Above - Tom Tyler wearing sergeant stripes as the star of the CLANCY OF THE MOUNTED (Universal, 1933) cliffhanger.
|Kermit Maynard, James Newill, Kirby Grant, Charles Starrett, Russell Hayden and others proudly wore the scarlet tunic of the North West Mounted Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police for|
The Mountie Films
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - pressbook ad for the made-in-Canada UNDERCOVER MEN (J. R. Booth / Dominion, 1935) which was distributed by Columbia Pictures.
"Hollywood never did right by the mounties. The challenge was there, with unlimited opportunities for adventure with fresh, picturesque locales; a group of law enforcers with a noble, proud and inspiring tradition, not to mention their distinctive redcoats; and the potential of blending rugged, Western-type action with, to non-Canadians, a tinge of the exotic allure of a foreign country. With everything at their disposal, the movies generally blew it."
Before getting into the films and performers, let's review a bit of history on the "real mounties". The North West Mounted Police (NWMP) was formed in 1873. In 1904, King Edward VII granted the use of the prefix "Royal" and it became the Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP). And in 1920, the name was changed to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Mountie films were done in the silent era but not in any great quantity --- big names like Ken Maynard and Tom Mix donned the redcoat in a few screen adventures, and lesser stars like Jack Perrin even did a mountie series at Universal.
Bill Russell adds: concerning Mountie films in the silents, Edmund Cobb made a series of two-reelers back in the 20's, and there was the "Big Dan Series" starring John Lowell. Another series in the early 20's featured an actor named Irving Cummings who made some two-reelers about the Canadian Mounties.
During the sound era - and the approximate 25 year period from roughly 1929-1954 when the B-western and serial thrived and died - scores of films were churned out with a northwoods/Canada theme and/or a mounted police officer as the hero. Some were done in a series format such as the Renfrews for Grand National and Monogram and Kermit Maynard's features for Maurice Conn's little Ambassador Pictures.
There were other mountie adventures in which a major or minor cowboy star swapped his jeans and Stetson for a mounted police uniform and did a film or two or more - these included Buck Jones, George O'Brien, Tim McCoy, Bill Cody, Bob Custer, Dick Foran, Tom Tyler, Charles Starrett, Bill Elliott and Bob Steele. Even Gene Autry wore a redcoat in one of his post World War II releases for Columbia Pictures.
There were many cinema cowpokes who weren't movie mounties - Hoot Gibson wasn't ... Roy Rogers wasn't ... nor was Johnny Mack Brown, Tim Holt, Rex Allen, Sunset Carson, Lash LaRue, Fred Scott, Reb Russell, Buffalo Bill, Jr., Tom Keene, Eddie Dean, Jimmy Wakely and Whip Wilson.
The first mountie movie that I saw at the theaters starred one-time Hopalong Cassidy helper, Russell Hayden. Hayden looked good in the uniform ... he also looked good as a sagebrush hero, and could handle the action better than most. It was the early 1950s and the other half of the double-bill was a Jimmy Wakely, a Lash LaRue, or a Whip Wilson. I also remember seeing Kirby Grant in his RCMP series for Monogram/Allied Artists. As I write this over fifty years later, I don't recall if I liked those mountie movies or not. I know I didn't mimic the redcoated hero in the after school playing that us kids did in our Georgia backyards. I still preferred being Roy or Gene or Red Ryder.
(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
Above, above from L-to-R are a young Chief Yowlachie, Monte Blue (as RCMP Sgt. Devlin), Tully Marshall (in colorful vest), and on the far right is Bull Montana. Scene from TIGER ROSE (1929).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
One of the early sound Mountie flicks was MOUNTED FURY (Sono-Art/World Wide, 1931) and starred John Bowers. Bowers was a silent screen star, but his career faded with the coming of sound. Attending a party in 1936, Bowers walked into the Pacific Ocean, committing suicide. Scuttlebutt is that his death was the inspiration for the fictional (and suicidal) 'Norman Maine' character in the 1937 and 1954 versions of A STAR IS BORN.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the title lobby card from the first of the Renfrew "singing mountie" films, RENFREW OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (Grand National, 1937) which starred James Newill. The heroine clutching James Newill's arm is pretty Carol Hughes. Among her many roles was the female lead in Roy Rogers' first starring film, UNDER WESTERN STARS (Republic, 1938) and she portrayed Dale Arden in the serial FLASH GORDON CONQUERS THE UNIVERSE (Universal, 1940). In the canoe are Chief Thunder Cloud (Victor Daniels) and Lightning, the Wonder Dog.
|(Pressbook covers above courtesy of Les Adams)|