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(From Old Corral collection)

Above from L-to-R are Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton as Monogram's Rough Riders.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - RIDERS OF THE WEST (Monogram, 1942) was Rough Riders adventure #7 and released in early October, 1942.

Remember Scott R. Dunlap from Jones' Fox silents? Dunlap was Vice President in Charge of Production at Monogram Pictures and and knew Buck's career could be boosted if given the right screen property.

In 1941, a deal was struck for a new western trio series called the "Rough Riders", which would star Buck, and the second and third leads were Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton. All three performers were about fifty years of age or older when filming began. At the time, Monogram had several other western series, including the Range Busters and Tom Keene.

Jones, Dunlap and Monogram's Trem Carr had formed Great Western Pictures to produce the Rough Riders films for release through Monogram, and each invested in the venture.

Production values were solid, the storylines were decent, and the charisma / interaction between the three movie veterans was quite enjoyable to watch, as they seemed to be having fun. Jones portrayed "Marshal Buck Roberts", McCoy was "Marshal Tim McCall", and Hatton was "Marshal Sandy Hopkins". And Buck adopted a new mannerism - when he was "ready to rumble" against the assorted no-goods, he'd pop a stick of chewing gum in his mouth.

But the best laid plans don't always come to fruition. World War II arrived and Colonel Tim McCoy returned to active duty. Still portraying their Rough Rider characters, Jones and Hatton did one more film together, the 63 minute DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE (Monogram, 1942). However, this was not advertised as a Rough Riders film.

But before DAWN was released, Jones died from injuries received in the November 28, 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston, which killed nearly 500 people. The badly burned western film star was rushed to the Massachusetts General Hospital but passed away on November 30, 1942. He was in Boston promoting his Monogram films as well as some War Bond work. Dunlap was also seriously injured in the fire, but did recover.

Many trade publications covered Buck's funeral on December 7, 1942. From the December 7, 1942 Motion Picture Daily:

"Funeral services for Charles (Buck) Jones, who died as a result of burns suffered in the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston will be held today ... in the chapel of Bresee Bros. & Gillette. Honorary pallbearers will be W. Ray Johnston, Trem Carr, Charles J. Bigelow, Austin C. Sherman, Dr. Donald Cass, Leslie [sic] Selander, George Moyer, Dr. C. D. Dickey, V. McCollum and W. S. Van Dyke."

Survivors included his wife Dell, daughter Maxine, his mother Eva McCammon, and sister Ada (Mrs. Walter Mendell). Funeral attendees included Hoot Gibson, Noah Beery, Dennis Moore, Raymond Hatton and Tex Ritter.

Loving the sea and sailing, Buck was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

(From Old Corral collection)

Raymond Hatton (seated) looks on, McCoy (wearing frock coat) negotiates, and Jones is all tied up in this lobby card from FORBIDDEN TRAILS (Monogram, 1941). Lynton Brent is on the left of McCoy and Charlie King (without a moustache) is standing on the far right. Tristram 'Tris' Coffin is seated at the table.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - Ray Hatton (left) chats with Tim McCoy (right) while Buck Jones takes a rest behind bars in this lobby card from ARIZONA BOUND (Monogram, 1941).

Above clipping from a Tuesday, December 1, 1942 newspaper courtesy of Donn & Nancy Moyer. Jones passed away on November 30, 1942.

Above is Scott R. Dunlap (1892 - 1970) ... friend and business manager of Buck Jones ... injured in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire which killed Jones ... primarily remembered for his work at Monogram in westerns such as the Rough Riders.

Dunlap's official title was Vice President in Charge of Production, and he reported to Monogram boss and president W. Ray Johnston.

The Jones and Dunlap connection began in the 1920s, when Dunlap directed eleven of Buck's silent oaters at Fox.

(From Old Corral collection)

Pressbook ad for the Rough Riders in DOWN TEXAS WAY (Monogram, 1942).

Buck Jones has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1973, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. And at the 1984 Golden Boot program, Jones was the recipient of their In Memorial Award.

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. However, it should be noted that these polls did not begin until the mid 1930s. If begun earlier, Jones would probably have been at or near the top of the rankings.

Popularity Rankings of Buck Jones
Jones' highest rating shown in this color
Year Motion Picture Herald
Poll Ranking
Poll Ranking
1936 1st .
1937 3rd 4th
1938 3rd 5th
1939 8th 5th
1940 . 6th
1941 . 3rd
1942 . 7th


I never saw a Buck Jones film at the theaters, for when I was growing up in the Atlanta area in the late 1940s and early 1950s, all that was showing were Whip Wilson, Jimmy Wakely, some Autry Columbias, etc.  Nor did Jones show up on early TV... except in the Rough Riders.  A couple decades later, I was able to view about a half dozen of Jones' films on the silver screen via 16mm prints borrowed from a collector friend. And as videotapes became available, I began collecting tapes of Buck's movies.

I was never overwhelmed with Buck's cinema efforts, and would rather watch Ken Maynard or Bob Steele.  Later still, I became mesmerized with the quality and polish of the Republic oaters.

But times changed.  I grew a bit weary of the Republic product, particularly the stuff from the 1940s, for they seemed too polished, too formula ... basically, everything with a Republic brand began to look and sound the same.

To counteract this blurriness, I began to run tapes of 1930s era talkies of Maynard, Mix, McCoy, Steele, Tyler ... and Jones.  Would pop a Jones oater in the VCR, and when the tape ended, I'd do a quick mental review and think 'not bad' or 'pretty good'.  Over time, I discovered that I was generally pleased with much of his work, particularly the first batch he did for Columbia Pictures.  As an 'actor', Jones was better than most.  On screen, he seemed to exhibit a warmness and strength that was missing in many of the western film heroes.

In one of the e-mail exchanges with Les Adams, he commented something like "Buck Jones did his best portraying Buck Jones".  That's probably why I didn't care for him going off type in films like THE AVENGER, SOUTH OF THE RIO GRANDE, and STONE OF SILVER CREEK.

You and I fondly remember Buck Jones.  But for most, he's simply a forgotten cowboy star from an era long ago who perished in some terrible nightclub fire in 1942.  Jones' legacy are scores of wonderful B westerns ... not his death at the Cocoanut Grove.  And I occasionally ponder what would have happened if Jones had connected with producer Harry Sherman and Paramount, and he, instead of William Boyd, had become Hopalong Cassidy.

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