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(From Old Corral image collection)

Kermit Maynard's starring work for producer Maurice Conn began with mountie films, and here he (and trusty steed Rocky) are in a lobby card from WILDCAT TROOPER (Ambassador-Conn, 1936).  His helper on the far right is comedian Fuzzy Knight, and Kerm is giving aid to Olympic champion Jim Thorpe, who played a number of Indian roles in westerns during the 1930s.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card for OUTPOST OF THE MOUNTIES (Columbia, 1939) which starred Charles Starrett and featured pretty Iris Meredith and the Sons of the Pioneers. It was one of six films with an RCMP theme in which Starrett had the lead.


Recall the basic premise (formula) used in the B-western: a majestic range rider atop a superb horse and confronting the forces of evil ... a cute, doey-eyed heroine ... the heroine's father or brother was killed or in trouble ... a ranch or town that was under siege ... homesteaders against the ranchers ... sheepherders against the ranchers ... a wagon train headin' west ... and it had to begin and end within 60 minutes or less, all in glorious B&W.

Accept my definition of the basic formula ... or define your own version.  What's important is to recognize that the formula/theme/approach changed over time.  Several of the variations and impacts are listed below as mind joggers:

Amongst all of this chaos and change is the reason the Hollywood cowboy exchanged his normal western duds for a mountie costume.  I would suggest that the rationale at the time was simplistic --- "Let's try something a little different ... maybe it will sell!" Or perhaps "The distributors/the theaters are pushing for something different ... they're tired of the same ol' westerns."

There were four primary SERIES (groups) of mountie films:

Northwoods and mountie themes were utilized frequently in sound era cliffhangers --- there were eleven of these beginning with THE MYSTERY TROOPER (1931) and ending with Columbia's GUNFIGHTERS OF THE NORTHWEST (1954) and PERILS OF THE WILDERNESS (1956).

There were also some A (and B+) grade films that utilized a mountie storyline.  Probably the best remembered are: Cecil B. deMille's NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE (Paramont, 1940) with Gary Cooper cast as a Texas Ranger in mounted police land; the melodic duo of Nelson Eddy/Jeannette McDonald in ROSE MARIE (MGM, 1936) and the 1954 MGM remake with Howard Keel and Ann Blythe; and Shirley Temple as SUSANNAH OF THE MOUNTIES (20th Century Fox, 1939).

There were a few radio programs based on the a mounted police theme. Best remembered is CHALLENGE OF THE YUKON/SGT. PRESTON OF THE YUKON. In addition to the LONE RANGER radio program, George W. Trendle and his Detroit WXYZ station did CHALLENGE OF THE YUKON and the initial broadcasts began in early 1938 with local 15 minute shows. CHALLENGE went national in the Summer of 1947 with half hour shows airing on ABC, and the series later moved to the Mutual Broadcasting System. SGT. PRESTON also came to television and was portrayed by Richard Simmons. James Jewell was one of several folks who created the Lone Ranger and other programs from Detroit's WXYZ. In later life, Jewell was in Chicago as the producer or director of THE SILVER EAGLE, a mountie adventure which ran on ABC from 1951-1955 and starred Jim Ameche, the brother of movie star Don Ameche. Another radio series was based on the Renfrew of the Royal Mounted stories by Laurie York Erskine. Prolific radio performer House Jameson was featured as Sgt. Douglas Renfrew and the program was broadcast from 1936 through 1940. Originally a 15 minute adventure which ran 3 times a week over CBS, it later became a 30 minute series over the Blue Network. My understanding is that there are about a half-dozen of these programs in circulation. I have three, two of which are 15 minute shows which are narrated by Renfrew creator Laurie York Erskine. Am not sure whether this is really Erskine or a radio performer playing the role of Erskine. Lastly, there was BLAIR OF THE MOUNTIES which was syndicated beginning around 1938, and almost three dozen episodes are in circulation.

Les Adams ran a filmography on the mountie films, including those with northwoods storylines, and about 90 films are listed.  The consistency seems to be twofold:

1. the lead in most of the B-grade productions were familiar western movie heroes.
2. the B films were churned out by the same companies that created the low budget sagebrush adventure and cliffhanger.

And that's the reason that most folks include the mountie movies with the B-western.

Hollywood showcased the mounties in about 90 films - a significant number but not overwhelming.  For comparison, Gene Autry starred in 90 films (1 serial and 89 oaters). And there were 119 trio westerns featuring the Three Mesquiteers (51 films), Texas Rangers (22), Frontier Marshals (6), Rough Riders (8), Range Busters (24), and Trail Blazers (8).

Several of the Kermit Maynards and Russell Haydens are quite enjoyable - Hayden and Kermit are two under-appreciated heroes of the genre.  But the best of the bunch are a pair of Allan Lane cliffhangers, KING OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (Republic, 1940) and KING OF THE MOUNTIES (Republic, 1942), which are among Republic Pictures' finest chapterplays.


LINKS

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police website is at: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/index-eng.htm

The RCMP website also has a history section: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/hist/index-eng.htm

You'll find a bit more about the Renfrew radio adventures at: http://scoop.diamondgalleries.com/Home/4/1/73/1023?articleID=109623




(From Old Corral image collection)
Depending on age and childhood TV viewing habits, the movies or movie performers mentioned above may not be your favorite mountie.

Instead - your personal fav may be Richard Simmons as TV's Sgt. Preston of the Yukon ... and his trusty pooch 'Yukon King'.

There's more on the Dick Simmons and the Sgt. Preston TV show at: http://sergeantpreston.com/



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are RCMP Sergeant Bob Custer, Eddie Dunn, Buddy Shaw, and William Walling in RIDERS OF THE NORTH (Syndicate, 1931), one of the earliest of the sound era mountie films.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Tim McCoy, Geneva Mitchell and Ward Bond in a lobby card from FIGHTING SHADOWS (Columbia, 1935), one of the entries in McCoy's last season at Columbia Pictures.  McCoy's long running series at Columbia included this film as well as several others in which he wore a suit in non-western mysteries and crime dramas.



(Courtesy of Les Adams)


(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)


A half-dozen "Morton of the Mounted" films were planned and announced.  John Preston was to star in all six --- he wound up portraying RCMP Sgt. Bruce Morton in a pair, COURAGE OF THE NORTH (Empire/Stage & Screen, 1934) and TIMBER TERRORS (Empire/Stage & Screen, 1935).  The Morton name was dropped and Kane Richmond took over the lead in a solo shot, THE SILENT CODE (International/Stage & Screen, 1935).

The abbreviated series may have been caused by the rise and fall of the Empire film distributing company which lasted only a year or two in the mid 1930s. Empire was also involved in another short-lived series, the "Phantom Rider" oaters which starred Lane Chandler.



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