|The 'brains' and 'action' heavies who had meaty roles and lots of dialog ... and the players who were fathers, ranch owners, lawman, mayors, judges, lawyers, storekeepers, newspaper editors, wardens, etc.|
Fred Burns, late 1930s
Frederick Dana Burns
1878 - 1955
Bob Burns, mid 1930s
Robert Emmet Burns
1884 - 1957
Edward Burns, early 1930s
|Ed / Edward Burns|
Forest Edward Burns
1879 - 1954
|September, 2011: special thanks to May Bopp, Bob Burns' daughter, for assisting in this profile on the Burns Brothers ... and for a couple of corrections. I had originally noted that actor Forest Burns was Bob's son. Forest was Fred's son. And Fred Burns was a champion roper and billed as "King of the Rope". He was not a bronc rider or buster. May also confirmed several name spellings: Robert Emmet Burns, and Emmet has only one T; and Fred's son Forest is spelled with a single R.|
Sad to report that May Bopp passed away October 24, 2019.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)
(Courtesy of May Bopp, Bob Burns' daughter)
Fred's son Forest Galvin
Burns (1914 - 1998)
JUST TRAVELIN' (Sierra, 1927): Directed by Horace B. Carpenter and the cast includes Bob Burns, Dorothy Donald, Lew Meehan and Harry O'Connor. This appears to be the only surviving work of cowboy star Bob Burns during the silent era. Burns plays a drifter who comes to the aid of a prospector and his daughter. The two are having trouble with a vicious French-Canadian heel (Meehan), who is lusting after both the gold and the girl. Burns remained in films until 1951 usually playing stage-drivers, lawmen or, occasionally, outlaws. Transferred from the only known 35mm Nitrate print.
When sound arrived, brother Ed was working carpenter duty at the studios. Fred and Bob continued acting, picking up paychecks for various character and bit parts, sometimes credited and sometimes unbilled. They were mostly in westerns - and both specialized in portraying a ranch owner / foreman, local lawman, father of the heroine, etc. Occasionally, they played a baddie, sometimes masquerading as a stalwart member of the community. And both can be spotted driving wagons and stagecoaches.
A few examples of their sound era roles:
• Fred Burns: is the killer of Hoot Gibson's dad in MOUNTED STRANGER (Universal, 1930); in Tom Keene's THE SADDLE BUSTER (RKO, 1932), Fred's the boss of a bunch of bronc riders - and shows off his rope handling talent; and he's stunt lady Betty Miles' father in the Tex Ritter RIDIN' THE CHEROKEE TRAIL (Monogram, 1941).
• Bob Burns: has a father role in the Jack Hoxie LAW AND LAWLESS (Majestic, 1932); and plays a lawman in George O'Brien's BULLET CODE (RKO, 1940) and Tom Tyler's WHEN A MAN RIDES ALONE (Monarch, 1933).
• Both turn up in many Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Don Barry, and Three Mesquiteers adventures at Republic Pictures (playing ranchers, posse members, rodeo judge, etc.).
• Fred and Bob were frequent stagecoach and wagon drivers. Example: in the Dick Foran CALIFORNIA MAIL (Warners, 1936), Fred is handling the reins during a stagecoach race, while Bob is driving a stage that gets held up.
Fred and Bob were involved in the late 1933 formation of the Riding Actors Association, Inc. of Hollywood. This was in response to the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, and the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) and National Recovery Administration (NRA). An NRA requirement was for business and industry - including Hollywood - to establish "codes" defining work rules, pay schedules, maximum work hours per week, etc. In response to that NRA code requirement, a group of about 500 (mostly) western movie stunt men and "riding extras" formed the "Riding Actors Association, Inc. of Hollywood". The membership also included heroes, directors, writers, etc. The Riding Actors developed wage rates as well as pricing for stunts and action sequences. The first president of the Riding Actors Association was Fred Burns and he was elected in December, 1933 to that post. And he was re-elected as president the following year. Brother Bob served on the Riding Actors' Executive Board.
Fred and Bob were also members of the "Chuck Wagon Trailers", a group of western film old-timers, heroes, character, and bit players who assembled a few times a year for a BBQ and to remember the ol' days.
Fred wrapped up his career at Republic Pictures circa post World War II. Bob continued working through the 1940s and 1950s, including some TV jobs. During this later period, he was most often in the background as a townsman, barfly, rancher, farmer, etc.
Fred's son Forest Burns did some stunting and henchman/bit roles in the 1940s - 1950s. Fred and son were involved in a gold mining venture with burly actor Bill Nestell, and more on that is on the next webpage.
72 year old Robert Emmet Burns passed away on March 14, 1957 at St. Joseph Hospital, Burbank, California and is interred at Chapel of the Pines.
74 year old Forest Edward Burns passed away at his Los Angeles home on July 4, 1954 from heart problems and asthma and is interred at Chapel of the Pines.
