season, with Hurst (as 'Chuck Waggoner') finding Monte unarmed and horseless after an encounter with Indians. They find a wounded man, whose guns and horse Monte uses to ride for medical help. They don't know that the man has been wounded by a couple of pursuing lawman, and is the feared pistolero Gunsmoke Lowry, on his way to Gunnison to be the baddies' hand-picked marshal to run gold miners off their claims. Monte has come to Gunnison to meet his uncle, but learns that his uncle has been killed by the outlaws. Mistaken for Gunsmoke Lowry because of the G. L. initials on the handles of his borrowed guns (the first of only three movies in which Monte would pack two guns), he joins the gang, uncovers its leader (Tris Coffin in a neat double-identity ploy) and wins over lovely Adrian Booth and her mining family. (At least one film scholar insists that it is Forrest Tucker's voice issuing from the mouth of Daniel M. Sheridan, who plays Gunsmoke Lowry, and Roy Barcroft's from Duke York, as one of Booth's brothers. Does anybody know?)
Hurst was missing from THE TIMBER TRAIL, and Adrian Booth had left the series for Republic's higher-budgeted films featuring William Elliott, Rod Cameron and Forrest Tucker. Lynne Roberts is the heroine here, the first of a round-robin series of actresses who would do leading lady honors in the rest of Hale's films. In this one, Monte helps her save her stage line. The good news in SON OF GOD'S COUNTRY was that Hurst was back; the bad news was that the color was gone, along with the Riders of the Purple Sage. Monte would ride and sing alone from now on, and in black and white. Here, he is a lawman in the Civil War era clearing the name of the murdered father of Pamela Blake and Jay Kirby who had been accused of being a Southern sympathizer. Monte eventually finds that the raids on ranchers are unconnected with the war, and are an attempt to secure land to sell the railroad.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from L-to-R are William Haade, Monte Hale, and Steve Darrell with the sixgun in this lobby card from UNDER COLORADO SKIES (Republic, 1947).
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Roy Barcroft has the drop on veteran supporting player Paul Hurst and star Monte Hale in a lobby card from PRINCE OF THE PLAINS (Republic, 1949).
PRINCE OF THE PLAINS launched Monte's biggest year, seven movies made in 1949, with Monte as Bat Masterson and Hurst as the local sheriff who jails him when he is framed on a trumped-up charge but releases him periodically and arms him with a pair of pistols whenever trouble threatens (the double holsters were necessary this time to match Bill Elliott's in footage from an Elliott/ Red Ryder movie from six years earlier, OVERLAND MAIL ROBBERY, particularly the finale when the heavy launches himself at the hero at the edge of a cliff and the hero simply drops to the ground, with predictable results; now that Monte's pictures were in black and white, Republic could use a lot of its earlier footage, and would from now on).
LAW OF THE GOLDEN WEST has Hale, as Bill Cody, saving Gail Davis (TV's future 'Annie Oakley') from a marriage to Quentin Morrel (read Quantrill, the Civil War raider featured in Republic's John Wayne-Roy Rogers-Claire Trevor-Walter Pidgeon epic, DARK COMMAND, from which much of this movie's footage is drawn). Republic actually used pistols that resembled those of the Civil War era in the picture. OUTCASTS OF THE TRAIL recycled the plot of yet another Elliott/Ryder, THE GREAT STAGECOACH ROBBERY (1945), in which an outlaw returns his stolen loot on completing his prison term but the rest of the gang gets his son involved in crime. This time it is his daughter (Jeff Donnell) instead but Monte, as Sheriff Pat Garrett, solves the crime. SOUTH OF RIO has Monte as a Ranger whose brother is one of the gang, but eventually reforms in time to stop a bullet. SAN ANTONE AMBUSH has Monte as a cavalry scout framed for robbery but aided by his old sergeant (Hurst as 'Happy Daniels') to track down the real gangsters, with a climax in which outlaws fortify a town against the ranchers riding against them (again, Monte ends up with two guns to match footage of Ray 'Crash' Corrigan leaping from building to building). RANGER OF CHEROKEE STRIP is Monte's Indian picture, involving the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and featuring Douglas Kennedy in a rare sympathetic role as an Indian who escapes prison to clear his name and battle unscrupulous cattlemen after Indian land. Monte is the lawman sent after him, and eventually his ally. Hurst is Sheriff Jug Mason. PIONEER MARSHAL was Monte's last outing of the year, and a good one written by Bob Williams. Monte infiltrates an outlaw town to bring back one of its occupants to his own jurisdiction, with the help of Hurst as locksmith Huck Homer. Nan Leslie is the pretty leading lady, stuck in the town because her brother, Myron Healey, has taken refuge there. Damian O'Flynn turns in a good performance as the Chicago gunman who runs it (he and Monte have a friendly target-shooting rivalry, referring to each other as 'Chicago' and 'Dallas,' but eventually we know their contest will be against each other) and Barcroft as his lieutenant.
