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(From Old Corral collection)

Above from L-to-R are Bob Steele, Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard, Monogram's Trail Blazers.  DEATH VALLEY RANGERS (Monogram, 1943) was the fourth entry in the Trail Blazers series and was Steele's debut as a member. Earlier, he had been 'Tucson Smith' in the Three Mesquiteers sagas, but Republic Pictures terminated that series in 1943.

As previously noted, Dorothy Irene Dunstan was Hoot's fourth (and last) wife and they married in July, 1942. His first wife was Rose Wenger, an equestrian who rode in the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Wild West Show in 1910-1911. When the show closed in Venice, California, producer Thomas H. Ince hired the whole troupe to appear in films he was making. This led to a job with Kalem. She continued to ride professionally and met Hoot in Pendleton, Oregon, in 1913. Reports in Pendleton, Oregon newspapers indicate that Gibson and Rose Wenger tied the knot on September 6, 1913, just prior to both performing in the annual Pendleton Round-up and rodeo. Rose Wenger Gibson went to Hollywood with hubby Hoot, and circa 1915, she took over the 'Hazards of Helen' role from Helen Holmes. When that occurred, she became "Helen Gibson". They divorced in 1920.

Hoot married Helen Johnson in 1922 and they divorced in 1929. Their one child, Lois, was born in 1923. Helen's divorce suit charged Hoot with infidelity with actress Sally Eilers whom Hoot married June 27, 1930. Hoot and Sally divorced in September, 1933 and Sally later married producer Harry Joe Brown.

Hoot was off the screen for nearly six years before returning and teaming up with Ken Maynard at Monogram for The Trail Blazers. This series, under producer (and sometimes director) Robert Tansey, picked up for Monogram where their very popular Rough Riders trio left off due to the tragic death of Buck Jones in the November 28, 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston, Massachusetts.

The first one, WILD HORSE STAMPEDE ('43), got off to a good start with Bob Baker seemingly being the third member (but never billed as such). His role was very weak and he didn't return for the second entry, THE LAW RIDES AGAIN. Bob Steele joined for the fourth, DEATH VALLEY RANGERS, and the series perked up considerably. Steele added a youthful, action-oriented flair to the pictures. Then followed WESTWARD BOUND ('43) that proved retakes were unnecessary in a Tansey production. In one scene, Gibson tosses a bunch of dynamite sticks at a fleeing Harry Woods. The sticks land in the street but the explosion takes place several feet away! It was all that Maynard could take and he bowed out after the sixth film, ARIZONA WHIRLWIND. Steele and Gibson carried on for two more with Chief Thunder Cloud added to make it an interesting trio.

Producer Tansey exited and MARKED TRAILS, UTAH KID and TRIGGER LAW with just Gibson and Steele were made under a separate production setup, not really part of the Trail Blazers series.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Left is a pressbook ad for the first Trail Blazers film, WILD HORSE STAMPEDE (Monogram, 1943), and the ad proclaims "Two of the greatest cowboy heroes of all time join forces ...."

Notice that Ken Maynard is given the larger photo while Hoot Gibson is pictured in the smaller round photo inset on the right.

That's onetime Universal cowboy hero Bob Baker in the center, rearing on his trusty hoss, but not being billed.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a lobby card from THE LAW RIDES AGAIN (Monogram, 1943, the second film in Monogram's Trail Blazers series. From left to right are Betty Miles, Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Hoot Gibson in the center (sans gunbelt) and Ken Maynard on the right have the drop on Charlie King in a crop from a lobby card from BLAZING GUNS (Monogram, 1943), the third Trail Blazers film.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above, from L-to-R are Betty Miles, Bob Steele, John Bridges, and Hoot Gibson (with no gunbelt) in SONORA STAGECOACH (Monogram, 1944), one of the later Trail Blazers without Ken Maynard.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Bob Steele and Hoot Gibson on unidentified horses in a lobby card crop from TRIGGER LAW (Monogram, 1944), one of three films they made together at Monogram after the demise of the Trail Blazers.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

In late 1946, Gibson and some partners opened their D-4-C Ranch on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The ranch had bungalows, an airfield, restaurant, gambling, dude ranch amenities, and catered to guests who came to Vegas for a quickie divorce. Quickly say "D4C". Now say "Divorcee". Got the drift? D-4-C was a financial failure, and Hoot and the investing group sold the ranch in late 1950.

