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Saddle Pals & Sidekicks

(Image courtesy of Jack Tillmany)

Above - Frank Rice (with a moustache) circa 1934.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above are a stern Tom Tyler and a clean shaven Frank Rice (as Tyler's sidekick "Banty") in a crop from a lobby card from TERROR OF THE PLAINS (Reliable, 1934).

If his 1892 birth year is correct, Rice was about 42 years old when he did this Tyler oater.
Frank Rice

Full name: Frank Thomas Rice

1892 - 1936

Frank Rice was born in Muskegon, Michigan in 1892 and passed away January 9, 1936 in Los Angeles of nephritis and hepatitis (both of which affect the kidneys).

Rice began film work in silents, doing bit and supporting roles in various films, including oaters starring Jack Hoxie, Bill Cody, Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard, Pete Morrison and Buck Jones. In the late 1920s, he settled in as the mature helper/sidekick to youngster Buzz Barton in Buzz's series at Film Booking Office (FBO).

During the 1930s, Rice continued his saddle pal duties, appearing most frequently with Buck Jones and Ken Maynard. But he also assisted or had support roles in westerns with Tom Keene at RKO, Reliable's Jack Perrin and Tom Tyler, Tim McCoy at Columbia, at Fox with George O'Brien, and with John Wayne in his Warners series.

I went through Rice's film listing on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and chuckled at his many screen names which included "Taterbug Watson", "Amos Butts", "Pinwheel", "Banty", "Sagebrush", "Thirsty", "Nevady", "Thunder" ... along with "Shorty" and "Shrimp". He's listed in about 130 silent and sound films during the period from 1912-1936. In about a third of those films, Rice is working with Barton, Hoxie, Maynard and Jones.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Frank Rice:

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), and the death certificate provide more on Frank Rice:

  • Michigan birth ledger (not the birth certificate) for Frank Rice, born May 13, 1892 in Muskegon, Michigan:
  • World War I draft registration dated June 5, 1917 - 25 year old Frank Thomas Rice was born May 13, 1892 in Muskegon, Michigan. He is single; lives at 690 Wasco, Portland, Oregon; and occupation/employer is "Carpenter - Coast Ship Bldg Co., Portland, Oregon":
  • 1930 census - 37 year old Frank T. Rice (born Michigan) is divorced and one of many lodgers living in a rooming house or hotel in Los Angeles:
    Ancestry had the 1930 census takers worksheet - Frank T. Rice is among dozens of roomers/boarders at the Bonnie Briar Hotel, 6806 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. Occupation was "Actor - Motion Pictures" and he was not a military veteran.
  • Death certificate - Frank Thomas Rice passed away on January 9, 1936 at the Los Angeles General Hospital. He was born May 13, 1892 in Muskegon, Michigan to Albert and Mary Rice. An autopsy was performed and cause of death was "toxic hepatitis and nephritis of undertermined origin". Death certificate informant was his wife Louise Rice, and they resided at 6364 Yucca, Los Angeles. Burial at Valhalla Cemetery.
  • The California Death Index for 1905-1939 contains an entry for Frank T. Rice who passed on January 9, 1936.

Rice's 1892 birth year surprised me. I recently viewed about a half dozen of his 1930s westerns ... and he looks older.

Tall, and wearin' a big floppy hat and sometimes sporting a large moustache, Frank Rice is one of the less remembered cowboy hero helpers and supporting players.

(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above - Ken Maynard is doing some fiddlin' in what else, THE FIDDLIN' BUCKAROO (Universal, 1933). Playing the harmonica is Frank Rice (as Ken's sidekick "Banty").

(From Old Corral image collection)

In TERROR OF THE PLAINS (Reliable, 1934), Tom Tyler has his right arm around Charles "Slim" Whitaker and his left arm is restraining William Gould. In the background: Herman Hack is on the left with arms raised; Silver Tip Baker has the handlebar moustache; Robert Walker (as the sheriff) is on horseback in the far right background; in the far right foreground, tallish Frank Rice (portraying Tyler's sidekick "Banty") has a hold on an unidentified player.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Buck Jones, Charlotte Wynters and Frank Rice (as "Pike") in a re-release lobby card for THE IVORY-HANDLED GUN (Universal, 1935). This was among the last half-dozen or so film appearances for Rice who passed away on January 9, 1936.

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