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Saddle Pals & Sidekicks

There were various players who wound up doing duty as a more serious helper to the hero.  Occasionally, they would get into some comedic difficulties, but their primary role was not as a comic or buffoon.  Several could be considered as 'second leads', and a few could even sing.  Others often portrayed the heroine's brother or the son of the ranch owner ... and seemed to be constantly in trouble.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is John James (1910 or 1914 - 1960) with George 'Gabby' Hayes and Wild Bill Elliott in MAN FROM THUNDER RIVER (Republic, 1943).  I have no biographical info on John James - other than his possible birth and death years.  He appeared in 50+ films during a period from about 1940 through the early 1950s.  This included about two dozen Republic films - mostly westerns and serials - during the years 1941 - 1947. From the late 1940s into the early 1950s, James worked at Monogram/Allied Artists doing westerns with Jimmy Wakely and Bill Elliott.

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on John James:

(Image courtesy of Les Adams)

Wakely sidekick John James is on the left side of this duotone title lobby card. In the upper right, wearing the top hat, is Jimmy's other helper, Lee 'Lasses' White. Musical assistance was from Wesley Tuttle and His Texas Stars. And the answer is Nope! This Wakely RIDERS OF THE DAWN (Monogram, 1945) wasn't the same storyline as the earlier RIDERS OF THE DAWN (Monogram, 1937) which starred Jack Randall.

(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above is Bob Nolan (1908-1980).  Nolan, Roy Rogers (Leonard Slye) and Tim Spencer formed a trio in the early 1930s, and the group matured and expanded into the Sons of the Pioneers, the most influential of the B western singin' groups.  The Canadian born Nolan, whose real name was Robert Nobles, was also a proficient and prolific songwriter, and among his creations are Cool Water and Tumbling Tumbleweeds.  Nolan and the SOP did tunes and helper duty with Charles Starrett at Columbia.  But he and they are probably best remembered for all their appearances in Roy Rogers films.  The eternal question about Nolan and his career: how come he was never offered a solo shot as a movie cowboy hero/lead?

There's a section on the Old Corral devoted to Bob Nolan (and the Sons of the Pioneers).

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is Russell 'Russ' 'Lucky' Hayden (1910-1981). He was a member of Paramount's production crew prior to co-starring in the Hopalong Cassidy films of the late 1930s.  Hayden then went on to co-star with Charles Starrett at Columbia ... moved to his own starring series at Columbia ... and then some other western and serial filmwork as the B film era faded. In the 1950s, he and former child star, Jackie Coogan, starred in the COWBOY G-MEN TV series, and Hayden wound up producing cowboy TVers such as 26 MEN and JUDGE ROY BEAN.

You'll find expanded coverage on Hayden in the 'Heroes' section on the Old Corral homepage.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is James 'Jimmy' 'Shamrock' Ellison (real name: James Ellison Smith) (1910-1993). He was the original trail partner to William Boyd in the early Hopalong Cassidy films, and was replaced in that series by Russell Hayden.  Ellison was groomed to become a bigger name by Paramount, 20th Century Fox and RKO, but he was unable to fully make the transition to a star of A grade features. In the early 1950s, he was the second lead to Johnny Mack Brown at Monogram. He then retired and became a successful California contractor and home builder.

You'll find expanded coverage on Ellison in the 'Heroes' section on the Old Corral homepage.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above is Dennis 'Denny' 'Smoky' Moore (1908-1964), real name: Dennis Meadows.  Moore couldn't land a job as a solo hero in a cowboy series.  He did a brief stint as one of the three heroes at the tail end of the Monogram Range Busters series. Later at Monogram, he was the saddle pal to Jimmy Wakely. When Johnny Mack Brown left Universal, Moore came in to give Tex Ritter a hand in a film or two. And PRC used Moore several times as the helper to both George Houston and Bob Livingston in the Lone Rider series.  Moore had better luck in cliffhangers, and was the hero in several, including RAIDERS OF GHOST CITY (Universal, 1944) and THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES (Republic, 1945).  A decade later, Moore was the star/co-star in the last two serials that were filmed, BLAZING THE OVERLAND TRAIL (Columbia, 1956) and PERILS OF THE WILDERNESS (Columbia, 1956).

Moore also had a lot of screen time as a villain, and you'll find "more on Moore" in the Villains & Supporting Players section on the Old Corral.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above from L-to-R are Jim Bannon, Whip Wilson and Phyllis Coates.  Bannon (1911-1986) was the hero of the serial DANGERS OF THE CANADIAN MOUNTED (Republic, 1948) and was the trail pard to Whip Wilson in his later Monogram films.  He also portrayed Red Ryder in a brief series around 1950 for Eagle-Lion films, and played 'Uncle Sandy North' in the short-lived ADVENTURES OF CHAMPION TV show for Gene Autry's Flying A production company in the 1950s.  In the 1950s, Bannon was the lead in a proposed Red Ryder TV show and a pilot episode was filmed.  But the series never made it onto the little screen.

You'll find expanded coverage on Bannon in the 'Heroes' section on the Old Corral homepage.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above, Georgia born Raymond Otis 'Ray' Whitley (1901-1979) was a great western singer and songwriter ... he was in films with George O'Brien, Tim Holt, Jimmy Wakely, Rod Cameron, more, where he was the hero's helper or just around to add western tunes.  Among Whitley's songwriting credits is Gene Autry's theme song, I'm Back In The Saddle Again.  Whitley did star in some western musical shorts in the mid 1940s.  But the same question arises (as with Bob Nolan): how come Whitley didn't get a shot at being a full-fledged screen hero?

