|The End of the Trail|
The Rise and Fall of the B-Western (and Serial)
(From Old Corral collection)
Above is an autographed title lobby card for THE PHANTOM STALLION (Republic, 1954). This was Rex Allen's nineteenth and last film for Republic Pictures ... and the last series westerns that was done by Republic. Allen was under a Term Players Contract(s) at Republic, from March, 1949 to October, 1953.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Roy Roger's last - 1951
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Johnny Mack Brown's last - 1952
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Allan 'Rocky' Lane's last - 1953
During the 1920s through the 1940s, and even into the early 1950s, the predominant entertainment for the masses was either radio or movies. Youngsters (and some adults) spent their Saturdays at a local theater watching a western or double feature, a serial chapter, some cartoons and a newsreel. Cowboy films were produced at prolific levels during this period, and the so-called B-western was the dominant entry in the genre.
The B-western was simply an action yarn running about 6 reels of 35mm film (which equals about one hour running time). Additionally, the production budgets were meager ("shoestring"), plots were a standard formula, and the films were ground out in a week or so of shooting. While there are exceptions, most of the B-westerns were done in a "series format" - i.e., the silver screen cowboys were hired to do a block of 6 or 8 films. And depending on the star and the production company churning out the film, most B-westerns wound up as the top or bottom of a Saturday matinee double-feature at the local movie house. The stars that rode the dusty trails to adventure included Tim McCoy, Buck Jones, Johnny Mack Brown, Ken Maynard, Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, Wild Bill Elliott, and many others. In the mid to late 1930s, the "singing cowboy" arrived in the form of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, and others.
A significant quantity of serials were also lensed, and companies such as Universal, Columbia and Republic had special production units assigned to create these chapterplays. The goal of the serials was basic - to entice the Saturday matinee audience back week after week to the theaters. For those not familiar with serials, they consisted of 12 or 15 weekly chapters/episodes, with each running about 15-20 minutes in length. The weekly episode would conclude with a nail-biting cliffhanger, with the hero, heroine, or sidekick in great peril. And Continued Next Week would flash across the silver screen.
Neither the cliffhanger nor western were unique to the sound era. Both had started in the days of silent films, and were popular enough to continue when talkies arrived.
An entire "posse" was needed to staff all the supporting/character roles, walk-ons and bit parts in these cowboy flicks and chapterplays. These were the scores of actors and actresses that portrayed villains, lawmen, bandits, wagon train members, kid roles ... and the grizzled old ranch owner. Some men, and a few women, parlayed their expertise and physical capabilities into stuntwork and doubling.
Many of them had been real-life cowboys, and some had worked in the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch show and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. They came to Hollywood for higher wages ... and their expertise in riding, hoss wrangling, and driving stagecoaches and wagons quickly paid off.
But the work was not easy or glamorous. They were constantly looking for their next job, and this generally included a check of the daily casting call sheets that were posted at the studios. Shooting schedules were difficult, often dangerous, and would run from sunrise to sunset ... or later.
Many worked as "day players", which meant they labored (and were paid) on a one-day-at-a-time basis. For example, they might work at a major studio like Paramount or Universal for a single day. For their next workday, they would report on the set of a low-budget western which was being shot by one of the many independent production outfits that flourished at the time. These low-budget film companies are commonly referred to as "Poverty Row" and "Gower Gulch", and had names like Ambassador, Victory, Supreme and Reliable.
Some of the stars made big money for all or a portion of their film careers, but many of our favorite heroes and sidekicks were paid modest (meager) salaries for their movie work. As such, many B-western personalities desired or required extra work to supplement their movie income in order to finance their family and lifestyles. Some worked for circuses - for example, Reb Russell, Lee Powell, Hoot Gibson and Tom Tyler hired on to an existing big top. Buck Jones, Tom Mix, Tim McCoy and Ken Maynard brought out their own traveling circus and/or wild west type show. Bob Steele, Sunset Carson, Whip Wilson, Fuzzy St. John, Smiley Burnette, Black Jack O'Shea, Kenne Duncan and many others did personal appearances at circuses, fairs and local theaters. Roy, Gene, Rex Allen and a few others had their own radio programs. And Tex Ritter, Jimmy Wakely, Rex, Roy, and Gene did records.