77 year old Frederick Dana Burns passed away on July 18, 1955 from heart problems at the Motion Picture Country Hospital, Los Angeles and is interred at Chapel of the Pines.
|Film counts by decade for the Burns Brothers. Includes westerns, non-westerns, serials, shorts, etc. The 1950 - 1959 quantity for Bob Burns includes some TV shows.|
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on the Burns family:
Bob Burns: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122590/
Fred Burns: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122668/
Fred's son, Forest Burns: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122664/
Edward Burns: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122655/
Edward Burns' daughter Thelma: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122896/
Edward Burns' daughter Beulah: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122581/
The IMDb has a "People Working Together" search function - Bob and Fred worked together in about 80 films, mostly westerns and a few serials: https://www.imdb.com/search/title/?roles=nm0122668,nm0122590
Do NOT get our western and serial Bob Burns confused with vaudeville and film performer Bob "Bazooka" Burns, the "Arkansas Traveler". The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has info on him: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122589/
Getty Images has a poster of hero Bob Burns in JUST TRAVELIN' (Sierra, 1927): https://www.gettyimages.ca/detail/news-photo/just-travelin-poster-us-poster-art-from-left-bob-burns-lew-news-photo/1137118712
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West website has an advertising flyer for Vernon C. Seaver's Young Buffalo Wild West. And it includes a photo of "Arena Director" Fred Burns: http://library.centerofthewest.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p17097coll6/id/842/rec/2
Fred Burns - as "Rope Spinner, Juggler; Cowboy" - is listed as a circa 1907 performer on the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch website: http://www.kaycounty.info/101_ranch/listb.htm
Dianne E. Harley-Wintch has genealogy webpages on several of the Burns family:
The page on John Leonard Burns, the father of Fred and Bob is at: https://wc.rootsweb.com/trees/127450/I10741/-/individual
There's several photos of Fred and Bob at: http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~eaglesnest/genealogy/Surname/Martin/album.html
and there are specific pages on:
Robert Emmet Burns: https://wc.rootsweb.com/trees/127450/I10598/-/individual
Frederick Dana Burns: https://wc.rootsweb.com/trees/127450/I10735/-/individual
Forest Galvin Burns (Fred Burns' son) (1914 - 1998): https://wc.rootsweb.com/trees/127450/I27399/-/individual
Robert Emmet Burns (1884 - 1957)
(Courtesy of Jack Tillmany)
Robert Burns in the 1920s at Universal.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are Jack Hoxie, Bob Burns, heroine Betty Boyd and Harry Todd in a lobby card from Hoxie's GUN LAW (Majestic, 1933).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right are Betty Boyd, Mary Carr, Archie Ricks, Harry Todd, Jack Kirk, and Bob Burns in a scene from the Jack Hoxie GUN LAW (Majestic, 1933).
(Courtesy of Fabian Cepeda)
Above from left to right are Kit Guard, William Boyd, Andy Clyde, Bob Burns, big and burly Bill Nestell, and Jack Casey in the Hopalong Cassidy LEATHER BURNERS (United Artists, 1943).
Family Search and death certificate provide more on Robert Emmet 'Bob' Burns:
Funeral notice for Bob Burns in the March 16, 1957 Los Angeles Evening Citizen News: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/84502916/funeral-notice-for-movie-cowboy-bob/
Find A Grave website confirms that Bob Burns is interred at Chapel Of The Pines, Los Angeles, California: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/147959360/robert-emmett-burns
Frederick Dana Burns (1878 - 1955)
(Courtesy of Bruce Hickey)
Fred Burns in the early 1930s. He played a lawman in dozens of westerns.
Fred Burns was with the Young Buffalo Wild West and the above ad is for their September, 1911 performance in Marion, Ohio. The Library of Congress website has a half dozen 1911 newspapers with ads for Fred and the show performing in Richmond, Indiana; Plymouth, Indiana; Fairmont, West Virginia; Richmond, Kentucky; and Hopkinsville, Kentucky. To view those newspapers, click HERE and a separate window / tab will open.
In the 1910s, Fred alternated between movies and wild west show appearances. In addition to the above ad, there's traces of Fred doing Wild West shows in issues of Variety, Billboard, and Clipper tradepapers. Following are a few mentions:
And in 1935, Fred was foreman with Tim McCoy and the Ringling-Barnum Circus:
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from left to right in the front are Fred Burns, Maude Eburne, Carol Hughes and Hal Taliaferro. Left to right on horseback are Bob Card, Ted Mapes and Jack Montgomery. Crop from a lobby card from the Roy Rogers starrer, THE BORDER LEGION (Republic, 1940).
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above from L-to-R are Ted Mapes, Sally Payne, Chuck Baldra, Roy Rogers, unidentified woman (Fern Emmett?), and Fred Burns in a crop from a lobby card from IN OLD CHEYENNE (Republic, 1941).
(From Old Corral collection)
Above from left to right are a wounded Fred Burns, Roy Rogers, and Gabby Hayes in SUNSET ON THE DESERT (Republic, 1942).
Family Search and death certificate provide more on Frederick 'Fred' Dana Burns:
Funeral notice for Fred Burns in the July 21, 1955 Los Angeles Times: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/84503030/funeral-notice-for-movie-cowboy-fred/
Find A Grave website confirms that Fred Burns is interred at Chapel Of The Pines, Los Angeles, California: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/147957939/frederick-dana-burns
Forest Edward Burns (1879 - 1954)
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Forest Edward Burns: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0122655/
Family Search and death certificate provide more on Forest Edward Burns:
Above are Edward Burns' daughters, Thelma and Beulah, and the girls had brief movie careers as members of the Triangle/Fine Arts and later Fox "Kiddies" circa 1915 - 1918. The above photos are from the May 29, 1915 issue of Reel Life which is available at the Internet Archive. Several trade publications mistakenly mention Fred as the father of Beulah and Thelma.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Thelma and Beulah Burns: