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Fred Harman's Red Ryder ®
Movies, TV, Radio, Newspapers, and Comic Books



(From Old Corral image collection)



(From Old Corral image collection)



Red Ryder® and Little Beaver® are trademarks of Red Ryder Enterprises, Inc., 1111 North Westshore Boulevard, Suite 604, Tampa, FL 33607




(Courtesy of Bill Willett)

Above is Fred Harman, the creator of Red Ryder, saddled up on his 'Thunder' in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, circa 1949.
The Red Ryder newspaper comic strip by Fred Harman ran from 1938-1964 and was the basis for a popular series of silver screen adventures.  Republic Pictures had entered into an agreement with Stephen Slesinger (who owned the rights to the comic strip), and the initial film from this collaboration was the twelve chapter cliffhanger ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER (Republic, 1940). Included in the agreement were several options and price escalators for continued use of the Red Ryder character, and Republic did exercise several of these options for their later Red Ryder series westerns with Bill Elliott and Allan Lane.

The first cinema 'redhead' was Don Barry in the 1940 Republic serial (and that's where he picked up the moniker of 'Red' which would stay with him the rest of his life).

And from 1944-1947, Republic released twenty three Red Ryder B westerns, with the initial sixteen starring Bill Elliott and a final seven with Allan Lane.  Robert 'Bobby' Blake played 'Little Beaver' in all twenty three films.  Viewed as an entire series, these are a fine batch of sagebrush adventures, and represent Republic at the peak of their western film-making efforts.

Bobby Copeland adds: Republic intended to continue production on the Red Ryder westerns (with Allan Lane), but an option-renewal date with the copyright owner was overlooked in 1947 due to a clerical error.  Contacted several days past the due date once the oversight was discovered, the owner agreed to a continuing relationship, but wanted higher royalty payments.  The studio executives objected to the increase, thus ending the series at Republic.  They immediately started the Allan 'Rocky' Lane series which consisted of 38 films.

The last cinema Red Ryder was Jim Bannon in a brief series for Eagle-Lion circa 1949-1950, and all four were done in Cinecolor, a two-strip color process (similar to Republic's TruColor) that was much less expensive than the more traditonal three-strip Technicolor.

Both Lane and Bannon reprised their Red Ryder roles in failed (unsold) TV pilots during the 1950s (more details below on the proposed TV shows).

There was also a long-running Red Ryder radio program, which ran from 1942 until the early 1950s (more details below on the radio show).

In addition to films, TV, radio and the newspaper comic strip, Red Ryder was featured in comic books, Whitman books, the famous Daisy B-B gun (which I had and wore out), more.

Over the years, there have been a number of fictional characters that were brought to the screen. But as I look back over my sixty+ years of life, Red Ryder remains one of my most positive memories.  I remember seeing the films on 1950s television - the RR features were sold to TV by Republic's Hollywood Television Service releasing arm. And there were comic books ... and the newspaper comic strip ... and that great Daisy air rifle that I shot a gazillion B-Bs through while I was 'defending the west' in my Georgia back yard.

A special thanks and salute to Fred Harman, the creator of Red Ryder, for making those memories possible.



Who portrayed whom in the serial, features and TV pilots
Red Ryder serial, film or TV show: Portrayed Red Ryder: Portrayed Little Beaver: Portrayed "The Duchess", Red's Aunt:
1940 12 chapter serial from Republic Pictures Don Barry Tommy Cook Maude Pierce Allen
16 features released 1944 - 1946 by Republic Pictures Wild Bill Elliott Robert "Bobby" Blake Alice Fleming
7 features released 1946 - 1947 by Republic Pictures Allan Lane Robert "Bobby" Blake Martha Wentworth
4 features released 1949 - 1950 by Eagle-Lion Jim Bannon Don Kay "Little Brown Jug" Reynolds Marin Sais
unsold TV pilot circa 1951 Jim Bannon Little Beaver as himself * Olive Carey
unsold TV pilot circa 1955 Allan Lane Louis Lettieri Elizabeth "Lizz" Slifer
* In Jim Bannon's book, The Son That Rose In The West (click HERE), he wrote that the producers didn't want to pay Don Kay Reynolds' price for doing Little Beaver (for the TV pilot), and brought in a youngster from Colorado that couldn't act or ride, and that all of his lines had to be later re-dubbed by some kid actor on radio. Bannon does not mention the name of the youngster who portrayed Little Beaver.