Today, the low-budget B-westerns and serials are often considered nothing more than relics and artifacts from a bygone era in Hollywood. But during the 1920s through the early 1950s, these films were an important and integral part of the basic entertainment and escapism available to the citizenry of the good ol' USA. But so was vaudeville, burlesque, circuses, Zane Grey novels, Shirley Temple, Andy Hardy, The Shadow, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, The Bowery Boys, Charlie Chan, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and 78 RPM records.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ... WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON WHEN THE B-WESTERN WAS POPULAR:
The sound B western flourished and faded away during an approximate 25 year period - from about 1929 through the mid 1950s. During that time, America was faced with tremendous difficulties, strife and a World War. To properly frame the life and death of the low budget cowboy film, it would be advantageous to outline some of the events and personalities from that same time period. Following is a brief list to use as mind jogger:
REASONS BEHIND THE FADE OF THE B-WESTERN AND SERIAL (not in any priority order):
1. Looking back at the 1920s and 1930s, many of the grandparents and parents of that time had experienced the "real west", or at least had some direct knowledge of the period. Some had served during the Civil War, been on the Oklahoma Land Rush, were part of the migration west to California, et al. To others, "Tobacco Road" and "The Grapes of Wrath" were part of their life experience. The "real west" hadn't yet become the "old west" ... it was still new and exciting. Wild Bill Hickok, the Oregon Trail, the US Cavalry, and a majestic rider on a trusty steed meant something to the people of that time period - be it adventure, escapism, heroism, or wonderment. Some even define the old B-western as nothing more - or less - than a morality play.
2. During the Depression, many families had little if any spending money and some were lucky if the father had a job. There were a significant quantity of homes with no electricity, no inside water, and the bathroom was a rustic outhouse. Primary escapism and entertainment were the radio (free) and movies (buy a ticket). Theaters were everywhere, with some dedicated to classier A features, while local neighborhood movie houses ran B grade films. The Saturday matinee was for the kiddies and included a double feature, serial chapter, cartoons, more. And ticket prices were in the nickel and dime range. In the home, the phonograph (records) and radio were the primary entertainment. During the week, the youngsters would listen to THE LONE RANGER, CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT and TOM MIX on the radio. And the parents would tune in to the antics of FIBBER MCGEE & MOLLY, AMOS & ANDY, BURNS & ALLEN, JACK BENNY, and DUFFY'S TAVERN.
3. Film production costs had skyrocketed and by the end of World War II, you really couldn't produce a cheap western anymore. The John Wayne/Lone Star films of the early 1930s had cost about $10,000-$15,000 each. Republic, in the post World War II era, was looking at roughly $75,000+ per oater (substantially more for their Roy Rogers' films, some of which were in TruColor and had running times of 60+ minutes).
In the updated version of Don Miller's Hollywood Corral by Packy Smith and Ed Hulse (Riverwood Press, 1993), there's a chapter authored by Karl Thiede on the costs and financing of the B-western. Included are a bunch of film production/negative costs for various series. After returning from World War II duty and doing a few more films to complete his contract at Republic, Gene Autry formed his own production company and released a total of 32 films through Columbia Pictures. Below are the numbers for Gene Autry's first and last at Columbia:
Gene's first 2 for Columbia:
THE LAST ROUND-UP (1947), Shooting days: 20, Domestic film rental: $360,000
THE STRAWBERRY ROAN (1948), Shooting days: 25, Domestic film rental: $397,000
Gene's last 2 for Columbia:
SAGINAW TRAIL (1953), Shooting days: 8, Domestic film rental: $75,500
LAST OF THE PONY RIDERS (1953), Shooting days: 8, Domestic film rental: $80,500
4. The bad guys of the western and serial often wore black hats, capes and masks to mark their malevolence. And the hero had a white hat and sat atop a palomino or white steed. But those images had become passè, unreal, cliche ridden, even juvenile. Pearl Harbor and the four years of US involvement in World War II shocked us out of the Great Depression. And our "age of innocence" ended with the atomic bomb.
World War II vets, along with their families, had experienced a new "bad guy", and the horrors they encountered went far beyond the nefarious deeds portrayed in a western or chapterplay. Perhaps the B-western and serial became too simplistic, too black and white - the post World War II viewer wanted/expected more realism.
