(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Rex with one of his trusty steeds during his 1930s oaters for Monogram, Resolute, and Normandy/Colony Pictures. You can spot Bell riding this "white horse with a mottled face" in films including (FROM) BROADWAY TO CHEYENNE (Monogram, 1932), THE TONTO KID (Resolute, 1935), IDAHO KID (Colony, 1936), and LAW AND LEAD (Colony, 1936). He rode a plain white steed with few markings in WEST OF NEVADA (Colony, 1936).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Rex and moustached George Ball are having a disagreement in this lobby card from TOO MUCH BEEF (Normandy, 1936).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Rex and his sidekick "Walla Walla Wiggins" are guarding the trail in this scene from WEST OF NEVADA (Colony, 1936). Recognize Bell's saddle pal? That's Al St. John sans the beard and moustache that he would adopt to become "Fuzzy Q. Jones" with Crabbe, LaRue, others. Crop / blowup below of Bell and St. John.
After a year or so break, Bell signed on with Max and Art Alexander, the brother team who were bosses of Poverty Row film companies named Beacon ... then Normandy ... and finally, Colony Pictures. After Bell's brief series, Max and Art brought Ken Maynard back to the screen in films like THE PHANTOM RANCHER. In the 1940s, Arthur was in charge of some of the Texas Rangers series at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC).
Bell's half-dozen for the Alexander brothers were:
Robert Hill directed five, while Sam Newfield helmed STORMY TRAILS. Most of these films were released through Grand National. Note that lobby cards displayed above and on subsequent pages mention 'Colony Pictures' while others have 'Normandy Pictures'.
A year or so earlier, the Alexander Brothers (under their Beacon and Normandy company names), had Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams starring in westerns. In THE LAW OF 45's (Normandy/First Division, 1935), 'Big Boy' was 'Two-Gun Smith', Al St. John portrayed 'Stoney Martin', and the story was based on the 1933 Three Mesquiteers novel of the same name by William Colt MacDonald. (Click HERE for a photo of 'Big Boy' and St. John.) That same year, RKO came out with POWDERSMOKE RANGE (1935), based on another of MacDonald's writings. These were the first movie versions of that intrepid trio, the Three Mesquiteers. TOO MUCH BEEF was also based on a MacDonald Mesquiteers story, but Bell plays it solo as 'Tucson Smith'. Robert Hill directed and also wrote the TOO MUCH BEEF screenplay (under the pseudonym of 'Rock Hawley').
Rex Bell's time as a western movie hero was over. His starring western count was small - only 22 oaters released during 1928 - 1936 (four silents at Fox, eight for Monogram, four for Resolute and six for Max and Art Alexander).
He retired to his Nevada ranch, but the reason for his exit remains unclear ... at least to me. Were there no more movie roles offered ... was Bell tired of the Hollywood grind, and decided that Nevada and ranch life were more fun and fruitful ... was he concerned about Clara and decided he needed to devote more time to her?
We do know that in the mid 1930s, Gene Autry had arrived via the newly formed Republic Pictures company. We also know that both major and minor production companies had hopped on the singing cowboy bandwagon, and were churning out flicks starring the likes of Fred Scott (for Spectrum) and Bob Baker (at Universal). Republic also introduced another singing western series in 1938, when Roy Rogers arrived in UNDER WESTERN STARS. Rex Bell wasn't a cowboy crooner and a guitar picker.
Bill Russell adds some thoughts about Bell's exit from films:
"I think Bell really wanted to get back to ranching and real cowboying, his first love. He was also politically oriented and wanted to get into politics. He also felt the need to get back home to take care of Clara, who was undergoing her problems. And I also think his career was pretty much over, thanks to the coming of the singing cowboy craze."
