(Courtesy of Jerry Cristman)
Bob Tansey - mid 1940s
Robert Emmett Tansey
1897 - 1951
Above is the opening title screen for the Wally Wales short WEST OF THE LAW (Pizor/Imperial, 1934). Tansey was the director as well as the story and script author.
Above and below are screen captures from several 1940s Tansey films showing two of his name variations.
In the mid 1930s, Bob and John went their separate ways. Bob connected with William Pizor's Imperial Pictures and did multiple functions on a batch of western shorts with Wally Wales and Buffalo Bill, Jr. (Jay Wilsey). His next stop was writing scripts / stories for three John Wayne Lone Star/Monogram and early Republic oaters which were produced by Paul Malvern. Then a few jobs for Max and Art Alexander's Normandy and Colony Pictures companies with Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams and Rex Bell and at Reliable in a couple Tom Tyler oaters.
Amidst all of this, Bob tried (unsuccessfully) to create a series of "Northwest Action Thriller" mountie films starring John Preston as "Morton of the Mounted". That effort was short-lived, marred by a breach of contract lawsuit brought by Tansey and his company against producer / distributor Louis Weiss.
Circa 1936, Tansey's luck changed for the better when he began a long assocation with producer Edward Finney on the Tex Ritter westerns. Finney and Ritter did 32 films together, with the initial entries released through Grand National. When Grand National faltered, Finney took Tansey and the Ritter series to Monogram. During the years 1936 - 1941, Tansey was involved in 25 of the Ritter adventures, mostly writing stories and screenplays but occasionally functioning as production manager and / or assistant director.
The move to Monogram with Finney and Ritter brought Tansey more work - initially doing stories and scripts, and later, directing and producing. His various credits at Monogram include sagebrush adventures with Tim McCoy, Jack Randall, and two groups starring Tom Keene, one in the late 1930s and another in the early 1940s.
After wrapping up the Keene eight film group, Tansey helmed several of Monogram's Range Busters trio series which were produced by George W. Weeks. Ray 'Crash' Corrigan had exited the series and was replaced by stuntman Dave Sharpe. Tansey directed the four 1942 - 1943 Busters which featured Sharpe.
Scott R. Dunlap (1892-1970) was Monogram's Vice President in Charge of Production had Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton as the Rough Riders and eight films were churned out for the 1941 - 1942 season. But McCoy was called back to the Army for World War II duty and Buck Jones passed away from injuries suffered at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston. Monogram needed a replacement series and Tansey formed the Trail Blazers, which starred sagebrush veterans Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard (later incarnations included Bob Steele and Chief Thunder Cloud).
Bob exited Monogram circa late 1944 - early 1945, and his interest turned to Cinecolor and a singing cowboy named Eddie Dean. Bob was in charge of Ken Maynard's last starring film HARMONY TRAIL (Walt Mattox, 1944?), which featured Dean. Astor released that bit of mediocrity in 1947 under the title of WHITE STALLION. There was another with Dean - WILDFIRE (Action Pictures / Screen Guild, 1945) had Eddie as a lawman helping hero Bob Steele in a Cinecolor adventure about a hoss named Wildfire.
Tansey's next stop was at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) where he initiated a series starring Dean, and several featured a black-garbed Al LaRue before he became 'Lash'. At PRC, Tansey did nine with Dean, five of which were shot in Cinecolor.
He became friends and / or a close business associate of William T. Crespinel, the boss of the Cinecolor company and Crespinel even did color supervision on several of the Dean adventures. Featured in the series was a young actor named "Lee Bennett" who happened to be Crespinel's son, William Arthur Louvain Crespinel (1914 - 2010).