5. After the war, film noir began - these were movies with dark, cynical stories, down-and-out characters, and the hero (anti-hero) was tired, disillusioned, hard-boiled. Examples of film noir are the post World War II films from RKO that starred Robert Mitchum. And there was the influence of Communism in the post World War II period, and movies based on the "Red Scare" became popular (due to Stalin, the Berlin Airlift, Korea, Senator Joe McCarthy, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings, the Hollywood Blacklist, et al).
6. Returning vets were busy - going to college on the G.I. Bill and re-uniting with a wife who may have done "Rosie the Riveter" duty in a World War II production plant. Many families exited the cities (and the neighborhood theaters that were there) and settled into a housing development in suburbia. Their new home was often miles away from a theater - that distance precluded the son or daughter from walking or bicycling to the Saturday matinee double feature. There was peace and prosperity. And then came a Police Action in Korea which required many to return to active duty. Amongst all of this, there was the "baby boom".
7. Drive-in theaters arrived, and entire families piled into cars and attended the outdoor movies en masse. This required a more varied bill-of-fare than the usual Saturday Matinee offering, primarily because Mom and Sis were no great fans or attendees of the B-western/serial genres. As part of their film mix in the early to mid 1950s, some drive-ins did screen low budget westerns, cliffhangers, and other B-grade films such as the Bowery Boys, Bomba, etc. But serials and familiar series were coming to an end. Some examples:
The drive-ins helped kill off some of the "grind houses" so not only were the producers of those films facing escalating costs, there was also no matching of higher fees paid by the exhibitors or increase in ticket prices to offset those higher costs. The ROI (Return on Investment) decreased and the number of theaters formerly available declined likewise, but were replaced by the drive-ins. The impact of the drive-in started earlier than the TV impact ... the five years following the war was drive-in problems, and the next five was an over-lapping drive-in/TV issue. Economics 101 regarding supply and demand.
8. Television had been around for a while in the major cities (population areas), though the programming and broadcast time was limited and the quantity of stations was small. TV had become a reality in the post World War II era - it was a new form of entertainment that the consumer wanted and strived for - and antennas began popping up on rooftops, primarily in the major metropolitan areas such as New York and Chicago. Many wanted to enter the TV business, but in 1948, the FCC imposed a licensing freeze on new stations, and that would last for about four years. This freeze impacted much of the country, and many communities and much of rural America were "out of range" of existing TV stations. Thus, many people/families were unable to see early TV shows such as Hoppy or Milton Berle.
In 1952, the freeze was lifted - new stations popped up everywhere and TV sales skyrocketed. With more viewers and more stations, daily broadcast schedules also expanded. The result was that more and more programming was needed. And in those early TV days, it was common for the stations to fill out their schedules by running B westerns and chapterplays.
By the mid 1950s, kids (and their parents) were staying home to watch the tube. Some even ate a newfangled "TV dinner" while viewing a favorite late afternoon or evening show. I remember sitting in front of the TV waiting for the Atlanta stations to begin their broadcasting ... and watching a test pattern. I also remember my Dad seeing boxing matches which I recall were on Friday nights and sponsored by Gillette. William Boyd had purchased the film rights to his old Hopalong Cassidy movies and released them to TV. Best I can recall is that Hoppy was on Sunday evenings over NBC beginning in 1948. The films became extremely popular and William Boyd became a "born again star". He later came out with a half-hour Hoppy TV series with the initial episodes condensed from the later Hopalong movies that were released through United Artists. Boyd then created brand new half hour shows featuring Edgar Buchanan as his sidekick.
Soon after, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers saw the "writing on the wall" and began their own shows. Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo starred in THE CISCO KID while Guy Madison and Andy Devine did WILD BILL HICKOK. Russell Hayden, who had the lead in 1940s westerns and mountie films and was the helper to William 'Hopalong Cassidy' Boyd and Charles Starrett, started his own production company and churned out the syndicated JUDGE ROY BEAN and 26 MEN TV series. And Rod Cameron did 1950s TV in several cop/detective shows - CITY DETECTIVE, STATE TROOPER and CORONADO 9.
9. Many of the western/serial production people, as well as the supporting players, found that film work had dried up ... but extended their careers working in early, low budget TV productions. If you view THE LONE RANGER, CISCO KID, KIT CARSON, ANNIE OAKLEY, BOSTON BLACKIE, and various other shows, there are many familiar names and faces in front of, and behind the camera. These folks were successful in early TV because they were used to working in a hectic, low-budget, no retake environment.
