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(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above is the title lobby card from Maynard's THE FIDDLIN' BUCKAROO (Universal, 1933).

(Courtesy of Larry Welch)

Above - Ken Maynard doing a dual role as brothers Clem and Ken Bellamy in a lobby card from HONOR OF THE RANGE (Universal, 1934).

As noted earlier, Universal had re-entered the western film market when they hired Tom Mix for the 1932-1933 season. These were 'Tom Mix Productions' and included rather hefty budgets, appropriate for a Tinseltown legend.  But due to injuries, advancing age, involvement with his circus, or other reasons, Mix opted not to continue beyond nine films.

For the 1933-1934 film release season, Universal easily coaxed Maynard back to the fold --- as part of the deal, he was given control over the films which were 'Ken Maynard Productions'. Based on commentary from many authors, the production budgets were in the $100,000 range per film.

Eight features were made, and THE TRAIL DRIVE (Universal, 1933), STRAWBERRY ROAN (Universal, 1933) and WHEELS OF DESTINY (Universal, 1934) are on the favorites list of self and many others.

THE FIDDLIN' BUCKAROO (Universal, 1933), GUN JUSTICE (Universal, 1933), and KING OF THE ARENA (Universal, 1933) are respectable but unremarkable. Ken essayed a dual role in HONOR OF THE RANGE (Universal, 1934). And SMOKING GUNS (Universal, 1934) is THE Maynard production which is panned by everyone (more info below). But one 'miss' out of eight isn't a bad average.

All good things come to an end. It appears that Ken thoroughly antagonized Carl Laemmle (Senior) and Carl (Junior), his bosses at Universal. Scuttlebutt was that he didn't care about budget overruns and there were sessions of 'expletives deleted'. Universal bid adieu to Maynard (though some reports suggest that Maynard was the one who decided to exit). Regardless of who said goodbye, the probability is that Ken's ego, temper or both were among the causes of the separation. Universal didn't care - they hired Buck Jones as Maynard's replacement. Jones wasn't new to Universal - while Ken was doing his western series, the studio had starred Buck in the GORDON OF GHOST CITY (Universal, 1933) chapterplay. From the February 15, 1934 issue of the Hollywood Reporter:

Headline: "Buck Jones Set for Ken Maynard Spot" ; "Those on the inside say that Buck Jones will probably be Universal's western star when Ken Maynard finishes his present picture, 'Doomed To Die'. This picture, his eighth on present contract, is also the last on the contract. It is reported that Maynard isn't very anxious to renew ... and it is rumored that Universal isn't so hot to have him."

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a Film Classics duo-tone (sepia) re-release title lobby card for Maynard's worst during his second stay at Universal. Actor Walter Miller is a lawman sent to find Ken in a jungle setting ... Maynard is in hiding after being framed ... Miller dies ... Maynard assumes Miller's identity and returns to civilization to rescue Miller's father (and nobody seems to notice that Ken doesn't look like Walter Miller). Why didn't Maynard play both roles? Some writers suggest that this film - and arguments over re-shooting scenes or re-making it entirely - was the cause of Maynard's breakup with Universal.

The key with SMOKING GUNS is to avoid it ... and don't judge Maynard's entire career using this film as the base.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Maynard (wearing a wig) consoles Walter Miller (with a beard) in SMOKING GUNS (Universal, 1934).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above, Cecilia Parker and Ken Maynard in THE TRAIL DRIVE (Universal, 1933).  Parker is best remembered as 'Marian Hardy', Mickey Rooney's sister, in the MGM Hardy Family/Andy Hardy films. She was the female lead/heroine in four Maynard westerns: TOMBSTONE CANYON (KBS/World Wide, 1932), GUN JUSTICE (Universal, 1933), THE TRAIL DRIVE (Universal, 1933) and HONOR OF THE RANGE (Universal, 1934).

(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)

Above, Ken doing some fiddlin' from what else, THE FIDDLIN' BUCKAROO (Universal, 1933). Playing the harmonica is Frank Rice, who also sidekicked with Buck Jones.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from L-to-R are Frank Yaconelli, Ken Maynard and Charlie King in a scene from Maynard's THE STRAWBERRY ROAN (Universal, 1933).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above, the buckskin clad Maynard lets go with a hail of lead in one of his best westerns, WHEELS OF DESTINY (Universal, 1934).

(Courtesy of Jack Jones)

Above - Ken Maynard with his fiddle in HONOR OF THE RANGE (Universal, 1934). And in the background from left to right are Johnny Luther (Arkansas Johnny Luther), Chuck Baldra, Al Haskell (accordian) and Jack Jones (banjo).

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