THE FILMS: 1 SERIAL AND 27 B-WESTERN
FEATURES AND 4 ACTORS PLAYED RED RYDER



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above, Don Barry was the first to portray the comic character on the silver screen in the cliffhanger, THE ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER (Republic, 1940).

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, Don Barry and Tommy Cook (as Little Beaver) in a publicity still from THE ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER serial.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Wild Bill Elliott is reminding faithful steed Thunder to eat his oats.

The 16 Red Ryder Films starring Bill Elliott

TUCSON RAIDERS (Republic, 1944)
MARSHAL OF RENO (Republic, 1944)
THE SAN ANTONIO KID (Republic, 1944)
CHEYENNE WILDCAT (Republic, 1944)
VIGILANTES OF DODGE CITY (Republic, 1944)
SHERIFF OF LAS VEGAS (Republic, 1944)
GREAT STAGECOACH ROBBERY (Republic, 1945)
LONE TEXAS RANGER (Republic, 1945)
PHANTOM OF THE PLAINS (Republic, 1945)
MARSHAL OF LAREDO (Republic, 1945)
COLORADO PIONEERS (Republic, 1945)
WAGON WHEELS WESTWARD (Republic, 1945)
CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH (Republic, 1946)
SHERIFF OF REDWOOD VALLEY (Republic, 1946)
SUN VALLEY CYCLONE (Republic, 1946)
CONQUEST OF CHEYENNE (Republic, 1946)



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, Allan Lane atop the black Thunder.

The 7 Red Ryder Films starring Allan Lane

SANTA FE UPRISING (Republic, 1946)
STAGECOACH TO DENVER (Republic, 1946)
VIGILANTES OF BOOMTOWN (Republic, 1947)
HOMESTEADERS OF PARADISE VALLEY (Republic, 1947)
OREGON TRAIL SCOUTS (Republic, 1947)
RUSTLERS OF DEVIL'S CANYON (Republic, 1947)
MARSHAL OF CRIPPLE CREEK (Republic, 1947)



(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

The last movie Red Ryder was Jim Bannon in a brief series for Eagle-Lion circa 1949-1950 which were filmed in Cinecolor. In the above photo, Bannon is galloping on Thunder.

The 4 Red Ryder Films starring Jim Bannon

RIDE, RYDER, RIDE (Eagle-Lion, 1949)
ROLL, THUNDER, ROLL (Eagle-Lion, 1949)
THE FIGHTING REDHEAD (Eagle-Lion, 1950)
THE COWBOY AND THE PRIZEFIGHTER (Eagle-Lion, 1950)


(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above, Jim Bannon at one of the 1970s film conventions.



THE TV PILOTS ... BUT NO ONGOING TV SERIES

In the 1950s, two half-hour B&W TV pilots were produced in hopes of bringing Red Ryder to the little screen ... but an ongoing series did not materialize.  Both open with a branding iron burning a Double R into a wood fence or side of a building ... and then a bullet hole appears within the first R and an arrow arrives inside the second R.

The first TV pilot starred Jim Bannon, was titled "Whiplash", and made circa 1951. Bannon appears to be wearing the same outfit that he wore when he starred in that quartet of 1949-1950 Red Ryder films for Eagle-Lion --- his outfit consisted of a single gun, chaps, and a super-sized, big brimmed white hat. Olive Carey, the wife of Harry Carey (Senior) plays the Duchess, and other cast members were Lyle Talbot and Dick Curtis as the villains, along with Monte Blue, Earle Hodgins and Kenneth MacDonald in support roles. There's lots of stock footage - for example, during the introduction at the beginning of the show, you can easily spot Tex Ritter (on White Flash) and Dave O'Brien from their PRC Texas Rangers films, as both lead a band of men that gallop into town.  At the end, Bannon leans on a hitchin' rail and gives a sales pitch to prospective sponsors of the show.  The director was Thomas A. Carr, who did a lot of work at Republic Pictures.  This had to have been made around 1951 as movie bad guy Dick Curtis passed away in January, 1952.

Another pilot with a title of "Gun Trouble Valley" starred Allan Lane.  He wears a single gun, chaps, a light colored shirt and white hat.  Louis Lettieri portrayed Little Beaver.  A very young James Best is in the cast (Best was Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the DUKES OF HAZARD TV show).  The credits at the end note a 'Red Ryder Production' and using the facilities of 'Flying A Productions' (which was Gene Autry's production company).  The director was George Archainbaud, who helmed many of the Hopalong Cassidy films as well as Gene Autry's post World War II westerns at Columbia Pictures.  The copyright date on the opening credits shows 1955, which was several years after Lane had concluded his 'Rocky' Lane series at Republic Pictures.  No mention of "Allan" in the opening credits - Lane is billed as "Rocky Lane".