Examples: Bob Steele portrayed Trooper Duffy on F-TROOP. Roy Barcroft, the best of the heavies at Republic Pictures, wound up in an ongoing nice-guy role in SPIN & MARTY episodes on the Mickey Mouse Club. Marshall Reed, another of the B-western bad guys, was a regular on THE LINEUP police drama. Slick villain Tris Coffin starred as an Arizona Ranger in 26 MEN. Western and serial heroine Phyllis Coates became the first Lois Lane on SUPERMAN. Prolific B-western baddie Glenn Strange became "Sam the bartender" on GUNSMOKE. And wearing the black robes of criminal court judges in the Raymond Burr PERRY MASON weekly show were two familiar faces - Morris Ankrum (Stephen Morris), frequent antagonist to Hopalong Cassidy, as well as Columbia "brains heavy" (and Three Stooges foil) Kenneth MacDonald. Faces behind the camera included Republic serial and western director William Witney who helmed episodes of BONANZA, FRONTIER DOCTOR, STORIES OF THE CENTURY, ZORRO, TALES OF WELLS FARGO, more.
Due to advancing age or lack of work, some performers opted to exit Hollywood and retire - an example is onetime hero and prolific supporting player Wally Wales/Hal Taliaferro who had been in Tinseltown since about 1915. Around 1952, he retired and moved home to the family ranch in Montana.
10. Various legal battles (anti-trust) between the Government and Hollywood had gone on for decades, beginning in 1921 with the investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of Paramount's "block booking" of films. A Supreme Court decision in 1948 effectively ended the old "studio system" by forcing the studios to abolish "block booking" and divest themselves of their theater chains. There's a link at the bottom of this page with more details.
11. A new type of B film came out of Hollywood in the 1950s - scores of B&W science-fiction yarns - and the villain was a mutated ant/spider/grasshopper/wasp ... or a critter from outer space.
(From Old Corral image collection)
The female lead in IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958) was pretty Shawn Smith, who in the 1940s, and using her real name of Shirley Patterson, did heroine duty in Columbia's BATMAN serial and several of the Eddie Dean films at PRC. Wearing a rubber suit and portraying the titled monster was Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, former member of Republic's Three Mesquiteers and Monogram's Range Busters.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Tim Holt's last starring western was DESERT PASSAGE (RKO, 1952). His last starring role was portraying a Navy officer fighting THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (1957).
12. Time waits for no man, and the B-western performers were aging, getting heavier, and graying around the temples. William Boyd and Ken Maynard were born in 1895, Johnny Mack Brown in 1904, Gene in 1907, 'Rocky' Lane in 1909, and Roy in 1911. Onetime western movie heroes such as Bob Livingston, Tom Tyler and Bob Steele moved into supporting roles, often portraying a baddie. And prolific heavies such as Slim Whitaker, Charlie King, Edmund Cobb, Jack Ingram, Ted Adams and George Chesebro were replaced by younger batch of ruffians that included Marshall Reed, Pierce Lyden, Terry Frost, John 'Bob' Cason, Mike Ragan/Holly Bane and Riley Hill.
Age, illness or misfortune claimed a bunch of familiar faces during the 1940s, and those that passed away included Charles 'Ming' Middleton, LeRoy Mason, Jack Rockwell, Ted Lorch, Jack Randall, Buck Jones, Bill Cody, Bud Geary, Jack Kirk and Horace B. Carpenter. Serial and B-western performers who lost their life in World War II military service included Lee Powell and Richard Fiske.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is serial and western film hero Tom Tyler, who by the second half of the 1940s was relegated to western bad guy roles. Crop from a still from WEST OF THE BRAZOS (Lippert, 1950), one of the half dozen oaters which starred Russell Hayden and James Ellison, the former sidekicks to William 'Hopalong Cassidy' Boyd.
Tyler was about 47 years old when he did this film, but looks much older, probably due to the rheumatoid arthritis and heart problems that would end his life in 1954.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from L-to-R are a very grey Bud Osborne, Tommy Farrell and Clayton Moore in the serial, SON OF GERONIMO (Columbia, 1952).
TIMES THEY WERE A CHANGING - IT WASN'T JUST THE B-WESTERN AND SERIAL THAT FADED AWAY. THERE WERE LOTS OF OTHER B FILMS AND SERIES THAT DISAPPEARED ... ALONG WITH RADIO SHOWS, THE BIG BANDS, MORE.
