Wally Wales /
Floyd Taliaferro Alderson
(sometimes incorrectly spelled as Alperson in other biographies)
1895 - 1980
Photo right - the "whiskers and grime" look of Hal Taliaferro, circa 1936 - 1938.
(From Old Corral collection)
Wally Wales was a real life westerner, born Floyd Taliaferro Alderson on November 13, 1895 in Sheridan, Sheridan County, Wyoming. But his home became Birney, Rosebud County, Montana (in southeastern Montana, about a sixty mile drive north of Sheridan, Wyoming).
He was married twice and had no children. In the 1940 census, his wife is listed as Maybel (born in Montana), and I believe her maiden name was Maybel Towers. In June, 1940, he filed for divorce. Marriage number two was very brief - Guinevere Costello and Floyd T. Alderson tied the knot on October 5, 1949 in Denver, Colorado and she was granted a divorce on January 9, 1950 in Sheridan, Wyoming. He didn't contest the divorce.
In the early 1950s - after 30+ years in Hollywood - he returned to his Montana roots and lived on the Alderson's Bones Brothers Ranch which had been created from a bunch of family homesteads. He built a cabin and spent much of his later life devoted to his favorite hobby, painting landscapes of the rugged Montana countryside.
Genealogy info on the Alderson family mention his family and birth info: his parents were Lewis Allen Alderson (1862 - 1932) and Emma Elizabeth Roberts Alderson (1867 - 1906), and they married in Sheridan, Wyoming on December 15, 1892. They had three sons: Floyd Taliaferro Alderson was born November 13, 1895; and his two brothers were Allen Roberts Alderson (1898 - 1973; nicknamed "Big Bones") and Irving Newman Alderson (1902 - 1988; nicknamed "Little Bones"). Floyd was nearly six feet tall and slender, and his brothers and ranch hands jokingly called him "Skin and Bones" ... which got shortened to just "Bones". And that's how the Bones Brothers Ranch got its name. Unsure of the current status and ownership of the ranch.
The February 14, 1980 Sheridan, Wyoming Press newspaper and March 4, 1980 issue of Variety reported that he suffered a series of strokes, passed away February 12, 1980 from pneumonia at the Eventide nursing home in Sheridan, Wyoming, and his "remains have been sent to the Colorado Anatomical Society".
Floyd Taliaferro Alderson arrived in Hollywood around 1915, did some horse wrangling, bit parts, stunting, and when he registered for the World War I draft in June, 1917, his occupation was Actor - Fox Film Corp. He was a private in the Army's 83rd Spruce Squadron for about sixteen months during World War I but that unit did not serve overseas. The 83rd was stationed in Washington and Oregon and did spruce logging, constructed roads in the forests, and supported a plant where spruce lumber was milled into airplane components.
In the early 1920s, Lester F. Scott, Jr. formed a production company which became Action Pictures, Inc. His lofty plans came to fruition when he hired a couple real westerners to star in cowboy features - Kenneth Stanhope Sanderson became "Buddy Roosevelt", Wilbert Jay Wilsey was "Buffalo Bill, Jr.", and their respective series began in 1924.
Because of his good looks and horsemanship skills, Alderson also signed with Lester F. Scott ... did a name change to "Wally Wales", the "Cowboy Prince" ... and his first, TEARIN' LOOSE, arrived in theaters in 1925. Excerpts from the April 18, 1925 issue of Moving Picture World:
"LOUIS WEISS, executive director of Weiss Brothers' Artclass Pictures Corp., announces that Wally Wales, known as 'the Cowboy Prince', has been signed to carry the featured honors in the new series of eight five-reel acrobatic stunt features, which Artclass will distribute during the coming season in conjunction with the Buddy Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill, Jr. series."
"Lester F. Scott, Jr. ... will also direct the destinies of the new riding star, all of the Wally Wales productions being made under his personal supervision."
Wales starred in nineteen features for Scott's Action Pictures, but only two are available for viewing - GALLOPING ON (Action Pictures/Artclass, 1925) and THE DESERT OF THE LOST (Action Pictures/Pathe, 1927).
Browsing filmographies, I noticed that future A film actress Jean Arthur was also on Lester F. Scott's payroll. She was the leading lady in six with Wales, four with Buffalo Bill, Jr., and a couple with Buddy Roosevelt.
