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(From Old Corral collection)
By the late 1930s, Tim had the acting bug and worked at RKO in some oaters starring their current range hero, George O'Brien, as well as with veteran Harry Carey. Other film work included portraying Anne Shirley's boyfriend, Richard Grosvenor III, in the Barbara Stanwyck STELLA DALLAS (Samuel Goldwyn, 1937). Recall the cavalry patrol in John Ford's STAGECOACH (United Artists, 1939) --- the officer leading the troop was a young Tim Holt at about age 20.

By the early 1940s, Tim Holt had his own cowboy series at RKO, replacing the muscular O'Brien who had retired from films. In the Holt oaters, there were several sidekick groupings --- singer Ray Whitley, Lee 'Lasses' White, whiskered codger Emmett Lynn, and Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards (who is more famous as the voice of the Walt Disney character Jiminy Cricket and singer of When You Wish Upon A Star).

Holt did eighteen RKO oaters which were released from 1940-1943, and his first starring role was WAGON TRAIN (RKO, 1940). One of his better films from this period is THE BANDIT TRAIL (RKO, 1941) which features Whitley and 'Lasses' White.  Morris Ankrum, who did many of the Hopalong Cassidy flicks using a screen name of Stephen Morris, portrays 'Red' Haggerty, a no good relative of Holt who reforms at the end and is killed in a blazing gun battle with Roy Barcroft and gang.

RKO also used Holt in some non-westerns: he starred as a Nazi youth in the wartime HITLER'S CHILDREN (RKO, 1943) with Bonita Granville. And he had a meaty role in Orson Welles' THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (Mercury/RKO, 1942).

Then came a break. Holt enlisted in the Air Corps on May 14, 1942, attained the rank of Lieutenant and served as a bombadier. In mid 1945, he was attached to the 62nd Bombardment Squadron, 39th Bombardment Group. The B-29 Superfortress crew - which included Tim - were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions during a bombing run on May 29, 1945.

(From Old Corral collection)

Replacing George O'Brien at RKO was Tim Holt, and his first starring oater was WAGON TRAIN (RKO, 1940).

Tim's first four featured singer and songwriter Ray Whitley and Emmett Lynn. Eight more followed with Whitley, but Lee 'Lasses' White replaced Emmett Lynn. After eight with Whitley and White, the threesome approach was dropped. Tim's new solo helper was Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards in six features released in 1942-1943.

Above from L-to-R are Ray Whitley, Lee 'Lasses' White and Holt.

Below from L-to-R are Richard 'Dick' Cramer, Cliff 'Ukelele Ike' Edwards and Holt in PIRATES OF THE PRAIRIE (RKO, 1942).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

From L-to-R are Tim Holt, Dolores Costello, and Joseph Cotten in Orson Welles' THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942).  (Thanks to Robert Gregory for identifying the lady in this pic.  He also noted that Dolores Costello was one of John Barrymore's ex-wives and the grandmother of Drew Barrymore.)

Tim Holt - with a close cut hairstyle - in HITLER'S CHILDREN (RKO, 1943).

After the war, Holt continued his western career at RKO, and his films from this period rank at the top of the B western genre.  Richard "Chito" Martin was Holt's saddle pal during the entire group.  Additionally, Holt worked in some memorable A grade films, co-starring as Virgil Earp in the John Ford directed MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (20th Century-Fox, 1946) with Henry Fonda and Victor Mature, as well as director John Huston's THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (Warner Bros., 1948), starring Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston. During his last year at RKO, Tim did a support role in the Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell HIS KIND OF WOMAN (RKO, 1951) which included Vincent Price and Raymond Burr in the cast.

Tim Holt's last cowboy film was DESERT PASSAGE (RKO, 1952), and soon after, he abandoned Hollywood. Over the next twenty years, he appeared in less than a handful of movies. Of those few films, only one was a starring role - he was a Navy officer battling THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (United Artists, 1957), one of many mediocre 1950s sci-fi monster movies.

Holt also did personal appearance tours and rodeos to pick up some cash.

From left to right are Tim Holt (with moustache and beard), Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston in the John Huston directed tale of greed while searching for gold, THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (Warner Bros., 1948).

In the photo right are Tim Holt with the Red Birds country western singing group and other musicians during his personal appearance at the Buck Lake Ranch in Indiana, circa 1954.
(Courtesy of Joe Taylor & Patty Corbett)

(Courtesy of Gary King and the Avondale Youth Center)
Tim Holt did a lot of special personal appearances. Note that Tim has that same wide brimmed hat that he wears in the Red Birds photo above.

In the photo on the left, Tim is surrounded by youngsters at the Avondale Youth Center which is operated by Muskingum County Children Services in Zanesville, Ohio.

Gary King found an old newspaper clipping about Tim's visit to the Avondale youth Center - it occurred on June 3, 1954 and the article also mentions that Tim would be visiting several theaters in that area.

You can learn more about Muskingum County Children Services and the Avondale Youth Center at:

There were three marriages for Tim. He and first wife Virginia Ashcraft were married from 1938 - 1944, and son Lance Randolph Holt was born January 15, 1940. Wife number two was Alice Harrison and they married in 1944 when Tim was in the Air Corps. Wife number three was Berdee Stephens and they tied the knot in 1952. That relationship was successful - and there's a photo of Berdee, daughter Bryanna and sons Jack and Jay on the next page.

Tim had a variety of jobs including several years of personal appearances and touring ... he worked for radio stations and TV stations ... and there was other work which took the family to Iowa and Colorado. Tim even hosted a Saturday morning "Tim Holt Western Theater" on Oklahoma City television circa 1959 - 1960. Ultimately, Tim, Berdee, and family settled down on a ranch in Harrah, Oklahoma.

On February 15, 1973, and at age 54, Tim Holt passed away at the Shawnee, Oklahoma Medical Center from bone cancer. He and wife Berdee are interred at Memory Lane Cemetery, Harrah, Oklahoma. You may want to go to the In Search Of ... page on the Old Corral and check the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and Oklahoma State Vital Records. You should find records for a Charles Holt, birthdate of February 5, 1919, and he passed away February 15, 1973 in Oklahoma.

Holt was a good actor, and was reasonably successful in obtaining non-western screen roles. His pre World War II cowboy series was average fare. But his twenty nine RKO films after his World War II service are very good westerns with solid scripts, superior photography, and beautiful locations. In charge of about half of the Holt oaters was Lesley Selander, a veteran movie maker who had directing experience on Hopalong Cassidy films as well as Republic westerns.

Nearly twenty years after his passing, Tim Holt was finally recognized for his achievements as a western movie hero. In 1991, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The following year, he became a Golden Boot Award recipient. See photo below of the awards.

(Courtesy of Bryanna Holt)

On the left is the award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. On the right is the Golden Boot award. I asked Bryanna Holt who attended the ceremonies and received the awards: "My late Aunt Jennifer accepted the Western Heritage award along with my brothers, my mother and myself. The Golden Boot was accepted by my brothers and I."

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, Starrett, Hoppy, Johnny Mack Brown, Bill Elliott ... and Tim Holt.

Popularity Rankings of Tim Holt
Holt's highest rating shown in red
Year Motion Picture Herald
Poll Ranking
Poll Ranking
1941 6th 4th
1942 8th 4th
1943 6th No poll
1948 7th 7th
1949 4th 7th
1950 6th 6th
1951 3rd 4th
1952 5th 3rd
1953 . 8th

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