The Texas Rangers
22 Films
1942 - 1945

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is the title lobby card for the first Texas Rangers film, THE RANGERS TAKE OVER (PRC, 1942). In the center image, prolific baddie Charlie King is mixing it up with Dave O'Brien. O'Brien is shown on the left and on the right is singing cowboy James Newill, who had earlier starred in the Renfrew of the Royal Mounted adventures. Newill appeared in the first fourteen films in the Texas Rangers series.

(From Old Corral image collection)

THE WHISPERING SKULL (PRC, 1944) had a mystery twist and was one of the better PRC Texas Rangers films. Tex Ritter replaced Newill for the final eight entries in the series.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, two of the members of the original Texas Rangers' team - Jim Newill on the left, and Dave 'Tex' O'Brien on the right.

(From Old Corral image collection)

On the left is Tex Ritter, who replaced Newill in the last eight films. On the right is Dave O'Brien who was around for all 22 films in the series.

The members of PRC's Texas Rangers:

James 'Jim' Newill (1911 - 1975)
portrayed Texas Ranger "Jim Steele" in the first 14 films

Dave 'Tex' O'Brien (1912 - 1969)
(real name: David Poole Fronabarger)
portrayed Texas Ranger "Tex Wyatt" in all 22 films in the series

Guy Owen Wilkerson (1899 - 1971)
portrayed Texas Ranger "Panhandle Perkins" in all 22 films in the series

Woodward Maurice 'Tex' Ritter (1905 - 1974)
portrayed Texas Ranger "Tex Haines" in the final 8 films of the series

Republic had the Three Mesquiteers ... and Monogram had the Rough Riders and Range Busters.

Having multiple cowboy heroes seemed to be the norm, and Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) had tried it unsuccessfully with the mediocre 'Frontier Marshals' which only lasted through six films.

PRC decided to give it another try with some new faces using a storyline based on the legendary Texas Rangers. The triumvirate would consist of:

James Newill - a baritone with a near opera level voice would sing a tune or two in each adventure.  He had done so frequently as the star of the Renfrew of the Royal Mounted yarns at Grand National and Monogram.

Dave O'Brien - a journeyman actor and stuntman who had been doing bit parts and supporting roles since the early 1930s.  In the late 1930s, he played second-fiddle in a bunch of westerns, and was even Newill's helper in the Renfrew flicks.  His biggest role to date was the lead in Columbia's CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT (1942) serial.  O'Brien also had one of the screen's most laughable roles, as the poor guy who succumbs to drugs in the awful REEFER MADNESS (1936).  O'Brien would be the lead in the series ... at least for a while.

Rounding out the threesome was Guy Wilkerson as 'Panhandle Perkins', a tall, gawky sidekick with an irritating twang to his voice.

THE RANGERS TAKE OVER (1942) was the series opener, and PRC's production ineptitudes, shortcuts, and lean budgets were immediately apparent.  Entry fourteen, BRAND OF THE DEVIL (1944), was the last for Newill.  He had received a better offer from New York to co-star with June Havoc in the new Broadway play "Sadie Thompson". Newill's exit wasn't a problem for PRC, as a veteran singing cowboy had recently become available to fill the slot - his name was Tex Ritter.

Ritter had started with producer/director Ed Finney at Grand National Pictures in the late 1930s, and their singing westerns had migrated to Monogram Pictures when Grand National went belly-up due to financial problems.  Leaving Monogram, Tex co-starred with Wild Bill Elliott at Columbia and Johnny Mack Brown at Universal.  When Johnny Mack Brown left for a long stay at Monogram, Tex did several solo starring efforts at Universal.

Tex was a bonafide sagebrush star with solid western movie credentials.  The Texas Rangers needed a lot of help, and Tex and his trusty steed White Flash signed on for eight films.

Thanks to Ritter, the series picked up a bit in tempo, and his pairing with O'Brien worked pretty well ... but the shoestring budgets and slipshod production values remained.  And there were other forces at work - World War II was winding down, production costs had steadily increased, and the B-western film was approaching it's twilight.  FLAMING BULLETS (1945) was the twenty-second and last film of the series.  The Texas Rangers quietly faded away even though PRC's trio had outlived Republic's Three Mesquiteers and Monogram's Rough Riders, Range Busters and Trail Blazers.

Direction of the Rangers' cinema efforts were handled by B-movie veterans Al Herman, Elmer Clifton, Harry Fraser and Oliver Drake, all of whom had labored for major film companies as well as Poverty Row outfits like PRC.  All had begun their film work during silent pictures, mostly on the production side.  Oliver Drake was normally a script writer but in later years, would also direct.  Drake was a frequent guest at various western film conventions during the 1980s.  All four knew how to work within miniscule budgets and tight shooting schedules.  Their time at PRC meant "food on the table".

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from L-to-R are Dave 'Tex' O'Brien (on King), Jim Newill (on Alamo) and Guy Wilkerson, the original members of the Texas Rangers.

(From Old Corral image collection)

In the above lobby card from BAD MEN OF THUNDER GAP (PRC, 1943), Dave O'Brien has his six-gun on Guy Wilkerson, the tall drink-of-water who portrayed 'Panhandle Perkins' in the Texas Rangers series. This was the second film in PRC's Texas Rangers series. Note the "Dave (Tex) O'Brien" top billing.  When Tex Ritter replaced Jim Newill for the last eight films of the series, he got the top billing and O'Brien dropped to second billed.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - O'Brien, Newill and Wilkerson are standing at the bar in this flimsy (tinderbox) saloon interior from WEST OF TEXAS (1943). The gal singer is Frances Gladwin. Jack Rockwell is tending bar on the far left.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are the final members of PRC's Texas Rangers' trio: Dave O'Brien, Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson. Ritter replaced Jim Newill in the last 8 films of the series. The above scene occurs in the opening minutes of FRONTIER FUGITIVES (PRC, 1945).

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