With the arrival of talking pictures, Wales' starring career began a downward spiral. He did have leads in seventeen western shorts and features, but all were minor efforts for Poverty Row outfits Big 4, Imperial, Reliable, Superior, and Denver Dixon's Security company. There was a change of pace - he and Neva Gerber starred in the ten chapter THE VOICE FROM THE SKY (Ben F. Wilson Productions, 1930) which was the first sound cliffhanger and was lost / missing until some picture elements were recently discovered. During this period, he began a shift to background / character parts and you can spot him in credited and unbilled roles in Mascot and Universal serials and sagebrush adventures with Tom Tyler, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, Bill Cody, many others.
His days as a western movie hero ended in the mid 1930s when he was around forty years of age. Retiring his "Wally Wales" persona, he selected "Hal Taliaferro" as his new screen name, and became a great supporting player in scores of westerns and serials, mostly at Republic, Universal and Columbia. And he remained busy right up to his retirement in the early 1950s. Les Adams notes that Wales began using that Hal Taliaferro moniker in THE UNKNOWN RANGER (Columbia, 1936), which starred Bob Allen.
In Les' Prolific Performers listing on the Old Corral, you'll find that Wales has about 200 SOUND film appearances, of which 162 were westerns and 21 were cliffhangers. And his work at Republic Pictures consisted of about 50 films during a 15 year period ending around 1950. His second favorite employer was Columbia Pictures where he did 37 films. He appeared with many of our favorites cinema range riders - examples: with Roy Rogers (in 22 films), Charles Starrett (in 15), Ken Maynard (in 11), Wild Bill Elliott (in 10), William Boyd / Hoppy (in 7), and John Wayne (in 6).
(From Old Corral collection)
The above photo shows Wales/Taliaferro as one of the five Texas Rangers in THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) chapterplay, and he was billed as Hal Taliaferro in this. L-to-R are Lee Powell, George Letz (George Montgomery), Hal Taliaferro, Lane Chandler and Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett).
As the serial progresses, four of the five Rangers are killed off. The first to die was George Letz as "Jim Clark"; then came Hal Taliaferro as "Bob Stuart"; Lane Chandler as "Dick Forrest" was the third; and finally, Herman Brix as "Bert Rogers" ... that left Lee Powell as Ranger "Alan King" --- the Lone Ranger.
(Courtesy of Leota Whitaker Gandrau)
Above are real life friends Wally Wales (Hal Taliaferro) and Charles 'Slim' Whitaker in an unidentified still from one of the Bob Allen or Jack Luden oaters for producer Larry Darmour which were released in 1936 - 1938 by Columbia Pictures. Wales and Whitaker first connected during Wally's silents for Action Pictures. And Whitaker had parts in about a dozen of those.
Slim's daughter Leota Whitaker Gandrau recalled that "Wally Wales, Charlie King and Al Bridge were like her uncles. They spent so much time at her house that it was as if they lived there."
Above are screen captures from Wales' last starring western, THE WAY OF THE WEST (Empire/Superior, 1934). The director was Robert Emmett 'Bob' Tansey, and the film was released by Superior Talking Pictures. Wales was about 39 years old.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Wally Wales with his trusty steed 'Silver King' in CARRYING THE MAIL (William Pizor/Imperial, 1934), one of seven western shorts that he did for producer William Pizor. 'Silver King' was once owned by silent western star Fred Thomson. His favorite hoss in silents was a brown named "Piute".
Above - screen capture of a very stern looking Wally Wales starring in THE DESERT OF THE LOST (Action Pictures / Pathe, 1927) ... and he was about 32 years old.
Most fans and critics feel that Wales/Taliaferro was among the finest of the supporting players in westerns and serials. He played all kinds of roles - buddy to the hero, henchman, lawman, villain assistant, etc.
And I always smile when seeing him in his "whiskers and grime" look - the dirty face, whisker stubble, sweat-stained hat, and tobacco juice around the lipline. A good example is shown in the picture (at the top of this webpage) which is from his 1936 - 1938 oaters with Bob Allen and Jack Luden at Columbia Pictures. He was still using that 'grime' look, slightly modified, in his portrayal of gold prospector 'Nugget' in the chapterplay, THE PHANTOM RIDER (Republic, 1946).