Hoot dropped out of pictures (with the exception of playing the sheriff in FLIGHT TO NOWHERE [Screen Guild '46] with Alan Curtis and Jack Holt) but reappeared almost a decade later with the lead in the Ken Murray-produced MARSHAL'S DAUGHTER ('53). In '59, John Ford brought Hoot back to the screen in a supporting role with John Wayne in THE HORSE SOLDIERS, and the following year he had a small, uncredited role in the Frank Sinatra Las Vegas romp, OCEAN'S ELEVEN.

Gibson also worked as a greeter at the Last Frontier casino, sold Chinchillas on a '50s TV show and even did some carnival work. He and Dorothy struggled to meet the enormous debts incurred by a series of cancer operations for Hoot when he was stricken with the disease in 1960.

70 year old Hoot Gibson passed away on on August 23, 1962 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, California. Funeral services were held on August 27, 1962, at Pierce Bros. Hollywood and burial at Inglewood Park Cemetery. Mourners included Ken Maynard, Roy Rogers, Monte Montana, Bob Steele, Tex Ritter, Bob Nolan (of the Songs of the Pioneers), Iron Eyes Cody, Wallace Ford, Buster Keaton, Jackie Coogan, Philo McCullough, Jack Mulhall, Reginald Denny, and Hoot's former wife Sally Eilers. Eddie Dean sang "Empty Saddles". Hoot's survivors included his widow Dorothy Dunstan Gibson; Lois Flanders. his daughter from a previous marriage; his sister, Mrs. Jessie Gasaway; and his brother, Leon Gibson.

Hoot Gibson possessed the ingredients many cowboy stars lacked - fine acting, superb horsemanship, and a knack for tongue-in-cheek comedy that was unsurpassed.

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. Hoot was ranked during two years. However, it should be noted that the polls did not begin until the mid 1930s, which was well past his prime years as the star of silents and early sound westerns at Universal. His 1944 ranking was during Monogram's Trail Blazers series.

Popularity Rankings of Hoot Gibson
Year Motion Picture Herald Poll Ranking Boxoffice Poll Ranking
1936 9th  
1944   9th

(Courtesy of Boyd Magers)
Left are Bobby Clark (Bobby Clack) and Hoot Gibson during a post-WW2 personal appearance.

Clark was World Champion Junior Trick and Fancy Rope Artist who, as a youngster, appeared in several westerns and serials, including OVERLAND WITH KIT CARSON (Columbia, 1939) with Bill Elliott and TRIGGER SMITH (Monogram, 1939) with Jack Randall.

(Courtesy of Becky Lewis)

Above - a bunch of smilin' guests at Hoot's D-4-C Ranch circa 1950, and on the far right is Gibson. Thanks to Becky Lewis for the photo. Her grandmother, Violetta Reese, was a pilot that flew visitors in and out of the ranch.

Nevada newspapers reports indicate the incorporation paperwork for the D-4-C Ranch was filed in Carson City, Nevada on January 23, 1947. Officers included Hoot as President and J. Dee Smith as Vice President. Hoot's wife, Dorothy Irene Gibson was a director.

1947 issues of the Variety tradepaper had several articles on enhancements to the property. Included were construction of twenty new bungalows, an improved airfield, addition of a restaurant and a cowboy band, and wife Dorothy entertained with some singing. The ranch catered to guests who came to Vegas for a quickie divorce. Quickly say "D4C". Now say "Divorcee". Got the drift?

Alas - the venture was a financial failure and October, 1950 Nevada newspapers noted that the ranch was sold by J. Dee Smith and associates for an undisclosed sum to Maurice J. Silman, president of Palm Springs Outpost Inc.

(Courtesy of Melody Waters)

Above - musician and singer Vernon Scott 'Ozie' Waters is wearing the buckskins on the far left and guest Hoot Gibson is sitting at the desk during a break on Ozie's KBTV show, Denver, Colorado, circa 1954. Along the top of the photo, you can see where the wall ends on the set. The microphone is in the upper right. Ozie Waters had a Junior Ranger club on KBTV and there were 40,000 kids who were members and got an official card. Ozie Waters and his Colorado Rangers did musical support from about 1944 - 1950 in a dozen or so oaters - he worked with Charles Starrett at Columbia and William Boyd in the later Hopalong Cassidy releases via United Artists.

(Courtesy of Boyd Magers)

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Hoot and Bob Steele circa 1959.

In the photo left, William Holden and Hoot take a break during the filming of director John Ford's THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959).

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