Monte had three movies to go in 1950 before his series ended, but their scripts were all above average. THE VANISHING WESTERNER recycled part of yet another Elliott/Ryder plot, from 1945's THE LONE TEXAS RANGER but adding a dual-identity mystery to the mix. THE OLD FRONTIER has Hale and Hurst solving a murder in which a young doctor is implicated. And the last one, THE MISSOURIANS, has a performance by Barcroft as a bandit leader from eastern Europe who forces his younger brother and mother to work for him (the mother, Sarah Padden, greets her long-lost son with a smack across the face followed by a backhand, which somehow seems appropriate for the mother of most of the roles Barcroft has played). He keeps his brother from testifying against him by dangling their mother's locket --- a reminder that she is being held hostage --- in front of him and evincing a menacing squint that only Barcroft could accomplish. Hurst, as a down-at-the-heels lawyer who works with Monte's town marshal character, has a good dramatic turn in talking down a would-be lynch mob out to hang Barcroft's innocent brother. And Howard J. Negley has a fine time as a Shakespearian actor who is the real brains behind Barcroft's gang. All in all, it was a good movie for Monte to ride out on.
Monte had one more Trucolor outing in 1950, in the Roy Rogers vehicle, TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD. He and other movie heroes, including Rex Allen and 'Rocky' Lane, were called on to help retired star Jack Holt get his Christmas tree crop delivered. TV talk-show host Tom Snyder showed a clip of it on his 'Tomorrow' show one night which featured Monte as a guest along with Peggy Stewart, Rod Cameron, Chill Wills and Don Barry.
The October 9, 1950 issue of the Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin had a blurb on the breakup of Monte and Republic. Excerpt: "Monte Hale and Republic parted company after an association that dates back to 1945. The four westerns scheduled for him will probably be switched to Republic's other cowboys..."
In YUKON VENGEANCE (Monogram, 1954), Hale switched to the role of the heavy in this entry in Kirby Grant's Mountie series.
Just as Chill Wills had invited him to join the war bond tour group which led indirectly to his Republic series, it was his sitting in on Wills' chat with director George Stevens that led to Monte being tapped for the role of 'Bale Clinch' in GIANT (1956). Hale said Stevens seemed to be taken with the way Hale put on his hat when he left the room, plopping it on his head with one hand. His last appearance was an uncredited role as one of the Texas drunkards in THE CHASE (1966), commiserating with Martha Hyer about her husband having left her. 'I'll drink to that', he tells her, and those may have been his last words on the screen.
Monte's on-screen character always seemed a little bit bland compared to Republic contemporaries Roy Rogers, 'Rocky' Lane and Rex Allen, but his scripts seemed to get better as his budgets and production values were being cut. Although he always preferred personal contact to reaching an audience through the lens of a camera, he furnished us with a lot of good western entertainment.
Monte Hale had been in failing health and passed away on March 29, 2009 from age-related causes at his home in Studio City, California.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Monte Hale - the man with the great smile. I got the above publicity still ten or more years ago from Monte. Looking at it now, I don't recognize that horse without a face blaze.
(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)
(Courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer)
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above, one of the several small 'vending card' sized photos that Hale used to give out. Size is about 3 1/4 x 5 1/2 inches.
(Courtesy of Dale Crawford)
Above left is Monte Hale with Dale Crawford circa 1993 at Monte's home in Santa Barbara, California.
(Courtesy of Ancel Cook)
Above from L-to-R are: Monte Hale's brother Bill Hale, Ancel Cook, Monte and Dick Jones. Photo taken at a 1998 party for Monte. Bill Hale passed away on October 29, 2011 in Rowlett, Texas.
Hale was one of the first recipients of a Golden Boot award, and he received that in 1983. If you want more info, go to the Golden Boot Awards page on the Old Corral.
Most of the info on the Old Corral about the contracts and salaries at Republic Pictures has been gleaned from Jack Mathis' excellent Republic Confidential, Volume 2, The Players (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1992), and I've given Jack credit in the Acknowledgements & Thanks page. The Mathis book includes information on Monte Hale's contracts with Republic --- Hale was under six-month contracts, initially at $150 per week, and escalating to $300/weekly by 1950.
The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s. With a few exceptions, the annual poll 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. Monte Hale never achieved a ranking in those polls.
Some follow up items and additions:
Les Adams wrote that Judge Ely Boulevard, a major north-south road across Abilene, is named for Monte Hale's grandfather, an early-day, most respected jurist.
Bobby Copeland notes that, according to Monte, he was born in Ada, Oklahoma. He said San Angelo sounded better for the screen. And according to Monte's wife and brother, he was born in 1919.
Monte strummin' his guitar and riding trusty steed Partner in the lower comic book cover.
Thx to Lansing Sexton for the following info on the comic book series of Monte Hale:
Monte Hale's first comic appearance was in an unusual comic named Picture News, billed as the first news comic and published by an obscure company called the Lafayette Street Corporation or possibly the 299 Lafayette Street Corporation. Monte appeared along with eleven other true-life features in issue #8 dated September-October 1946.
