(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Ritter has the drop on Earl Dwire in a lobby card from HITTIN' THE TRAIL (Grand National, 1937), which was directed by Robert North Bradbury, Bob Steele's father.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
|From L-to-R are Snub Pollard, Tex and Horace Murphy ridin' a boxcar in UTAH TRAIL (Grand National, 1938), the last of the dozen films that Ritter and Ed Finney made which were released by Grand National. Ritter's next would be a Monogram.|
There is a good deal of criticism about the quality and variety of Ritter's sidekicks --- there was a 'musical chairs' going on with his screen helpers. During the 32 films at Grand National and Monogram, Tex rode the trail briefly with Fuzzy Knight, Syd Saylor, Roscoe Ates, and Hank Worden. But his most frequent saddle pals were Horace Murphy (15 films) and the moustached silent comedian Snub Pollard (12 films). Murphy's role was as 'Stubby' or 'Ananias', while Pollard used 'Pee Wee' as his moniker. Lloyd 'Arkansas Slim' Andrews (with his trusty mule Josephine) arrived in Monogram #11, RHYTHM OF THE RIO GRANDE (Monogram, 1940) and sidekicked in ten films.
Andrews and Ritter became good friends, and 'Slim' often went on personal appearances with Tex. Tex and Hank Worden were off-screen pals, and their friendship dated back to 1930 when both appeared in the play Green Grow The Lilacs.
Les Adams adds: in addition to Heber Snow (Hank Worden), the Broadway cast of Green Grow The Lilacs also included Tex Cooper, Chick Hannan and Everett Cheetham. Around this time, Hank was also the chauffeur for Harvey Firestone. According to Hank, he and Hannan drifted west into movies together.
Monogram even provided some additional helpers to Tex --- Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys did some tunes in TAKE ME BACK TO OKLAHOMA (Monogram, 1940) ... and a little moppet named Sugar Dawn came on board to provide some juvenile appeal in a couple, PALS OF THE SILVER SAGE (Monogram, 1940) and THE GOLDEN TRAIL (Monogram, 1940).
One of the notes that I received from Ed Finney included figures on production costs. He recalled that the Grand National films were done for about $12,000-$13,000, while the Monograms ranged from about $15,000 to $35,000.
In the action department, Yak Canutt and Wally West doubled for Tex, but many of the fight scenes were all Ritter, with that long, straight hair falling into his eyes, as he clobbered the daylights out of Charlie King, Slim Whitaker and others.
Overall, the Grand National and Monogram series were consistently inconsistent, with some good ones, some bad 'uns. The 'rotating' sidekick situation didn't help. And Al Herman, who did 18 of the 32 films, was not the most creative director. Finney and director Herman were close, and on several occasions, Ed praised Al Herman for his work on the Ritter oaters.
However, the theater owners and ticket buyers didn't seem to notice these flaws for the Motion Picture Herald and BoxOffice poll results show that Tex was pretty darn popular (poll results by year are included on one of the following webpages) ... but he was never able to beat out Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above - In the above saloon brawl from UTAH TRAIL (Grand National, 1938), Charlie King seems to be admiring Tex's boots. In the upper right are Ritter's sidekicks, Horace Murphy (tall hat) and Snub Pollard (handlebar moustache). Sandwiched between Murphy and Pollard is George Morrell, and wearing the dark suit jacket and hat in the photo center is Fred Parker. On the far left with the white hat is Denver Dixon/Victor Adamson. Center rear wearing the black coat and hat is Fred Parker.
Above is the Grand National clocktower logo.
On the right is a tradepaper blurb from May 10, 1938 on the legal entanglements in the move of Ed Finney and Ritter to Monogram. The article mentions that 10 Ritter films had been produced to date. A total of 12 Ritter films would be released by Grand National.
Les Adams adds: evidently Finney and Ritter (and Monogram) were pretty sure on what the Judge would rule as both had appeared before the exhibitors and exchange people the day before in Cincinnati (at Monogram's national convention) as part of the intros for the upcoming Monogram production schedule.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Left is Edward Finney (1903-1983).
Ritter and Ed Finney parted company after working together for about five years and 32 films. Tex headed over to Columbia Pictures for a more lucrative picture deal. Little Monogram, who had needed Tex to bolster their rather weak western offerings during the late 1930s didn't miss a beat when Tex departed in early 1941. For their 1941-1942 western season, they quickly arranged for the return of Tom Keene for a series of eight. But the big news was a couple of new trio series --- the Range Busters, with Ray 'Crash' Corrigan and Max Terhune of Republic Three Mesquiteers fame along with singer John 'Dusty' King, had debuted in 1940 and was doing well ... and Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton would soon be united as the 'Rough Riders'.