Roy Barcroft, the best 'bad guy' in the business, had been Rex's adversary in ARIZONA COWBOY, UNDER MEXACALI STARS, RODEO KING AND THE SENORITA, UTAH WAGON TRAIN, BORDER SADDLEMATES, OLD OKLAHOMA PLAINS, SOUTH PACIFIC TRAIL and OLD OVERLAND TRAIL, and would provide much of the evil in the next three of Rex's pictures as well.
"Roy was an old softie, really, and a fine actor," Rex said. "Roy was just one of my favorite people, and everybody loved Roy. Roy was a good actor, quick study. You know, they'd just run Roy from one picture to the other, to anything. I begged Mr. Yates one time," he said, referring to Republic chief Herbert Yates, "I said, 'Please, let him play a good guy just once and fool all the kids,' you know. And he said, 'They'd never believe it.'" Rex grinned. "The funny thing is this smart cowboy, you know, goes in and he's tryin' to solve all these crimes and figure out what's wrong, and every kid in the audience knows, the minute they see him (Barcroft) on the screen, that he's the guy that did it."
Rex is a postal inspector in IRON MOUNTAIN TRAIL, Barcroft is captain of a clipper ship competing with a stage line for the mail contract, and Nan Leslie (Tim Holt's frequent leading lady at RKO) is the daughter of a stageline owner. DOWN LAREDO WAY has Rex and Slim as performers in a circus where the star acrobat (Clayton Moore, during his hiatus from the LONE RANGER TV series) is killed to conceal yet another smuggling racket and Dona Drake plays a gypsy who gives Rex a run for his money. SHADOW OF TOMBSTONE have them taking on a crooked sheriff in league with Barcroft as a saloon owner; they are alternately hindered and helped by a newspaper woman played by Jeanne Cooper. In RED RIVER SHORE, Rex is a lawman himself, Slim is his deputy, and Lyn Thomas provides the good looks.
Next year's PHANTOM STALLION, in which the leading lady (Carla Balenda) is on the wrong side of the law, ended the Rex Allen movies, and marked the ending of Republic's B western series.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above is an autographed title card for THE PHANTOM STALLION (Republic, 1954). This was Rex Allen's nineteenth and last film for Republic Pictures ... and the last series westerns that was done by Republic. Allen was under a Term Players Contract(s) at Republic from March, 1949 through October, 1953.
Rex then became Dr. Bill Baxter for the television series, FRONTIER DOCTOR, which used a lot of Republic stock footage for its action. There were 39 half-hour episodes in all.
Although Rex's future appearances were limited to some minor films like I DREAM OF JEANIE (1952, about song writer Stephen Foster), FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE (1960), TOMBOY AND THE CHAMP (1961), SWAMP COUNTRY (1966), and Purina Dog Chow TV ads, his deep Western-accented voice was around for some 150 film and short subject narrations, mainly for Walt Disney's nature shorts and features like THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY.
"Actually started by accident," Rex said. "I ran into Walt at a banquet one night. I had never met him and, throughout the conversation, he said 'Have you ever thought about maybe narrating some films?' And I said 'No, not really,' and he said 'Well, I'd like to try you out.' He said 'We're doing one now that I'd like to try you on and, if the opportunity comes around, drop by the studios sometime.' And I beat him back to the studio!" Rex said. "Over the years, I've done probably over 150 of those natures things there," he said. "It's been a nice 30-year relationship. They're beautiful people."
Rex has a son, Rex Allen, Jr., who is also a musical entertainer.
Rex passed away December 17, 1999.
(Courtesy of Bill Sasser)
Above, a smiling Rex Allen responds to questions from his fans at Knoxville, 1988.
(Courtesy of Bill Sasser)
Above, pretty Mary Ellen Kay, who was the heroine in six of the Rex Allen westerns, was a guest at the 1999 Charlotte Film Fest.