But all good things come to an end and PRC opted to prune the budgets by dropping Cinecolor and filming in plain ol' B&W. 1946 was also the beginning of some organizational shuffling for PRC which wound up merged / absorbed into the Eagle-Lion company. September, 1946 trade publications covered Tansey's breakup with PRC:
Those future plans were overly optimistic, especially in the post World War II years when the B western was in decline. He did continue tinkering with Cinecolor and there were some jobs including about a half dozen ultra low budget features for producer Jack Schwarz (1896 - 1987) ... who was also fascinated with Cinecolor. Some examples follow of Tansey in his post World War II years:
As noted, producer Jack Schwarz was also a Cinecolor fan. Under his Equity Pictures brand, Schwarz hired Jim Bannon for four Cinecolor Red Ryder adventures which were released in 1949 by Eagle-Lion. Schwarz was also responsible for the B&W GOLD RAIDERS (Jack Schwarz Prod / United Artists, 1951) which had George O'Brien as the hero and featured the chaotic Three Stooges (Moe, Shemp and Larry). Tansey wasn't involved in these.
Born June 8, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York to Harry and Emma (nee Purcell) Tansey, Bob Tansey suffered a heart attack and passed away June 17, 1951 in Glendale, California.
While some criticize his creations, Tansey was able to stay alive (thrive) in an environment with miniscule budgets and production niceties ... and he worked up until his death in 1951. His best was the Dean and LaRue Cinecolor WILD WEST (PRC, 1946) (which was later re-issued in an edited B&W version titled PRAIRIE OUTLAWS (Eagle-Lion, 1948)).
In summary, Bob Tansey was a jack-of-all-trades, working behind the camera as a producer, director, story and screenplay author, assistant director, production manager, et al.
He utilized a variety of names during a Hollywood career that lasted 20+ years - over 40 years if you include his child and teen acting roles on the stage and silent films. He was Master Robert Tansey, Robert Emmett Tansey, Robert Tansey, Bob Tansey, Robert Emmett, Robert Emmet ... and probably a few more variations.
(Courtesy of Jack Jones)
The above photo is the cast and crew working on the short, THE SUNDOWN TRAIL (William Pizor/Imperial, 1934), which starred Wally Wales. Below is a crop/blowup of that photo with some numbers overlaid on the people whom we can identify.
1. Wally Wales
2. Fay McKenzie (teenager when she did this film; later, a frequent heroine in Autry films)
3. Eva McKenzie (Fay's mother)
4. Robert Emmett Tansey
5. Barney Beasley
6. Fred Parker
7. John Bridges (in a few Tansey films including the Trail Blazers)
8. Jack Jones (stuntman and supporting player - he was the double for Wales)
9. Sherry Tansey
There's lot of faces huddling around the camera. Brydon Baker was the cameraman on the Pizor shorts and one of these is probably him.
Producer William M. Pizor is not in this photo.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the 1938 roster for Monogram Pictures which included Robert Tansey and Edward Finney as Production Supervisors (producers).
Prescott Pictures, Inc. was the production company created by Tansey for the Tom Keene and Trail Blazers series which were released through Monogram. This organization chart shows up in the 1943, 1944 and 1945 Film Daily Yearbook, available at the Internet Archive. Script and story writer Frances Kavanaugh worked with Tansey on about 30 films. And old timer Fred Hoose was an actor and production supervisor who did over a dozen of the Keene and Trail Blazers films with Tansey. Bob's wife Katheryne (spelled with a Y) was on the board of directors.
Above is the 1946 organization structure for Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), and Robert Emmett Tansey is one of the producers.
Robert Emmett Tansey's movie stats.
A very busy guy doing many functions.
Was Tansey the only production "multi-tasker" that did B westerns? The answer is no! There were a few others who performed many production functions - producing, directing, writing stories / screenplays, etc. as well as production supervisor, second unit / assistant director, etc. Names that immediately come to mind are Oliver Drake, Harry Fraser, and Joseph Kane. And there's Robert North Bradbury, Bob Steele's father, who Tansey worked with in the mid 1930s.
|For the chart below, I've used the RELEASE dates (not filming dates) from the Internet Movie Database. While the IMDb has some accuracy issues, the basic numbers and years provide a good perspective on Tansey's work. His busiest years were 1934 - 1946.|
|Story / Screenplay||3||11||6||6||10||8||7||8||7||4||3||4||1||4||1||1||2||86|
|Ass't dir. / second unit||1||1||4||5||2||1||1||2||1||18|