You'll find expanded coverage on Whitley in the 'Heroes' section on the Old Corral homepage.

Whitley is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  When you get to the site, click on 'Hall of Fame':

Tex Harding
(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is Tex Harding (1918-1981) (real name: John Karl Thye). He was the "singing sidekick" to Charles Starrett in about a half dozen Durango Kid escapades in the mid 1940s, and Harding also did a Durango in the late 1940s.

Harding's singing was probably dubbed and the real voice doing Tex's songs belonged to James T. 'Bud' Nelson (born January 28, 1914, Brooklyn, New York, passed away March 13, 1994, Las Vegas, Nevada). Nelson did appear onscreen in bit and background roles in several of the Durango Kid films.

Several folks have asked about the paint hoss ridden by Harding in those Durango Kids - it was horse trainer Ralph McCutcheon's Diablo, which in later years, became the primary mount used by Duncan Renaldo in his Cisco Kid films at United Artists as well as the Cisco Kid TV program. Gene Autry also used Diablo in THE STRAWBERRY ROAN (Columbia, 1948) and it was ridden by George J. Lewis in Autry's THE BIG SOMBRERO (Columbia, 1949). There's more on Diablo in the Trusty Steeds/Movie Horses section on the Old Corral.

Les Adams adds some trivia about Harding: Dorothy Dix, the leading lady to Ken Maynard in WHEELS OF DESTINY and DRUM TAPS, Gene Autry in GUNS AND GUITARS, Bob Steele in NEVADA BUCKAROO, and Buck Jones in SUNSET OF POWER was Tex Harding's sister. Must have been quite a gap in their ages as she made her last film in 1936 and his first was 1945.

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Tex Harding:

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and the death certificate provide more on Dorothy Thye (Dorothy Dix) and John Thye (Tex Harding):

  • 1920 census: living in Peoria, Illinois are 42 year old Carl M. Thye (born Denmark), his 39 year old wife Matilda J. (born Denmark), 11 year old daughter Marie L. (born Illinois), 9 year old daughter Dorothy M. (born Illinois), 1 year old son John K. (born Illinois), and a servant:
  • 1930 census: living in Los Angeles, California are 50 year old Carl J. M. Thye (born Denmark), his 47 year old wife Mathelde (born Denmark), 21 year old daughter Marie (born Illinois), 19 year old daughter Dorothy (born Illinois), and 12 year old son John (born Illinois):
    Ancestry had the 1930 census takers worksheet: they own their home at 1545 Laurel Avenue, Los Angeles. Father Carl's occupation is "Proprietor - Meat Market".
  • 1940 census: 22 year old John Thye (born Illinois), his 28 year old sister Dorothy (born Illinois), 30 year old divorced sister Marie Lane and her 10 year old daughter Beverly are renting at 7922 Norton, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, California. John Thye is single; has two years of college; his occupation is "Butcher - Retail meat market", and in 1939, he worked 52 weeks and earned $1560.00. Dorothy is single; completed four years of high school; her occupation is "Designer - Millinery" and she reported no earnings in 1939:
    1940 census takers worksheet:
  • January 13, 1951 Los Angeles County, California marriage license of 33 year old John Karl Thye (born Illinois) to 29 year old Margo Lea Grutsch (born Missouri). Thye lives in West Los Angeles; is single; parents were Carl J. M. Thye and Matilda Jensen (both born Denmark). Margo's maiden name was Brehm; she is divorced and this is her second marriage:
  • There's a record in the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for: John Thye was born January 4, 1918, passed away April, 1981, and his last residence was in Spangle, Washington.
  • Death certificate: 63 year old John K. Thye passed away on April 28, 1981 at St. Luke's Memorial Hospital, Spokane, Washington. His residence was Spangle, Washington; he was married and wife was LaVon Lancaster; he was born January 4, 1918 in Illinois; parents were Carl J. M. Thye and Mathilda Sorensen; he was not a veteran; his occupation was "Meat Cutter - Supermarket". He passed away from respiratory arrest, cerebral metastasis, and also suffered from prostate cancer. Death certificate informant was LaVon Thye, Spangle, Washington. Thornhill and Langbahn Funeral Home (in Spokane) was in charge and cremation at Ball and Dodd Crematory.

Rand Brooks (1918-2003) portrayed 'Lucky Jenkins' to William Boyd in the last dozen Hopalong Cassidy oaters which were released by United Artists in the mid to late 1940s. Brooks, whose full name was Arlington Rand Brooks, Jr., was also 'Corporal Randy Boone' in THE ADVENTURES OF RIN TIN TIN TV show. In the late 1930s, he was at MGM doing teen roles in the Andy Hardy films and more. His most remembered role is probably as 'Charles Hamilton', the ill-fated first husband of Scarlett O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND (MGM, 1939).

Brooks' first marriage was to Stan Laurel's daughter Lois. After he left Hollywood, Brooks formed Professional Ambulance Service which grew into the largest private ambulance provider in Los Angeles County. He sold the company in the mid 1990s and he and his second wife Hermaine retired to the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara, California. Brooks passed away on September 1, 2003.

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website includes information on Brooks' interment at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California:

  Although some of the data may be incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Rand Brooks:

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