THE RED RYDER COMIC BOOKS

Thx to Lansing Sexton for the following info on the Red Ryder comic book series:

The first comics (The Yellow Kid of 1897 was the first) contained reprints of newspaper comic strips and almost all comics continued to do so into the mid-1930s. A late addition to this tradition was the appearance of Dell Publishing's Crackerjack Funnies #9 (dated March 1939) with a cover featuring Fred Harman's character Red Ryder astride his horse Thunder billed as 'The Famous Fighting Cowboy'. RR continued to appear along with many other characters, through issue #35 (dated May 1941) and was mentioned on every cover in that period except #15. However, he made only one other cover illustration - #28, which featured overlapping page facsimiles of RR and three other strips. Soon, all the covers were devoted to an original comic book superhero called The Owl, just one of a flood of superheroes dominating comics after the appearance of Superman in 1938.

Meanwhile, in 1940, Republic Pictures produced the 12 chapter serial ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER starring Donald Barry, ever after known as 'Red' in the title role. The film was tagged as 'based on the famous NEA newspaper cartoon'. Dated September of the same year Hawley Publications presented Red Ryder Comics #1, featuring newspaper reprints starting with the first meeting of Red and Little Beaver. Many other unrelated newspaper strips, including King of the Royal Mounted appeared as backup features. The cover was a line drawing by Fred Harman.

In 1941, Whitman Publishing released the Red Ryder Paint Book, an oversized 8 1/2 x 11 1/2 book with 148 pages. Hawley Publishing had not immediately followed up their initial issue of Red's comic, but Red Ryder #3 (#2 was devoted to other material) finally appeared dated August 1941. With the tag line 'At last Red Ryder in his own comic magazine!' A wide array of backup features was included once again.

Starting with issue #6 (April 1942), Dell Publishing took over the comic which otherwise continued as before. Beginning with #33 (April 1946), most of the backup features were gone, and the majority of the comic belonged to Red (King of the Royal Mounted reprints continued through #73). In May 1944, Republic released the first of their Red Ryder film series with Wild Bill Elliott as Red and Bobby Blake as Little Beaver. As far as I know, no mention of their 16 films appeared in Red's comic. In September 1946, a pre-'Rocky' Allan Lane assumed the part of Red and with issue # 41 (dated December 1946 but probably out in September), Allan appeared in a photo back cover. These continued through #57 (April 1948). The exceptions were #49 and #52, featuring back cover photos of Fred Harman, as did #59.

A more important change came with #47 (June 1947). At last there were brand new stories of Red and the gang in place of the now fairly uncommon newspaper reprints.

Red's comic just kept going strong, year after year. Harman illustrations adorned covers #1, 3-98 and 107-118, a few were painted covers though most were line drawings. Issues #100 and 106 had Jim Bannon photo covers (he had taken over the role for Eagle-Lion Pictures in 1949). Bannon also appeared dressed as Red Ryder sitting around a campfire with starlet Nancy Saunders on the cover of D.C. Comics' Romance Trail #2, dated September-October 1949 but as is usually the case with these Western Romance comics, they probably don't figure in the stories.

With #145, the title was changed to Red Ryder Ranch Magazine and featured multiple photos. Issue #149 changed that to Red Ryder Ranch Comics. Issue #151 (April-June 1957) was the last regular appearance.

This phenomenal run from #3 (August 1941) to #151 is the longest continuous newstand run of any Western comic. In July 1957, Red appeared one last time in issue 915 of Dell's Four Color anthology series (possibly a leftover issue from the regular run?)

That's not the whole story, though. Many popular comics characters appeared in giveaway comics and Red was no exception. In 1941 Buster Brown Shoes did one, and four others appeared in 1943, 1944 (2 different giveaways), and 1950. Two of them, produced by Langendorf Bread, called Red Ryder Victory Patrol, contained such extras as membership cards, decoder rings and maps of Red's home range. These giveaways are often rather rare nowadays, and the RR Victory Patrol issues are among the most expensive of all Western comics, coming in 4th place after Gene Autry #1, Hopalong Cassidy #1 and a Lone Ranger Ice Cream giveaway. Red Ryder #1 is in 6th place after a Tom Mix Ralston-Purina giveaway.