In the early 1940s, Bell returned to Tinseltown for a few more film roles. Producer Harry Sherman (Hopalong Cassidy films) coaxed the near forty-year old Bell back to the screen in 1942 to play alongside Richard Dix in Paramount's TOMBSTONE - THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (and Bell portrayed Virgil Earp). Little Monogram Pictures had resurrected itself around 1937 after the original firm had merged to form Republic Pictures, and their cinema range riders included Jack Randall, Tex Ritter, and the Range Busters. Monogram production supervisor Scott R. Dunlap was a close friend of Buck Jones and they had formed the Rough Riders which featured Buck, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton as a trio of lawman. Eight Rough Riders films were released in 1941-1942, but the series ended prematurely when Colonel McCoy returned to the military for World War II duty. Jones and Hatton reprised their roles in DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE (1942), a 'Monogram special' that had a running time of about 63 minutes. Bell was added as the third member, but he was now over forty, and his boyish good looks were gone. Whatever future plans (if any) Dunlap and Monogram had for Buck, Ray and Rex ended with Jones' tragic death in the November, 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston. Years later, Bell made brief appearances in a pair of A grade features starring his friend Clark Gable: LONESTAR (MGM, 1952) and THE MISFITS (UA, 1961).
Rex and Clara gave up ranch life and their ranch in the mid 1940s, and moved into Las Vegas. But Clara's physical/mental problems continued to plague her, and she returned to California around 1950 to live out her remaining years separated from Rex but near her California doctor. The two never divorced.
Bell opened some clothing stores, lost a Republican bid for Congress in 1944, had a TV show, was an unofficial ambassador of goodwill for the State of Nevada, and became heavily involved in Republican politics. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Nevada in 1954 and won again in 1958. Rex Bell passed away from a heart attack on July 4, 1962 during the early stages of his campaign for the Nevada Governor's seat. Clara Bow passed away on September 26, 1965. They are interred together at Forest Lawn - Glendale, California.
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 Bell never achieved a ranking in these polls. It should be noted that these polls did not begin until 1936, which was the year that Bell made his final starring western film series.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above are Steve Clark (on the left) and Bell in a scene from DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE (Monogram, 1942). DAWN was the final oater for Buck Jones who died from injuries suffered in the November 28, 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston.
(Courtesy of Larry Imber)
|On the left is an ad for Bell's western TV show. KECA-TV is in Los Angeles.|
The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946 - Present, 7th Edition, by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (Ballantine Books, 1999) notes that this children's show began as a local program in Los Angeles, but was picked up by ABC and ran Sundays at 6:00 - 6:30, from October, 1950 through December 31, 1950. The show consisted of demonstrations of real cowboy and Indian folklore, and was filmed in indoor and outdoor settings including a corral and Indian village.
|Rex Bell Filmography|
Sound Films Only
Black = Westerns
Green = Shorts
Blue = Other films
Red = Serials
Special thanks to Les Adams for providing this filmography
|Date||Title||Company||Director||Star||Leading Lady||Bell Role|
|4/15/29||JOY STREET||Fox Film Corp.||Raymond Cannon||Lois Moran||Lois Moran||Eddie|