Most of the info on the Old Corral about the contracts and salaries at Republic Pictures has been gleaned from Jack Mathis' excellent Republic Confidential, Volume 2, The Players (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1992), and I've given Jack credit in the Acknowledgements & Thanks page. The Mathis book includes information on Rex Allen's term player agreements with Republic, and following are the highlights:
The Motion Picture Herald and BoxOffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s. With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars. In most cases, the winners were what you would expect --- Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc. Rex Allen was one of the "Top Ten" sagebrush heroes in the 1950s.
|Popularity Rankings of Rex Allen|
|Year||Motion Picture Herald Poll Ranking||Boxoffice Poll Ranking|
Stan Lawrence sent an e-mail in early 2004 about Rex's 1950 appearance in Stan's hometown and local theater:
"I was a young boy, probably about ten years old, circa 1950, when the only Western movie star that I remember, during that glory era, to ever come to our little hometown of Lompoc (pronounced Lom-poke), California, so you know that this was a big deal to us. The Western movie star, Rex Allen, paraded up about ten blocks through town on his horse in full Western regalia, excitingly followed by young kids the whole way to the town movie theater.
We all went to the Lompoc Theater and were anxiously seated waiting to see him, as he was to appear in the theater to talk to all of the kids. The theater was completely filled with excited kids.
There was no one on the lit stage, when suddenly a hand with a six-shooter appeared from behind the theater curtain and Rex Allen fired the gun, shooting across the stage. Wow! I think every kid there flew about two feet off of their theater seat and we all laughed about it later, but he sure endeared himself to us that day and he was certainly one of our favorite Western stars after that performance!
Ross Pittman sent a nice e-mail remembering his encounter with Rex Allen in the 1950s:
"In the late '50s, I worked for a television station KPLC in Lake Charles, Louisiana doing film editing, projectionist, etc. A rodeo promoter whose name was Tommy Stiner (I think) put on a rodeo each year at the college arena. It was either '58 or '59 that Rex was the star performer. He came by the station a couple of afternoons to do an on camera promotion for the rodeo during a kids show that ran every afternoon.
Each time he came to the station, I recall that he wore the pair of silver plated pistols with some type of metallic handles. As I remember, he said someone had specially made them for him. They were beautiful along with the holster and gunbelt. He always wore colorful outfits and was one of the most friendly and cordial celebrities I had the opportunity to meet. I will always remember him and that meeting.
I was also a student at the college, now McNeese State University, and after class one morning decided to go by the stables and look over the rodeo stock. That was when I came upon a stable housing Rex's horse Koko. After talking with his handler about old western movies and actors, he allowed me to pet Koko. I guess the handler decided he could trust me to get that close to Koko and that I would do him no harm. That was one beautiful horse."
Lansing Sexton reports on Rex Allen's comics:
Rex Allen's first comic appearance was an unusual one. He graced the cover of Standard Comics Western Hearts issue #3 dated June 1950, holding hands with an attractive cowgirl. Insofar as I know, the comic itself had nothing to do with Rex.
Rex's next appearance was in Dell Publishing's Four-Color anthology series #316, February 1951. Dell continued with Rex Allen #2 September/November 1951. The series concluded with issue #31 December/February 1958-59.
All 31 issues have photo covers; some have typical action shots while others have relaxed, offbeat shots of Rex pouring a cup of coffee (#15), playing the banjo (#9), or polishing his boots (#3) which accurately reflect his laid back charm. Issues FC #316, 2-12, 20 and 21 have photo back covers.
Rex also appeared in Dell's Western Roundup beginning with issue #1, dated June 1952. Rex appeared through issue #21, published in early 1958. All these issues featured head shots of Rex and his compadres Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Johnny Mack Brown and Wild Bill Elliott. The first 14 issues and issues 16 and 18 also have photo back covers.
Rex appeared once again in Dell's Four-Color series with issue #877 dated February 1958 devoted to his TV series FRONTIER DOCTOR. The cover shows Rex with medical bag in hand under the title 'Frontier Doctor featuring Rex Allen'.
A fine run by a cowboy who came late to the series' western but made a substantial contribution to its annals.