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The Frontier Marshals
6 Films released in 1942

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above from left to right are Art Davis, Lee Powell, and Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd from PRC's ALONG THE SUNDOWN TRAIL (PRC, 1942), the sixth and final entry in the Frontier Marshals series.
The members of the Frontier Marshals:

Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd (1910 - 1977)
(real name: William Lemuel Boyd)

Oather 'Art' Davis  (1913 - 1987)

Lee Berrien Powell (1908 - 1944)

The 6 Frontier Marshals films
All were directed by Sam Newfield (Sam Neufeld)


Most movie buffs and critics feel that B-westerns from Republic Pictures are the best of the genre.  Columbia and Universal also had some good oater series.  On a lesser scale came Monogram Pictures, and lower still was a small Gower Gulch company named PRC (Producers Releasing Corporation).

Formed in the late 1930s, and initially named PDC (Producers Distributing Corporation), PRC tried to make a buck competing with these more upscale production companies.  In most cases, PRC's films were relegated to the smaller, neighborhood movie houses, and to second feature status on a twin bill.  During the ten or so years that PDC/PRC was in existence, it's most memorable cowboy stars were Al 'Lash' LaRue and Buster Crabbe (and both featured Al 'Fuzzy' St. John as their sidekick), as well as the melodious Eddie Dean.  Around 1947 or so, PRC disappeared when it was merged (absorbed) by the Eagle-Lion company.  A few years later, Eagle-Lion was absorbed into United Artists.

Western series with triple heroes were the rage during the early 1940s.  Republic had the Three Mesquiteers, and Monogram Pictures had three: Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton as the Rough Riders; the Range Busters with Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, John 'Dusty' King and Max 'Alibi' Terhune; and the Trail Blazers with Hoot Gibson, Ken Maynard and Bob Steele. PRC wanted a triple threat also.

Whoever settled on two of the three Frontier Marshals' leads made a mistake.  A western singer named Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd got top billing (he was not the William Boyd of Hopalong Cassidy fame).  During a long career, Boyd recorded over 200 records for Bluebird (Victor).  Troubador Oather 'Art' Davis, who would do many records for Victor and Columbia, wound up as the second lead.  Both Boyd and Davis carried some extra weight around their middles.  Why were they hired --- PRC probably figured they needed singin' cowboys, and that Boyd and Davis' songs would bring in some extra audience, particularly in the theaters located in the South and West. (PRC's other tuneful cowboy hero during this period was George Houston, The Lone Rider.)

Relegated to the third lead spot was Lee Powell, the original cinema 'masked man of the plains' in Republic's 1938 THE LONE RANGER serial.  He was also the star of Republic's cliffhanger THE FIGHTING DEVIL DOGS (Republic, 1938).  Three plus years after doing these great serials, Powell found himself near rock-bottom, laboring on Poverty Row for PRC.

PRC's production shortcomings and minimal budgets couldn't be overcome.  Additionally, the three prairie pals had no charisma together, and while Boyd and Davis were good with a tune, they weren't hero material. And there was too much singin' and not enough ridin', ropin', brawlin' and shootin'!  After six entries, the Frontier Marshals disappeared ... and the fans didn't seem to notice or care.

The studio quickly re-thought their trio western approach and a new group called 'The Texas Rangers' rode onto the silver screen in late 1942 (starring Dave O'Brien, Jim Newill and Guy Wilkerson). PRC was considering the pairing of Art Davis and Dave O'Brien for the Texas Rangers series but that didn't happen as Davis enlisted in the Navy in August, 1942.

While B-western fans fondly remember the Three Mesquiteers, Rough Riders, Range Busters and Trail Blazers, few recall the Frontier Marshals series from PRC.

Boyd and Davis exited Hollywood and returned to western singing, western swing, tours and records.  For Lee Powell, the Frontier Marshals was the end of his brief Hollywood career.  Two years later, in July, 1944, Marine Sergeant Lee Powell lost his life on Tinian in the Marianas Islands.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are George Chesebro, Bill "Cowboy Rambler" Boyd, Art Davis (with a neck hold on an unknown player), and Lee Powell on the stairs in the title lobby card from ROLLING DOWN THE GREAT DIVIDE (PRC, 1942), one of six films in the short lived Frontier Marshals trio series. Note the "Peter Stewart" pseudonym used by prolific director Sam Newfield. Sam directed all six of the Frontier Marshals adventures.

(Courtesy of Pat LaRosa)

In the above lobby card from PRAIRIE PALS (PRC, 1942), Lee Powell is delivering a left to the jaw of prolific western villain I. Stanford Jolley. Note that Powell is billed third behind singers/musicians Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd and Art Davis.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above is the title lobby card from RAIDERS OF THE WEST (PRC, 1942), with Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd pummeling Archie Hall (Arch Hall, Sr.). This was another Sam Newfield directed film in which he used his "Peter Stewart" alias.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, Ted Adams (left) is all tied up in this discussion with Lee Powell, the star of the 1938 Republic Lone Ranger cliffhanger. Powell looks like he's wearing a shirt patterned after those worn by Gene Autry.

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