(Courtesy of Geoffery Orr)
Above - Ballew and Heather Angel in his first starring oater, WESTERN GOLD (20th Century Fox, 1937). Ballew was slim and tall - his height was about 6 foot, 5 inches, just a tad shorter than Republic's Sunset Carson.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is the re-issue title lobby card for HAWAIIAN BUCKAROO (20th Century Fox, 1938). Ballew was up against Harry Woods, shown in the left inset with the dark shirt as well as at the receiving end of Ballew's left-handed punch.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - pretty Evalyn Knapp is chatting with Ballew in a lobby card from HAWAIIAN BUCKAROO (20th Century Fox, 1938). Her brother was orchestra leader Orville Knapp, who had a reasonably successful "sweet" band during the 1930s but he was killed in a 1936 plane crash.
(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
Above are singing cowboy Smith Ballew and Jack Perrin's horse Starlight in a scene from HAWAIIAN BUCKAROO (1938). In addition to Starlight, Ballew rode several other trusty steeds. In RAWHIDE (1938) and PANAMINT'S BAD MAN (1938), he rode the "white horse with the mottled face". In WESTERN GOLD (1937), he rode a brown horse with a long, wide face blaze. And in ROLL ALONG COWBOY (1937), he rides a palomino.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above is Monte Montague with the drop on Smith Ballew in ROLL ALONG, COWBOY (20th Century Fox, 1937).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Ballew, Frank Ellis (masked), Armand Wright, Evelyn Daw and Curley Dresden in PANAMINT'S BAD MAN (20th Century Fox, 1938), Ballew's last starring western.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Jim Diehl, Ballew (as 'Blaze Talbot') and I. Stanford Jolley in a scene from the chapterplay TEX GRANGER (Columbia, 1948).
Les Adams spent time chatting with Bob Steele and Smith Ballew, and one of the subjects was who was the singing voice for John Wayne in RIDERS OF DESTINY and some other Wayne oaters. Les wrote the following piece on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), but the writeup is no longer there.
Enough already! Lay off Smith Ballew...he didn't do it., 30 January 2004|
Author: Leslie Howard Adams from Texas
As one of the biggest and most-repeated myths in Hollywood film history the one about Smith Ballew dubbing John Wayne's singing voice in RIDERS OF DESTINY may well rank close to the top. It is only out there because it was published in a book on Westerns movies circa 1962 that, line-for-line, contained more errors than most of the self-serving, ghost-written Star bios in recent years.The author and name of the book will not be mentioned since the author is dead and nothing he ever wrote is taken seriously by any real fan or western film historian then or now, other than the mention of his name has caused a lot of films historians to moan, throw up or cry. Often all three. Let's start at the top. RIDERS OF DESTINY was filmed in Lancaster and Palmdale California in August of 1933, and Smith Ballew was nowhere near the whole state of California in August of 1933. Books by the likes of the very-respected Bob Nareau and Bobby Copeland, in which each spent hours, days and/or weeks in the company of the film's director and his son, western film star Bob Steele (Robert Bradbury, Jr.), established for a fact that the man who dubbed John Wayne in this film was Bradbury's son and Bob's twin brother Bill Bradbury, who went on to become a prominent physician in California. (The Bradbury twins, as young boys, had starred in a silent series of films directed by their father.) We visited - bull, forget the royal "we" - I visited Smith Ballew in his home in Fort Worth, Texas in 1966 (following his retirement after 25 years with General Dynamics in Texas and California) in company with the late Elston Brooks, columnist and entertainment editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Smith Ballew denied, when asked, that he was the "singing voice" for Wayne in this film. "Who thought up that piece of..." was the question he asked. The tone of his question was such that I quickly made sure he didn't think I was the one who thought up that piece of...! Brooks wrote a story on the interview for the Star-Telegram that expressed Ballew's denial of being Wayne's dubber (minus Ballew's question), and did a couple of follow-up stories and/or columns in the following years on Ballew, in which Ballew hastily, and often without being asked, denied dubbing John Wayne anywhere ... anytime. In later years, a tired and much older (in his late 70's) Ballew went to a couple of, or several, film conventions and was asked again about dubbing for Wayne (some dolt source also thinks he dubbed Wayne in 1934's THE MAN FROM UTAH, although Ballew didn't come west to make films until 1936) and I've been told that he sometimes just shrugged his shoulders and said something like "whatever you think", and a very respected western film historian has said that Ballew was old, sick and tired and mostly tired of denying it and wasting the breath to do so. Flash forward to 1971. Cinema Center Films made a little ditty called SOMETHING BIG starring Dean Martin, Bryan Keith and Honor Blackman, and sent some of the stars and supporting players in the film around and about the U.S. on a junket promoting the film. I don't know who went where but do know that Bryan Keith went to Dallas and Fort Worth, while Bob Steele (who played Teamster No. 3 in the film) came to remote Texas outposts such as Amarillo, Abilene, Midland-Odessa and Lubbock to plug the film. Lubbock was a lay-over stop for Steele and I was fortunate enough to get to spend most of a day in his company including breakfast and lunch. A lot of that time was spent discussing, in addition to his own career, the career of his director-father Robert North Bradbury, and RIDERS OF DESTINY came up. Bob Steele said: "My dad used my twin brother Bill to dub Duke in that film, as he had done several times in the past to dub me in a couple of films, as Bill could at least stay on key and carry a tune and I could do neither, and the small fee Bill got helped to pay his bills in medical school." And director Robert North Bradbury said pretty much the same in a couple of well-researched and documented books on western films by the authors previously mentioned. Summary: Robert North Bradbury was there and said Ballew didn't dub Wayne ever ... Bob Steele was there making films for the same producers (Trem Carr and Paul Malvern) and in the vicinity and said Ballew didn't dub Wayne ... Smith Ballew, who wasn't even in the state of California at the time, said he didn't dub Wayne ever. Well, we, excuse me, I wasn't there but I'm more than familiar with Smith Ballew's singing voice (even have some of his earlier recordings he gave me) and, even without Bob Steele and Robert Bradbury's testimony, it would take one tin ear indeed to think that "Singin' Sandy's" singing voice in RIDERS OF DESTINY was Smith Ballew. No way, Jose. I go with the people who were there ... Bradbury and Steele and not there ... Ballew. And Elston Brooks, who was a close friend of John Wayne and spent a few days on location of every film Wayne made from the 60's until his final THE SHOOTIST once asked Wayne who dubbed him in RIDERS OF DESTINY and Wayne's answer was ..."hell, I don't know but "Pappy" Kirk (Jack Kirk) dubbed me in a lot of the latter Lone Star and Republic westerns". Which brings up who is the source that thinks Glenn Strange dubbed John Wayne in those films? Glenn Strange was in most of them along with his former Arizona Wranglers band members such as Cactus Mack, Chuck Baldra and Jack "Pappy" Kirk, but it is Kirk's bull-frog singing voice dubbing Wayne in those films and not Strange.