|7/1/29||PLEASURE CRAZED||Fox Film Corp.||Donald Gallagher||Marguerite Churchill||N/A||Peters|
|9/1/29||SALUTE||Fox Film Corp.||John Ford||George O'Brien||N/A||Cadet|
|9/8/29||THEY HAD TO SEE PARIS||Fox Film Corp.||Frank Borzage||Will Rogers||N/A||Clark McCurdy|
|2/1/30||HARMONY AT HOME||Fox Film Corp.||Hamilton McFadden||Rex Bell||Charlotte Henry||Dick Grant|
|2/13/30||HAPPY DAYS||Fox Film Corp.||Benjamin Stoloff||Charles Evans||N/A||Himself|
|5/25/30||TRUE TO THE NAVY||Paramount||Frank Tuttle||Clara Bow||N/A||Eddie|
|5/31/30||COURAGE||Warners||Archie Mayo||Belle Bennett||Marion Nixon||Lynn Willard|
|12/7/30||LIGHTNIN'||Fox Film Corp.||Henry King||Will Rogers||N/A||Ronald|
|11/23/31||BATTLING WITH BUFFALO BILL||Universal||Ray Taylor||Tom Tyler||N/A||Dave Archer|
|11/25/31||FORGOTTEN WOMEN||Monogram||Richard Thorpe||Rex Bell||Marion Shilling||Jimmy Burke|
|12/15/31||LAW OF THE SEA||Monogram||Otto Brower||William Farnum||Sally Blane||2nd Lead|
|4/20/32||ARM OF THE LAW||Monogram||Louis King||Rex Bell||Lina Basquette||Reporter|
|9/10/32||BROADWAY TO CHEYENNE (see footnote)||Monogram||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Marceline Day||Jimmy "Breezy" Kildare|
|10/21/32||MAN FROM ARIZONA, THE||Monogram||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Neoma Judge||Jim Sutton|
|12/1/32||LUCKY LARRIGAN||Monogram||J. P. McCarthy||Rex Bell||Helen Foster||Craig "Lucky" Larrigan|
|12/30/32||CRASHIN' BROADWAY (see footnote)||Monogram||J. P. McCarthy||Rex Bell||Doris Hill||Ted Wallace|
|3/3/33||HOLLYWOOD ON PARADE - No. 8||Paramount||Louis Lewyn||Helen Kane||N/A||Himself|
|4/25/33||DIAMOND TRAIL, THE||Monogram||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Frances Rich||Speed Morgan (Frisco Eddie)|
|7/15/33||FUGITIVE, THE||Monogram||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Cecilia Parker||Star|
|7/25/33||RAINBOW RANCH||Monogram||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Cecilia Parker||Edward Randall|
|7/26/33||FIGHTING TEXANS||Monogram||Armand Schaefer||Rex Bell||Luana Walters||Randy Graves|
|8/15/34||TONTO KID, THE||Resolute||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Ruth Mix||Skeet Slawson (The Tonto Kid)|
|12/1/34||GUNFIRE||Resolute||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Ruth Mix||Jerry Dunbar|
|5/21/35||FIGHTING PIONEERS||Resolute||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Ruth Mix||Lt. Bentley|
|6/2/35||SADDLE ACES||Resolute||Harry Fraser||Rex Bell||Ruth Mix||Steve Brandt|
|6/5/35||BORDER VENGEANCE||Kent||Ray Heinz||Reb Russell||N/A||Rodeo Guest Star|
|6/6/36||TOO MUCH BEEF||Normandy||Robert Hill||Rex Bell||Connie Bergen||Johnny Argyle (Tucson Smith)|
|7/21/36||WEST OF NEVADA||Colony||Robert Hill||Rex Bell||Joan Barclay||Jim Lloyd|
|8/6/36||IDAHO KID||Colony||Robert Hill||Rex Bell||Marion Shilling||Todd "Idaho" Hollister|
|9/29/36||MEN OF THE PLAINS||Colony||Robert Hill||Rex Bell||Joan Barclay||Jim Dean|
|11/11/36||LAW AND LEAD||Colony||Robert Hill||Rex Bell||Harley Wood||Jimmy Sawyer|
|12/23/36||STORMY TRAILS||Colony||Sam Newfield||Rex Bell||Lois Wilde||Tom Storm|
|1/23/37||CINEMA CIRCUS||M-G-M||Roy Rowland||Lee Tracy||N/A||Himself|
|6/13/42||TOMBSTONE - THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE||Paramount||William McGann||Richard Dix||N/A||Virgil Earp|
|12/18/42||DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE||Monogram||Howard Bretherton||Buck Jones||N/A||Jack Carson|
|2/8/52||LONE STAR||M-G-M||Vincent Sherman||Clark Gable||N/A||Cattleman|
|7/4/61||MISFITS, THE||M-G-M||John Huston||Clark Gable||N/A||Himself|
In the Monogram film opening credits, CRASHIN' BROADWAY is the title of the film. But I do have a poster which shows CRASHING BROADWAY.
BROADWAY TO CHEYENNE is the title shown in the film opening credits, but there are posters which show the title as FROM BROADWAY TO CHEYENNE.