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Alan James

Real name:
Alvin James Neitz

1890 - 1952

Alan James began work in Hollywood circa 1917 doing screen writing and then worked his way into directing jobs. During the silent era as well as early talkies, he used his real name of Alvin J. Neitz. Around 1931-1932, he was directing B westerns using the moniker of Alan James. Les Adams has James/Neitz with 43 sound film director credits, and that number includes 34 westerns and 6 chapterplays. In addition to directing, James also has a couple dozen sound film story and screenplay credits. His last movie work was writing on Gene Autry's Columbia westerns in the early 1950s.

James' 1930s westerns starred Wally Wales, Jack Perrin, Buffalo Bill Jr., Lane Chandler, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Charles Starrett and Jack Randall. But he's best remembered for helming fourteen Ken Maynard sound oaters beginning in the early 1930s and ending with the Trail Blazers series at Monogram circa 1943. James also did the stories and screenplays on several Maynards.

The James and Maynard relationship began in films for the K.B.S. production company, and TOMBSTONE CANYON (KBS/World Wide, 1932), COME ON, TARZAN (KBS/World Wide, 1932) and PHANTOM THUNDERBOLT (KBS/World Wide, 1933) are the best of their early collaborations ... and are also among Maynard's finest. (The K.B.S. name stood for Burt Kelly, Samuel Bischoff and William Saal, and the short-lived company released its westerns and non-westerns through World Wide.)

After K.B.S., Ken signed with Universal where he was given his own production unit and fairly hefty budgets ... and he hired James to direct and do some writing. James helmed seven (of the eight) which were released in 1933-1934. The exception was THE FIDDLIN' BUCKAROO (Universal, 1933) which Ken directed and was probably the first to be filmed. No question that the Universal batch represent Ken at his cinematic best. Can't get much better than STRAWBERRY ROAN (Universal, 1933), THE TRAIL DRIVE (Universal, 1933) and WHEELS OF DESTINY (Universal, 1934).

After the Maynard/Universal series concluded, James did westerns and serials at Republic, Universal, Monogram, more.

He and Maynard re-united for the Trail Blazers series, and James directed the first two entries, WILD HORSE STAMPEDE (Monogram, 1943) and THE LAW RIDES AGAIN (Monogram, 1943).

There had to be some friendship or camaraderie between Alan James and Ken Maynard. At minimum, James was able to work with (or around) Maynard who had a cantankerous reputation and was always nosing in on the productions. Give Alan James some credit for getting the most from Maynard ... and for crafting many of Ken's best screen adventures.

62 year old Alvin James Neitz passed away from uremia, cardiac failure, and hypertension on December 30, 1952 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, Los Angeles. He and wife Marguerite lived at 6138 Afton Place, Los Angeles, and she was the informant on his death certificate.

California Death Index for Alvin James Neitz. He was born March 23, 1890 in Washington and passed away December 30, 1952 in Los Angeles:

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on writer and director Alan James / Alvin J. Neitz:

Alan James was a busy director, co-director and writer. Some highlights.

James did fourteen films with Ken Maynard:

Ken Maynard Films Alan James Involvement:
Director Story Screenplay
COME ON, TARZAN (KBS/World Wide, 1932) X X X
TOMBSTONE CANYON (KBS/World Wide, 1932) X    
FARGO EXPRESS (KBS/World Wide, 1933) X    
THE LONE AVENGER (KBS/World Wide, 1933) X    
PHANTOM THUNDERBOLT (KBS/World Wide, 1933) X    
GUN JUSTICE (Universal, 1933) X    
KING OF THE ARENA (Universal, 1933) X   X
STRAWBERRY ROAN (Universal, 1933) X    
THE TRAIL DRIVE (Universal, 1933) X X X
SMOKING GUNS (Universal, 1934) X    
WHEELS OF DESTINY (Universal, 1934) X    
HONOR OF THE RANGE (Universal, 1934) X    
WILD HORSE STAMPEDE (Trail Blazers) (Monogram, 1943) X X  
THE LAW RIDES AGAIN (Trail Blazers) (Monogram, 1943) X    

James also co-directed some pretty good serials at Republic and Universal:

DICK TRACY (Republic, 1937; directed by James and Ray Taylor)
S.O.S. COAST GUARD (Republic, 1937; directed by James and Bill Witney)
THE PAINTED STALLION (Republic, 1937; directed by James and Ray Taylor)
FLAMING FRONTIERS (Universal, 1938; directed by James and Ray Taylor)
RED BARRY (Universal, 1938; directed by James and Ford Beebe)
SCOUTS TO THE RESCUE (Universal, 1939; directed by James and Ray Taylor)

(Courtesy of Lynn MacKaye Morgan)

Above is cast and crew photo and a crop/blowup of Alvin J. Neitz (seated) and members of the production crew on the set of an unidentified silent film.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is a well worn title lobby card from TRAILS OF DANGER (National Players/Big 4, 1930), an early talkie starring Wally Wales and Virginia Brown Faire as the female lead. In the lower left - the director is Alvin J. Neitz. A year or so after this film, Neitz became Alan James. He did sound westerns starring Wales, Jack Perrin, Buffalo Bill Jr., Lane Chandler, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Charles Starrett, Jack Randall and the brothers Ken and Kermit Maynard.

(From Old Corral collection)

In the mid 1930s, Ken Maynard's brother Kermit did some mountie adventures for producer Maurice H. Conn's Ambassador Pictures company, and then the series shifted to traditional B-western yarns. The cast of WILD HORSE ROUND-UP (Ambassador-Conn, 1936) included young Dickie Jones who, in later life, became Dick Jones of TV's RANGE RIDER and BUFFALO BILL, JR.  Heroine Betty Lloyd is really Beth Marion. In the photo inset, that's John Merton doing his best to refrain Kermit Maynard. Alan James directed.

May, 1943 trade ad announcing Monogram's new Trail Blazers series with Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson. James helmed the first two Trail Blazers films.

(Courtesy of Lynn MacKaye Morgan)

Above is a photo of Alan James and his wife Marguerite (nickname of "Myme"). They had one child, a daughter named Ann. From L-to-R are 'Myme', Alan James, the youngster is Ann, and notations on the photo/family album is that the lady on the right is Violet. Photo is marked "Modesto Cal '20", short for Modesto, California 1920.

(Courtesy of Lynn MacKaye Morgan)

1930s - Alan James and his wife Marguerite ("Myme").

(Courtesy of Lynn MacKaye Morgan)

1940s - Alan James and sister Violet on a sunny California beach.

(Courtesy of Lynn MacKaye Morgan)

Above from L-to-R are Alan James, Violet and Lynn circa 1950. Lynn writes: "My Uncle Al died in Hollywood ... they resided on Afton Place in Hollywood ... hypertension was the cause as I remember being told."

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