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(Courtesy of the Newill Family)

On the trail of Newill ... Newall ... Newell ... Jimmy ... Jimmie

Author Michael R. Pitts adds some tidbits on Newill:

In 2001, Mike Pitts provided some info on James Newill for the original Newill profile that I had on the Old Corral. Mike wrote:

"He appeared on Broadway in 1944 in the musical version of RAIN called SADIE THOMPSON, and in the early 1950s he did a 10" LP for Decca records, "The Lord is My Shepherd".  "The Lord is My Shepherd" was originally recorded August 19-20, 1941, about a decade before the LP was released. The eight songs he did were originally issued in two separate series of 78s:

18243 / 28004 The 23rd Psalm/The Lord's Prayer
18244 / 28005 The Rosary/Ave Maria
18245 / 28006 Goin' Home/The Lost Chord
18246 / 28007 Beautiful Isle of Somewhere/Abide With Me
John Brooker wrote an article about Newill in a 1972 issue of Film Collectors Registry and it contains a few quotes. The writeup notes that Newill asked to leave the PRC series in order to do the Broadway show SADIE THOMPSON. There is also mention of his wife (not named) doing movies in Europe.

I have a couple of vocals by Jimmy Newell from 1933 with Abe Lyman's Orchestra and it sounds like Jim Newill to me. I also found a radio show for a Jimmy NEWALL called "Love and a Story" but there was no broadcast date mentioned.

Newill also appeared in Snader Telescription musical shorts (billed as James Newell), and these are mentioned in the Soundies book from McFarland. These were made circa 1950-1952 and were 3+ minutes in length. Snader sold these to TV stations where they were broadcast individually or several were strung together to provide 'filler' for a time slot."

Newill's Soundies

Mark Cantor is currently working on a definitive filmography of Soundies, and provides the following info on Newill:

In early 1942, Jimmy Newell was invited to participate in two soundies produced in Los Angeles by R. C. M. Productions. Stan Kenton led the orchestra in its earliest appearance on film, with eleven soundtracks recorded the week of January 5, 1942. Four of the soundies include screen appearances by the Kenton band, and three of them actually feature the band in jazz performances. The remaining utilize the band as an accompanying unit on soundtrack, with the focus of the shorts on various vocalists and dancers.

The films were filmed to playback beginning January 8 and 14, 1942, and all production was probably completed at the home of Producters Releasing Corporation (PRC). Directing the shorts was Reginald LeBorg, who would soon move to Universal where he would not only direct shorts, but also a large number of features, including entries in the "Inner Sanctum" series and The MUMMY'S GHOST (Universal, 1944).

Jimmy Newell appears in two of the soundies that feature non-Kenton performers, "Moonlight Masquerade" and "Angels of Mercy". While the Kenton band can be seen in the background of "Moonlight Masquerade", it is Newell's vocal that is the centerpiece of the "song story" by Jack Lawrence and 'Toots' Camarata. Following his vocal chorus, we are treated to a dance routine by Tut Mace.

"Angels of Mercy", an Irving Berlin composition, once again features Jimmy Newell as vocalist, although he is joined here by The Neely Trio (Phil Neely, Henry Kruse, and Gil Merschon).

The Renfrew TV series

I remember reading about the Renfrew TV series and I also recalled that Newill was the star. On the left is a late 1952 clipping/ad from an unidentified tradepaper which mentions the availability of 13 half-hour Renfrew TV programs and to contact the Alexander brothers.

Max and Art Alexander were the bosses of Poverty Row film companies named Beacon ... then Normandy ... and finally, Colony Pictures, and in the 1930s, they churned out westerns starring Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Rex Bell and Ken Maynard. In the 1940s, the Alexander brothers were at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) where Art produced some of the Texas Rangers films.

In John Brooker's 1972 article in Film Collectors Registry, Newill mentioned his involvement in the TV show: "My appearance had changed very little at that time and our new footage fitted in OK with the old, but the producers spoiled the show's chances of big success by cutting every corner possible. I was part owner of the series, but I later sold my interest back to the producers, bought a ranch in the mountains and literally took to the woods."