Monte's own comic Monte Hale Western began publication with #29, dated October 1948. It was one of the stable of western titles published by Fawcett Publications and had a healthy run through issue #82 dated June 1953.
As with many of the other Fawcett titles, Monte's comic switched to the Charlton Comics Company beginning with #83 dated February 1955. The last issue was #88 dated January 1956. All of the Fawcett issues had photo covers. The Charlton issues had black and white photo back covers instead, although issue 83, at least, features a black and white medallion photo of Monte on the otherwise drawn cover. There were a number of other features in Monte's comic, including Gabby Hayes in issues 34 through 80 and 83 through 86. Slim Pickens was in issue #53.
On the cover of issue #1, the low-key laid-back Monte is pictured leaning against a fence next to Pardner, but in a horseshoe insert, he's described as 6'5" of solid muscle. This horseshoe and description were repeated on the cover of the first Charlton issue.
Besides the long run of his own comic, Monte also appeared in Fawcett's Real Western Hero along with Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy and others beginning with the first issue #70 dated September, 1948, one month before the start of Monte's own book. With issue 76, dated March 1949, the title changed to Western Hero but the contents remained pretty much the same. Monte appeared on photo covers in issues #88, 91, 93, 95, 98, 100, 104, 107 and 110. Issue 112, dated March 1952 was the final number. In this Western Hero phase the cowboys not featured on the cover appear in black and white rectangular block photos across the cover under the title.
As if all this wasn't enough, Monte was added to the cast of Fawcett's Six-Gun Heroes starting with issue #18, the only issue to feature him on the cover. However, he appeared in a black and white headshot along with the other non-featured stars in at least two other issues, #'s 20 and 22. Although I can't verify it, I believe he appeared in and on all the issues from 18 through 23, dated November 1953. With issue 24 Charlton once again took over (Fawcett stopped publishing comics at this time) and Monte was deleted from the title.
Aside from all these regular comics Monte Hale also appeared in Fawcett Movie Comics. Issue #4 published in 1950 but not dated is devoted to Monte's last 1949 release PIONEER MARSHAL. Paul Hurst is featured with Monte on the cover. Issue #9 is dated February 1950, but should say February 1951. This issue features THE OLD FRONTIER. Issue 10, dated April 1951 is devoted to the last of Monte's Republic series, THE MISSOURIANS.
The very first issue #101 of Fawcett's related series Motion Picture Comics published in 1950 featured Monte's fine film THE VANISHING WESTERNER. Finally in an oddity as strange as his initial appearance, a Monte Hale reprint showed up in Charlton/Capitol Stories Cowboy Western Comics #51, probably dated September/October 1954. The odd thing is that this time the hero's name had been changed to Rusty Hall! I've no idea why, although it must have been a copyright problem of some kind. Bob Overstreet's Comic Book Price Guide says that there may also be a Hale reprint in issue #55, but he's not certain.
Monte also appeared in Fawcett's Xmas Comics issues 4 through 7 dated December of each year from 1949 through 1952. These comics were giant 196 page comics selling for 50 cents each. They contained reprints of stories from many Fawcett titles of all kinds.
All the above represents a spectacular success in comics. In part, this is simply because Monte was still making movies through 1950, but that doesn't altogether explain a comics career which seems more substantial than his film career would seem to warrant.
Sometimes Monte Hale is treated by the Western movie aficionado as at least a partial failure, and I suppose that's true to the degree that he failed to become Republic's new Gene Autry. As for me, I've always liked Monte. His good-natured persona is more like Joel McCrea's than Gene Autry's. That's not a bad comparison in the Western field.
There are several family trees on Ancestry.com which include Monte Hale/Samuel Buren Ely. Monte's brother Bill - who shows up occasionally in those family trees - is "Bill Ely", born 1923, with no other details. Monte's father is Herod Matthew Ely, born 1893 or 1894 in Texas. By circa 1940, his occupation was minister and evangelist for the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana.
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Herod M. Ely (1893-1988) and Helen R. Ely (1906-2004) who are interred at Hillcrest Cemetery, Cary, Wake County, North Carolina: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=32601282
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Monte Hale: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0354977/
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the marker for Monte Hale who is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), Los Angeles, California, next to the burial location for Gene Autry: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=35851822
The official Monte Hale website was at: http://www.montehale.com/, but was no longer working as of March, 2010.
The Gene Autry/Autry National Center website has several webpages devoted to Monte:
Boyd Magers' Western Clippings website has a section on Monte Hale: http://www.westernclippings.com/westernsof/montehale_westernsof.shtml
Bill Black at AC Comics has a profile on Monte Hale: http://www.accomics.com/category/westernarticles/
Want to see if Monte Hale - or your fav western hero - is enshrined on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame? Search the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce / Walk Of Fame website at: http://www.walkoffame.com
Monte was married and divorced from Cherie DeCastro (1922-2010), one of three singing DeCastro sisters. The New York Times has the obituary on Cherie who passed away in 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/arts/music/25decastro.html