As I work on Old Corral webpages, I frequently pop a video into the ol' VCR or DVD player and listen as I type. Wales has a very distinctive voice, and I can easily recognize him without even looking at the TV screen.
Hans Wollstein sent a tidbit about Wales: "I have a little story about Wally, told to me by Janus Barfoed, a well-known Danish stills collector who once spent a week with Wally at his ranch. Seems that Howard Hawks was so happy with Hal Taliaferro's performance as 'Old Leather' in RED RIVER that he inquired how such a newcomer had become that good. When Hal told him that he was actually Wally Wales and had starred in westerns in the silent era, Hawks, for some reasons, took this as a kind of betrayal and vowed never to use the actor again. Wales/Taliaferro was at a complete loss as to why Hawks had this sudden change of attitude but he never did work with the director again."
My first edition of Shoot-Em-Ups by Buck Rainey and Les Adams is well worn. Yet I never noticed or paid attention to the Dedication page in the front of the book to Harry Carey, Buck Jones ... and Wales. The Wales dedication reads:
The Motion Picture Herald and Boxoffice polls were conducted from about the mid 1930s through the mid 1950s. With a few exceptions, the annual results would list the 'Top Ten' (or 'Top Five') cowboy film stars. In most cases, the winners were what you would expect - Autry, Rogers, Holt, Starrett, Hoppy, etc. These polls did not begin until 1936. At that time, Wally Wales' was no longer a B western hero.
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), trade publications, and newspapers have information on Floyd Taliaferro Alderson, AKA Wally Wales and Hal Taliaferro.
Note the dual census records in 1940 followed by the newspaper divorce notice on Floyd and wife Maybel.
And the 1930 census has father Louis/Lewis and sons Allen and Irving and their families in Birney, Rosebud County, Montana, and they're in the farming and Dude Ranch business.
A history of the Army Spruce Squadrons indicates that the units never left the states. Wales' 83rd Spruce Squadron was stationed in / around Vancouver Barracks, Washington, South Beach, Oregon, and Yaquina, Oregon. Their work involved spruce logging, road and railroad construction, and supporting a plant where spruce lumber was milled into airplane components: http://www.swansongrp.com/spruce_units.html
Brief history of the 83rd Spruce Squadron: http://www.swansongrp.com/spruce_units.html#83rd
Wikipedia article on the Army's Spruce Production Division during World War I: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spruce_Squadron
fridley.net genealogy website has info on Floyd Taliaferro Alderson and family: http://www.fridley.net/alderson/p98.htm#i4886
The Bones Brothers Ranch is located at Birney, Montana (west of Custer National Forest in Rosebud County, Montana). The ranch was listed in the National Register of historic locations/homes in 2004 and owners at that time were Irving Alderson, Jr., Jeanie Alderson, Mary Alderson and Natalie Alderson Moog. Unsure of the current status and ownership of the ranch. Info and photos on the ranch:
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Wally Wales / Hal Taliaferro. IMDb has an incorrect death date of February 10, 1980: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0907404/
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" website has more about Wales / Taliaferro in serials: https://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-character-actors-2/hal-taliaferro/
YouTube has several of Wally Wales' silent and sound starring movies: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22wally+wales%22
and YouTube also has Wales' DESERT OF THE LOST (1927) silent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdsNr0H7CJ8
Collection of Wally Wales 1914 - 1957 papers, stills, scripts and artifacts is housed at the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming: http://uwcatalog.uwyo.edu/record=b2136760~S1
Article "From Spurs to Screen: Wyoming Boy Makes It Big In Hollywood" is about Wally Wales' background and papers at the American Heritage Center. Includes a photo of his make-up kit, complete with a drawer full of mustaches: https://ahcwyo.org/2014/01/24/from-spurs-to-screen-wyoming-boy-makes-it-big-in-hollywood/
Alderson had strong political views. Here's a 1961 op-ed he wrote in the Billings, Montana Gazette titled "Birney Man Bids Legionaires to Fight Communism": https://www.newspapers.com/clip/76886617/the-billings-gazette/