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(From Old Corral collection)

Above - Anthony Warde (on the right) is locked in combat with RCMP Sergeant Jim Bannon in the 12 chapter DANGERS OF THE CANADIAN MOUNTED (Republic, 1948) which was directed by Fred Brannon and Yakima Canutt.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Bannon published a trade paperback book about himself and the cover is on the left. Titled The Son That Rose In The West (Devil's Hole Printery, Plano, Texas, no date listed, but about 1975), the book is 6" x 9" and has 202 pages. It is NOT the typical biography - instead, it contains letters that Bannon wrote to his parents and children during the period 1937-1961. I forgot that I had it, but it appeared during one of my periodic rummagings through the book and memorabilia piles.

Re-reading the volume, I found many of the letters to be fascinating for not only did Bannon write about personal joys and problems, but there was a wealth of minutiae about radio, films, westerns and being a cowboy movie hero. Some tidbits from the book follow:

Bannon headed to Hollywood to do radio announcing work, and arrived in California in 1937. He met Beatrice 'Bea' Benaderet who was a regular cast member on the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio program. They married in August, 1938, and around that time, Bannon became the announcer on the CHASE AND SANBORN / EDGAR BERGEN AND CHARLIE MCCARTHY SHOW as well as THE JOE PENNER SHOW (the Bergen and McCarthy program was at or near number one in the ratings). Bannon was also doing news at KFI (with Chet Huntley, who later, became half of the Huntley/David Brinkley newscasting team on TV). Son John (nicknamed Jack) was born in the Summer of 1940.

Bannon learned how to fly in 1942 and for a brief period, was a civilian instructor at a glider base in 29 Palms, California (which still allowed him to continue doing radio announcing). He was classified 4-F for World War II military duty because of an ulcer.

Around April, 1944, he did a screen test at Columbia, and the 'I Love A Mystery' film series followed, along with bit and supporting roles in a variety of films. Daughter Margaret Benaderet Bannon was born in March, 1947. In the Fall of 1947, Bannon left Columbia, severed his relationship with talent agency MCA, and started free-lancing.

The DANGERS OF THE CANADIAN MOUNTED serial followed for Republic and Bannon notes that the weather was cold, horses weren't cooperative, and the tight pants of the mountie uniform made bending his knees difficult. He mentions that stuntman/double Tom Steele had elastic inserts sewn into the knee area of his mountie pants to insure freedom of movement during the action sequences.

Around mid-1948, Bannon decided to become a full-fledged movie cowboy, and even fitted his white Buick convertible with steer horns as the hood ornament. In an August, 1948 letter, Bannon proclaims that he's been named the new Red Ryder. He had his hair dyed red, lines up his costume (including 'bat wing' chaps) and filming begins. He buys six white hats at a time for $35.00 each since they can't be cleaned and he goes through so many. Lots of compliments about Peggy Stewart, Don Kay 'Little Brown Jug' Reynolds (Little Beaver), Lane Bradford, Glenn Strange, others. After completing two films, Bannon goes on personal appearances. The last two Red Ryder adventures were wrapped up around March, 1950, and Bannon concludes that the series is probably over - producer Jack Schwarz is doing other films (which are not very good), and the only way the theaters will book them is to negotiate the Ryder movies at reduced prices.

During the Summer of 1950, Jim worked with the Tom Packs Circus, and Bea Benaderet filed for divorce. He notes that the Red Ryder TV pilot was "weak" and a "pretty sad effort". He also has negative comments about the scripts in the five Monogram westerns in which he was sidekick to Whip Wilson. Finding other film roles proved difficult as he had become tagged with the Red Ryder role.

His next stop was Chicago, where he lands a part in the TV soap opera HAWKINS FALLS, and does ads for the Sunbeam Corporation on the ETHEL AND ALBERT TV show. In 1955, he was back in California for THE ADVENTURES OF CHAMPION TVer for Gene Autry's Flying A production company. The last letter is dated March, 1961 from Chicago and Bannon announced his pending marriage to Barbara Cork, 23 years his junior.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above - Jim and wife Barbara Bannon at the 1974 Memphis Western Film Festival.  Minard Coons was close to Bannon and mentions that Jim and Barbara divorced around 1980-1981.

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Minard Coons and Bannon communicated often. Minard writes:

"Bannon had moved to Texas from Monterey because of his emphysema. The last piece of mail I got from Jim was on September 24, 1981. That's when he sent me the plaque (above) that he received at the '74 Memphis Western Film Convention. That same letter noted that he was moving to Scottsdale, Arizona, and he would send me his new address. That was the last I heard from Jim. I believe his emphysema was getting the better of him, and he was deeply saddened by the breakup of his marriage. He was quite a guy."

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