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(From Old Corral image collection)
Ted Wells

Real name:
John Oscar Wells

1899 - 1948

On the left is Ted Wells as the star of THE PHANTOM COWBOY (Aywon, 1935).

Ted Wells was born July 11, 1899 in Justice, Midland County, Texas and his father was the local sheriff at the time of the 1900 census. For the 1910 census, the Wells family resided in Custer County, Montana and father Hugh was the County Sheriff. In addition to being a lawman, Hugh R. Wells was a ranch owner, politician, Montana state chairman of the Democratic party and there's more about him in a link at the bottom of this page ... including a mention that son John Oscar Wells (Ted) attended the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee.

Ted Wells was a second echelon western hero in a handful of really low budget oaters for producer Robert J. Horner and some better quality productions at Universal. Universal billed him as "Ted Wells, World's Champion Rider" and he was "Pawnee Bill, Jr." in the Horner oaters. Trade publications carried many articles on Pawnee Bill, Jr., Horner, Universal and Ted Wells. Following are a couple tidibts and dates related to Wells becoming a cowboy hero:

Stardom was brief and Ted spent the early 1930s with traveling circuses and wild west shows.

Sadly, he re-connected with Horner in the mid 1930s. That collaboration resulted in Wells starring in a pair of bottom-of-the-barrel sagebrush yarns, THE PHANTOM COWBOY (Aywon, 1935) and the lost/missing DEFYING THE LAW (Aywon, 1935). Appears that Wells was to do eight (or more) westerns for Horner:

Too bad Wells attempted a return to stardom with Horner as THE PHANTOM COWBOY is a mess. Ted has a dual role and also plays the caped "phantom cowboy". Jimmy Aubrey is his overacting sidekick. This thing has rotten dialog, a stationary camera, and other issues. But the worse is when Wells and Aubrey decide to go swimming and strip down to their skivvies. The phantom steals their clothes, gunbelts and horses, and Ted and Jimmy spend about 10 minutes doing scenes in their underwear.

Wells continued doing films but found himself relegated to bit/support roles as well as doubling and stunt work in westerns and serials ... and he was a frequent double for William Boyd in the Hopalong Cassidy adventures (stuntman Cliff Lyons doubled Boyd in the early Hoppy films).

His last movie work occurred in 1945. (If you check the IMDb, you'll find Wells in SUNDOWN RIDERS (1948). That was lensed in 1944, but not released until 1948 by Astor.)

Ted Wells passed away on August 7, 1948, in Wickenburg, Maricopa County, Arizona and his death certificate notes that he was a "Laborer - construction" and died of "natural causes".

But why did Ted Wells exit the movie business circa 1945 ... and he and wife Josephine moved to Maricopa County, Arizona. Was he ill ... injured ... or just not enough film jobs to pay the bills. Inquiring minds want to know.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Ted Wells:

You can download or stream the public domain THE PHANTOM COWBOY (Aywon, 1935) from the Internet Archive website:

The Family Search website (free), (subscription), State of Arizona Department of Health Services website, and the death certificate provide more information on Ted Wells. This is another example of why name variations - including possible spelling errors - might be important when doing searches. When some of the census records were digitized, Wells' first name of John became Johm:

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has Ted Wells and his parents interred at Fairview Cemetery, Midland, Midland County, Texas:
John Oscar Wells:
His father, Hugh Reginald Wells (1873-1949):
His mother, Lottie Holt Wells (1874-1938):

The Internet Archive has the 1921 book Montana, its story and biography; a history of aboriginal and territorial Montana and three decades of statehood, under the editorial supervision of Tom Stout (Volume III). This includes a detailed biography on Ted Wells' father Hugh R. Wells who was a sheriff, ranch owner, politician, Montana state chairman of the Democratic party, more. The bio notes that his children were Hortense Louise, John Oscar and Monta Cato. And John O. attended the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. This link should take you to pages 1346-1347 of that Montana history with the profile of Hugh R. Wells and family:

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - a lobby card from the Wells silent GRIT WINS (Universal, 1929).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - a lobby card from Wells' THUNDER RIDERS (Universal, 1928). From left to right are an unidentified man, Charlotte Stevens and Ted Wells. The director was William Wyler, and his early work included several dozen Universal silent westerns and action yarns starring Wells, Art Acord, Jack Mower, Fred Gilman, Fred Humes, more.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the pressbook cover for Horner/Aywon's THE PHANTOM COWBOY (Aywon, 1935) which starred Ted Wells ... but the sketch appears to be of Bill Cody and Andy Shuford.  Above right is a poster example included in the pressbook.

The pressbook contains a glowing description of the film (shown right), and includes another variation of the spelling on Nathan Hirsh (or Hirsch or Hirisch) who was the boss and owner of anemic Aywon (which is pronounced as "A-1").

Ted Wells had the lead in a second film for Horner/Aywon, DEFYING THE LAW (Aywon, 1935), which is among the lost/missing westerns.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a lobby card from Wells' second starring role for Robert J. Horner, the lost/missing DEFYING THE LAW (Aywon, 1935).

In the crop/blowup below from that lobby card, the cast of characters from left to right are: Herman Hack (green shirt), Jimmy Aubrey (purple shirt), Julian Rivero, Ted Wells, Dick Cramer, unidentified guy on desk, and George Chesebro.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is a great shot of William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy doing some fisticuffs in RIDERS OF THE TIMBERLAND (Paramount, 1941). And observing in the right background are the doubles for Boyd and sidekick Brad King. Boyd's double could be either Cliff Lyons or Ted Wells (but is probably Wells) and a blowup of that photo section is below.  Note the grin on the face of Brad King's double.

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