From a time frame perspective, the period of the sound B-western lasted about twenty five years - the start was around the time of the 1929 stock market crash and Al Jolson starring in THE JAZZ SINGER. The end roughly coincided with the conclusion of the Police Action in Korea. In between, there was the Great Depression, FDR, Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig, Jesse Owens, Pearl Harbor, Hitler, the Flying Tigers, Winston Churchill, the development of the atomic bomb, and the aircraft changeover from propellors to jet engines.
When you look back on the film output of both the major and minor movie production companies, you'll find a variety of films and series that are NOT westerns or cliffhangers. There was the Fox and Monogram Charlie Chan mysteries as well as other sleuth adventures such as Ellery Queen, the Lone Wolf and the Falcon. Comedy features included Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, the Blondie (and Dagwood) series, and various permutations of the East Side Kids/Dead End Kids/Bowery Boys. MGM had Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy while Lew Ayres and Lionel Barrymore were Doctors Kildare and Gillespie, respectively. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were at Universal as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson while Chester Morris portrayed Boston Blackie at Columbia. And there were the MGM Pete Smith shorts and the Three Stooges. All of these kinds of films slowly faded away (along with the B-western and serial).
Most of radio's mysteries, comedies, westerns, et al had disappeared from the airwaves by the 1950s. Some big name radio performers migrated to TV (such as Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny and Burns & Allen). CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT ended its ten year radio run in 1949, and the finale of the Tom Mix program occurred in June, 1950. INNER SANCTUM ended in 1952. After 15 years on NBC, ABC and Mutual, THE GREEN HORNET concluded in 1952. The last new Lone Ranger radio program aired on September 3, 1954, and then went into repeats. New episodes of SGT. PRESTON/CHALLENGE OF THE YUKON continued until 1955. The final broadcast of the LUX RADIO THEATER was on June 7, 1955. Gene Autry and his CBS MELODY RANCH program, which had premiered in 1940, came to an end in 1956. THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE left the airwaves in 1957. NBC's ONE MAN'S FAMILY and PEPPER YOUNG'S FAMILY faded into radio history in 1959, and the same year, CBS pulled the plug on OUR GAL SUNDAY, THIS IS NORA DRAKE, BACKSTAGE WIFE and ROAD OF LIFE. The end of the soap operas, often labeled as "the day radio drama died", was November 25, 1960, the Friday after Thanksgiving, with the final episodes of THE RIGHT TO HAPPINESS, MA PERKINS, YOUNG DOCTOR MALONE and THE SECOND MRS. BURTON, all on CBS. MA PERKINS had been a radio favorite for twenty seven years. Radio's GUNSMOKE, which starred William Conrad as Marshal Matt Dillon, had its final broadcast in 1961 after nine years on the air. On September 30, 1962, the final episodes of YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR and SUSPENSE were heard.
Comparing further, the era of the big bands concluded in the post World War II period, and the replacement was the singer and crooner (like Dinah Shore, Patti Page and Perry Como). By the 1950s, something called "Rock & Roll" arrived via Little Richard, Bill Haley & the Comets, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, others.
Although the B-western died, Hollywood didn't abandon the western film genre. Sagebrush adventures continued to be made - but not at the prolific levels of the prior decades, nor were they churned out in the four, six or eight film B-western series format and "formula". And things that were commonplace in the ol' B-western were no longer used or in vogue - such as a comedic sidekick, a remarkable hero's hoss with a great lookin' saddle, and a rip-roarin', no cussin', no drinkin', no kissin' hero with a super-duper gunbelt and pearl or stag handled six-shooters. New films came in B&W but many were in glorious Technicolor. Running times were in the 90 minute range. The plots were more complex and cynical and had more "adult content" and more dialog. There was also more violence - an example is the excellent CORONER CREEK (Columbia, 1948) in which baddie Forrest Tucker stomps the gunhand of Randolph Scott. Stars included Scott, Joel McCrea, Alan Ladd, Audie Murphy, George Montgomery, Jim Davis, and Bill Williams.
The "entertainment business" wasn't the only thing that changed. Families were migrating out of cities into suburban housing developments. Everybody had a car in their driveway. Airplane travel was impacting passenger trains and ocean liners. And the familiar Burma Shave signs were disappearing from their usual spot along the highways - in fact, many of those old two-lane roads were being replaced/displaced by something new called the Interstate Highway System. And in 1951, Dr. William Shockley invented the transistor at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey.