So popular was the Red Ryder strip that Little Beaver had his own series. Dell's Four Color Series #211 of January 1949 was the first issue, followed by 3 others through #332 of May 1951. Beavers' series then became independent with #3 (even though there had already been four issues) dated October-December 1951. The last independent issue was #8 dated January-March 1953, but there were eight more issues in the 4 color series. The last was dated January 1958. All 18 issues had painted covers.

Apart from all this, Red was often seen in other comics in ads for the very popular Red Ryder BB gun. In 1983, humorist Jean Shepherd's story of longing for a Red Ryder BB gun was filmed as A CHRISTMAS STORY. The film has developed such a following over the years that Ted Turner's TNT cable network began running the movie for 24 hours straight on Christmas Eve.


THE RADIO PROGRAM

There was also a long-running Red Ryder radio program, which ran from 1942 until the early 1950s.

According to old time radio expert John Dunning in his book On The Air, The Encylopedia Of Old Time Radio (Oxford Press, 1998), the half-hour radio series began February 3, 1942 on the Blue Network (West Coast) and a short time later, was heard in the east over the Mutual Broadcasting System. The east coast run lasted about four months, coming to an end when the series was sold to regional sponsor Langendorf Bread. Thereafter, the program was aired in the west over the Mutual/Don Lee Network.

The radio 'redhead' was played by several individuals, but the one that is probably best remembered is Reed Hadley (the star of the ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION cliffhanger, TV's RACKET SQUAD, more). Hadley was radio's first Red Ryder, portraying him during the 1942-1944 seasons. Then came Carlton Kadell (1945), followed by Brooke Temple (1946-1951). Tommy Cook, who was Little Beaver in the 1940 Republic cliffhanger, also worked on the radio show during 1942 -1945 .. portraying Little Beaver. Others in the cast were: Frank Bresee as Little Beaver (1942 to 1946 as an alternate); Johnny McGovern as Little Beaver (1947 to 1950); and Sammy Ogg as Little Beaver (1950 to 1951). And B-western supporting actor and one-time Tex Ritter sidekick Horace Murphy was also featured on the radio adventures, portraying an ongoing character/sidekick named 'Buckskin Blodgett'.


ADDENDUM ... ANOTHER RED RYDER NAMED DAVE SAUNDERS?

Over the years, I've received a number of e-mails asking about a person named Dave Saunders portraying Red Ryder in movies or TV or commercials or personal appearances, et al. A Google search reveals several dozen websites (including newspaper articles) and some mention that he starred in movies as Red Ryder. Several of the webpages note that Saunders did personal appearances in 1999 and later. My understanding is that Saunders portrayed Red Ryder for a few years circa late 1950s - early 1960s at the short-lived "Little Beavertown", a small but popular amusement park which was located on old Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Google Search on "Dave Saunders": http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=%22red+ryder%22+%2B%22dave+saunders%22&btnG=Search

At one time, there was a Red Ryder - Dave Saunders website, but the domain name is no longer valid (registered) and the website is no longer working: http://www.redryder-davesaunders.com/

The Internet Archive has a "Wayback Machine" function which maintains views of old websites, including many that have been discontinued. The "Wayback Machine" has a March 22, 2005 version of the Red Ryder - Dave Saunders' website: http://web.archive.org/web/20050322035656/http://www.redryder-davesaunders.com/index.htm

flickr has some photos from the Albuquerque Museum of Dave Saunders and the Little Beavertown amusement park: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abqmuseumphotoarchives/sets/72157608300267586/
In that set of photos, there's a good one of Saunders and Troy Vicente (as Little Beaver). Notice that Saunders is a left-hander: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abqmuseumphotoarchives/2966575205/in/set-72157608300267586/
Two of the photos in the set show Montie Montana and his paint horse:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/abqmuseumphotoarchives/2966575409/in/set-72157608300267586/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/abqmuseumphotoarchives/2966575325/in/set-72157608300267586/

In an August 8, 1985 article for the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, Stephen Hegarty wrote an article about Dave Saunders and the headline was "Some dispute actor's claim to cowboy fame". That article used to be available on the Google newspaper archive. I do have a copy and if anyone wants, shoot the Old Corral webmeister an e-mail.

Other than the western movie stars, films and serial listed at the top of this webpage, no other Red Ryder movie or TV adventure has surfaced or been rumored. That's the current scoop as of March, 2011. We welcome any additional info or corrections.



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