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(From Old Corral collection)

Above and below, lobby cards from Buck's second and fourth serial for Universal Pictures, THE RED RIDER (Universal, 1934) (that's Walter Miller facing Jones in the above card) and THE PHANTOM RIDER (Universal, 1936) with Buck huggin' Marla Shelton. Look at the right side of THE PHANTOM RIDER lobby card below and you'll see some water stains.


(From Old Corral collection)


Undercover ranger Buck Jones dons a completely white outfit including a face mask and cape to battle Harry Woods and gang in THE PHANTOM RIDER (Universal, 1936).

On the right is the cover of the pressbook for that serial.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)


By the mid 1930s, Buck's financial situation had significantly improved. He had a home and a ranch as well as a yacht named "Sartartia". Newspapers occasionally had articles on the income reported to the government by various Hollywood actors, actresses and production personnel. Topping the list for tax year 1936 was Gary Cooper at $370,214.00. Ken Maynard made $37,100.00 and Warner Oland of Charlie Chan fame earned $59,999.00. Buck's income for year 1936 was $143,333.00.

All good things come to an end, and Buck did not renew his contract with Universal because of a disagreement over money. Their separation was covered in the May 25, 1937 Motion Picture Daily:

Headline: "Buck Jones to Quit U" and "Hollywood, May 24 (1937) - Buck Jones will quit his producing-starring contract at Universal after his next three pictures have been completed, due to his unanswered plea for a higher negative cost deal."

The late 1930s was a period of upheaval at Universal. They were frantically searching for a singing cowboy, and tried Bob Baker in about a dozen films circa 1937 - 1939. Instead of looking for another melodious, guitar strumming range rider, Universal signed Johnny Mack Brown as their series western star. Johnny Mack was a familiar commodity, as he was the lead in a quartet of Universal cliffhangers.

As for Jones, he returned to his former Columbia Pictures home but in a much lower budgeted group produced by Monroe Shaff and Leonard Goldstein's Coronet Productions company. That too was reported in the trade publications:

June 30, 1937 Variety: Headline: "COLUMBIA BRAND FOR BUCK JONES GALLOPERS" ; "Buck Jones launches a new series of westerns to be made by Coronet Productions, Inc., and released through Columbia on washup of his current Universal deal."

With Coronet, he did six oaters and his salary was $16,000.00 per film. HOLLYWOOD ROUND UP (Coronet/Columbia, 1937) is probably the best of the bunch with Buck as the stand-in and double for a movie cowboy played by Grant Withers. CALIFORNIA FRONTIER (Coronet/Columbia, 1938) had Buck wearing buckskins and was the last of the brief Coronet series.

1937 was also the year that he officially (and legally) became Charles 'Buck' Jones ... via a court approved name change. He filed the request in May, 1937 and the name change was granted by Superior Court judge Emmet Wilson on July 6, 1937.



(From Old Corral collection)

Above - a great closeup of Buck and Ruth Coleman in a lobby card from HEADIN' EAST (Coronet/Columbia, 1937).



(Courtesy of Les Adams)
On the left is a tradepaper article from October 18, 1937 regarding Jones and Company headin' to Alaska to film GHOST SHIP, and included in the cast was Shemp Howard of Three Stooges fame.

GHOST SHIP was never made.  WEST OF BROADWAY was the working title for HEADIN' EAST.


Though he still looked trim and fit, Buck Jones of the late 1930s was nearing the half century mark in age.  To his dismay, he couldn't overcome the western film craze that was sweeping the box office - in 1935, the singin' cowboy had arrived with Gene Autry in THE PHANTOM EMPIRE serial and his starring series at Republic Pictures. More cowboy crooners followed - Dick Foran at Warners, Fred Scott at Spectrum, Tex Ritter at Grand National and Bob Baker at Universal. And in 1938, Leonard Slye became Roy Rogers and began his lengthy stay at Republic.

Buck Jones - and the stalwart range hero he portrayed in silents and talkies - no longer "fit in".

In 1937, Buck hit the radio airwaves with a western serial called "Hoofbeats". Thirty nine episodes were produced and the 15 minute show was syndicated via transcription disks. About ten episodes survive. A character named the "Old Wrangler" narrates stories about Buck and Silver. Post Grape Nuts Flakes was the sponsor, and the program had Buck vs. the Dagger Hilt Gang (it is Hilt with a T, not Hill with an LL).  And Jones pitches his Buck Jones Club which includes a free membership badge (for a Grape Nuts Flakes boxtop) and various prizes such as a hat and chaps. The writer for "Hoofbeats" was western novelist Cherry Wilson. She and Buck collaborated on several films: THE BRANDED SOMBRERO (Fox, 1928), THE THROWBACK (Universal, 1935), EMPTY SADDLES (Universal, 1936) and SANDFLOW (Universal, 1937).

Because of his popularity and name recognition, Jones also did occasional guest roles on radio. An example is Buck on the January 17, 1937 Jack Benny comedy show, and that program is one of the chaotic "Buck Benny" western parodies from the mid 1930s Benny series.

Over the next couple years, film roles were few and far between: Buck starred in the non-western boxing tale, UNMARRIED (Paramount, 1939); he was a crooked lawman in WAGONS WESTWARD (Republic, 1940); and Buck was the helper to star Dick Foran in the chapterplay RIDERS OF DEATH VALLEY (Universal, 1941). WAGONS WESTWARD and RIDERS OF DEATH VALLEY were Buck's only westerns where he wasn't given top (star) billing. Then Buck landed the lead in the 15 chapter WHITE EAGLE (Columbia, 1941) cliffhanger which was directed by James W. Horne, and the heroine was Dorothy Fay, the wife of Tex Ritter.

And in mid 1939, Buck filed a $250,000.00 lawsuit and injunction against Republic Pictures and their LONE RANGER serial. Buck claimed that the call "Hi Ho Silver", a horse named 'Silver', a drawstring shirt, etc. were patterned after him, his horse, his style ... and were his creation. In July, 1939, Buck's suit was thrown out.



(Courtesy of Dave Smith)

Above from left to right are Dick Foran, Universal producer Henry MacRae (1876-1944), Buck Jones and Monte Blue in a happy moment during the premier of the serial RIDERS OF DEATH VALLEY (Universal, 1941). MacRae was a prolific producer at Universal during the 1930s - early 1940s where he was in charge of many cliffhangers such as FLASH GORDON, RED BARRY, TIM TYLER'S LUCK ... as well as their western themed chapterplays starring Tim McCoy, Tom Tyler, Buck Jones and Johnny Mack Brown.



(Courtesy of Billie Zappone)

Above - a sepia publicity still of Buck and Silver, approximately 5x7 inches in size.  Unsure whether this was issued by Universal during Buck's days at the studio, or as a handout for his 'Buck Jones Club'.



(Courtesy of Pat LaRosa)

Above is Buck Jones, with his head bowed and wearing a suit in a lobby card from UNMARRIED (Paramount, 1939) ... and probably thinking something like "how did I get here?". Helen Twelvetrees is on the right and that may be John Hartley on the left.



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