The B-western didn't die - it slowly disappeared into our memories and Hollywood history, a victim of changing values, escalating production costs and competition from drive-ins and TV.
Perhaps a better definition of the demise is: the B-western was a product ground out according to standard formulas to meet the entertainment needs of the moment. That "moment" ended in the 1950s.
Columbia Pictures wrapped up the Charles Starrett/Durango Kid adventures in 1952. That same year, Johnny Mack Brown concluded his starring career with CANYON AMBUSH (Monogram, 1952). A year earlier, Roy, Dale and Trigger did their finale, PALS OF THE GOLDEN WEST (Republic, 1951) and 'Rocky' Lane rode Black Jack for the last time in EL PASO STAMPEDE (Republic, 1953). The LAST OF THE PONY RIDERS (Columbia, 1953) was an appropriate title for Autry's finale. The assembly line at Republic also ground to a halt - their last series oater was Rex Allen's THE PHANTOM STALLION (Republic, 1954), and KING OF THE CARNIVAL (Republic, 1955) was their 66th and final cliffhanger. TWO GUNS AND A BADGE (1954), starring Wayne Morris, marked the last of the series westerns at Monogram/Allied Artists. In 1956, Columbia released two chapterplays, BLAZING THE OVERLAND TRAIL and PERILS OF THE WILDERNESS, and then gave up on serial production.
I was fascinated with TV programs such as RACKET SQUAD, LASSIE, SEAHUNT, SKY KING, ROY ROGERS, WILD BILL HICKOK, THE LONE RANGER, THE CISCO KID, and HIGHWAY PATROL. One of my favorites was Al Hodge as CAPTAIN VIDEO on the DuMont Television network.
I remember my Mom and Dad's favorites from those early days: Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris in YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, THE TEXACO STAR THEATER with Milton Berle, and I LOVE LUCY with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Then came the "adult western". GUNSMOKE premiered in 1955, THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP arrived in 1956, and in 1957, there was WAGON TRAIN, MAVERICK and HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL. By then it was all over - Matt Dillon, Bret Maverick and Paladin had replaced Sunset Carson, Lash LaRue and Rex Allen.
When the final curtain came down on the B-western and serial, I don't recall that I even noticed ... but it was 1954, or 1955, or 1956. Pick a year that you feel comfortable with.
A bell might have tolled, or there may have been a scream, gasp or whimper ... but I didn't hear it.
R. I. P.
There's 2 other sections on the Old Corral which describe the situation with the States Rights exchanges and distribution, the studios and production companies, western film production by year, et al. Those sections are:
Click HERE for The Trials and Tribulations of a B-Western Producer
Click HERE for The Western Film ... By The Numbers (graphs and statistics)
A Supreme Court decision in 1948 effectively ended the old "studio system" by forcing the major film production companies to abolish block booking and divest themselves of their theater chains. Background and info on the various lawsuits and anti-trust issues can be found at The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers' website: http://www.cobbles.com/simpp_archive/1film_antitrust.htm#paramount
The National Humanities Center and the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History at Duke University has health-related advertisements from the 1910s through the 1950s which were printed in newspapers and magazines: http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/mma/index.html
Remember the Burma Shave signs that were along the roads in the good ol' days: http://www.mc.cc.md.us/Departments/hpolscrv/mthomas.htm
Edwin Howard Reitan, Jr.'s History of Color Television website is at: http://www.novia.net/~ereitan/
Included is a page devoted to the first coast-to-coast color television broadcast - the Pasadena Tournament of Roses (Rose Bowl) Parade on January 1, 1954: http://www.novia.net/~ereitan/rose_parade.html
Clarke Ingram has a site on the history of the DuMont Television network (Captain Video and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet): http://www.dumonthistory.tv/
The Hometown Favorites site has some of the products that you thought had disappeared: http://www.hometownfavorites.com/
More old products can be seen at the American Package Museum: http://www.packagemuseum.com/
The Retro Wonders site sells replicas of many products from the 1910-1960 period: http://www.retrowonders.com/
The University of Texas website has an article titled "Through the Great Depression on Horseback: Lawyers in Western Films of the 1930s" by Francis A Nevins, Jr.: http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/lpop/etext/conf/nevins.htm
Info on the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Show can be found at:
Info about the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show is at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/tri127.html