I asked Boyd Magers for some additional details on the TV show: "RENFREW OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED with Newill was syndicated in '53 (carrying a '52 copyright date). It was produced by Max and Arthur Alexander Productions. The episode I have, GET YOUR MAN, begins with the standard movie song, "Mounted Men", and is edited from the first movie in 1937 with a new wrap-around added of James Newill telling a kid named Dickie a story. Newill appears to have aged quite well. My TV film source book for 1966 says 73 films were available. Since there are only eight movies, I don't know how they could have produced that many TV shows unless some completely new episodes were done. You can't edit 73 half hours out of eight movies. We may never know the answer to this one. There was also a Renfrew TV pilot made starring Arthur Franz. Didn't sell."

The Renfrew Radio Program

There was a Renfrew radio program which starred House Jameson as 'Sgt. Douglas Renfrew' and was broadcast from 1936 through 1940. Jameson is probably best remembered as "Sam Aldrich", the father of Henry Aldrich on both radio and early TV.

Renfrew was originally a 15 minute adventure which ran 3 times a week on CBS, but it later became a 30 minute series over the NBC Blue Network. My understanding is that there are less than a half-dozen of these programs in circulation. I have three, two of which are 15 minute broadcasts which are narrated by Laurie York Erskine (1894 - 1976), author and creator of Renfrew. Am not sure whether this is really Erskine or a performer playing the role of Erskine. Beginning in the mid 1920s, NBC owned and operated two radio networks which were called NBC Red and NBC Blue. Due to a Supreme Court ruling regarding unfair competition, NBC kept the Red Network and sold/divested the Blue Network in 1943. Blue became the American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

Newill and Dave O'Brien - and the Jack Ingram Movie Ranch

Bobby Copeland provides some info and trivia on Dave O'Brien, Jim Newill, and movie bad guy Jack Ingram ... and what would ultimately become the Jack Ingram movie location ranch:

"Prior to Jack Ingram owning the land, it was purchased by two other movie cowboys as a scheme to avoid being drafted by the Army during World War II. The land was also once part of the Charlie Chaplin estate. Apparently, Jim Newill and Dave O'Brien heard about some provision by the government that provided deferment to those owning ranches and raising animals. They decided to buy the land and raise goats. They did not have the property long, until they were called for physicals --- both were classified 4-F. They immediately started looking for a buyer, and sold the ranch to Jack Ingram (in 1944), who had worked with Newill and O'Brien in some of their Texas Rangers features at PRC. Ingram, in an economy move, bought an old bulldozer and enlisted the help of several other movie badman friends to clear the site."

James Newill and Dave O'Brien - Western song writers

Les Adams came up with an interesting tidbit on Newill and Dave O'Brien.  They were credited (sometimes collectively as 'Tex Coe') with a lot of the songs in the Texas Rangers films.  Many others also wrote tunes for the series, including Cal Shrum and Oliver Drake.  Below are a list of songs by O'Brien and Newill:

Medicine Man
The Moon is Yellow
West Winds

Stay on the Right Trail
You're Here to Stay

High in the Saddle

Ranger A'Riding

From RANGERS TAKE OVER (as Tex Coe):
Campfire on the Prairie
The Rangers Take Over
High in the Saddle
Heading Westward
Paradise Trail

Sleepy Hollow
El Lobo

Sleepy Hollow
Jog Along
Along the Rio Grande

Tired of Ramblin'
Whistle a Song
Como Esta

Census info on the Newill family
Thanks to Rick Albright for the census info. Some additional comments are shown in ( ).

1920 census:
Swissvale, Allegheny Co., PA
John Newill, 36, born PA, grocery salesman.
Wife Mamie, 30, born NY.
Evelyn, 9, born PA
Clyde, 7, born PA
Calvin, 5, born PA

1930 census:
Hawthorne City/Inglewood, Los Angeles Co., CA
Home address is 558 Ramona Ave.
John W. Newill, 46, married at 26 (1910), born OH (wrong), salesman/bakery.
Wife Mamie, 40, married at 21, born NY.
Evelyn, 19, single, born PA
James M., 18, single, born PA, salesman/bakery (This is James Newill, singing cowboy.)
Clyde M., 17, born PA
Calvin D., 16, born PA

California Death Records database on James Newill and his parents:

  • James Newill's mother: Mayme M. Newill was born 6/24/1889 In New York, mother's maiden name of Whitehouse, father's last name of Morris, and she passed away in the Los Angeles area on 1/24/1981.
  • James Newill's father: John W. Newill was born 9/29/1883, mother's maiden name of Aiken, and passed away in the Los Angeles area on 1/2/1964.
  • James M. Newill: was born 8/12/1911 in Pennsylvania and passed away in the Los Angeles area on 7/31/1975.

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