(From Old Corral collection)
(From Old Corral collection)
Floyd Taliaferro Alderson was born November 13, 1895 in Sheridan, Sheridan County, Wyoming. But his home was the Bones Brothers Ranch in Birney, Rosebud County, Montana (in southeastern Montana, about a sixty mile drive north of Sheridan, Wyoming). According to the 1940 census, Floyd completed eight years of schooling.
His parents were Louis Allen Alderson (1862 - 1932) and Emma Elizabeth Roberts Alderson (1867 - 1906), and they married in Sheridan, Wyoming on December 15, 1892. They had three sons: Floyd Taliaferro Alderson was the oldest, born November 13, 1895; and his two brothers were Allen Roberts Alderson (1898 - 1973; nicknamed "Big Bones") and Irving Newman Alderson (1902 - 1988; nicknamed "Little Bones"). Floyd was nearly six feet tall and slender, and his brothers and ranch hands jokingly called him "Skin and Bones" ... which got shortened to just "Bones". And that's how the Bones Brothers Ranch got its name.
The property was a cattle spread and farm created from a bunch of family homesteads, and in later years, it also was a dude ranch. Unsure of the current status and ownership of the property.
Floyd's teen years included cowhand duties at the Sheridan, Wyoming ranch of John B. Kendrick (1857 - 1933), a cattleman and politician who became a Wyoming State Senator, Governor of Wyoming, and U. S. Senator.
Floyd Taliaferro Alderson arrived in Hollywood around 1915, did some horse wrangling, bit parts, stunting, and when he registered for the World War I draft in June, 1917, his occupation was "Actor - Fox Film Corp, Western Avenue Studio".
He was a private in the Army's 83rd Spruce Squadron for about sixteen months during World War I but the unit did not serve overseas. The 83rd was stationed in Washington and Oregon and did spruce logging, constructed roads and rail lines in the forests, and supported a plant where spruce lumber was milled into airplane components.
In the early 1920s, Lester F. Scott, Jr. formed a production company which became Action Pictures, Inc. His lofty plans came to fruition when he hired a couple real westerners to star in cowboy features - Kenneth Stanhope Sanderson became "Buddy Roosevelt", Wilbert Jay Wilsey was "Buffalo Bill, Jr.", and their respective series began in 1924.
Because of his good looks and horsemanship skills, Alderson also signed on with Lester F. Scott ... did a name change to "Wally Wales", the "Cowboy Prince" ... and his first, TEARIN' LOOSE, arrived in theaters in 1925. Excerpts from the April 18, 1925 issue of Moving Picture World:
"LOUIS WEISS, executive director of Weiss Brothers' Artclass Pictures Corp., announces that Wally Wales, known as 'the Cowboy Prince', has been signed to carry the featured honors in the new series of eight five-reel acrobatic stunt features, which Artclass will distribute during the coming season in conjunction with the Buddy Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill, Jr. series."
"Lester F. Scott, Jr. ... will also direct the destinies of the new riding star, all of the Wally Wales productions being made under his personal supervision."
Wales starred in nineteen for Scott's Action Pictures, and his last was THE FLYING BUCKAROO (Action Pictures/Pathe, 1928) which was released in November, 1928. Sadly, only two of his silents are available for viewing - GALLOPING ON (Action Pictures/Artclass, 1925) and THE DESERT OF THE LOST (Action Pictures/Pathe, 1927).
Browsing filmographies, I noticed that future A film actress Jean Arthur was also on Lester F. Scott's payroll. She was the leading lady in six with Wales, four with Buffalo Bill, Jr., and a couple with Buddy Roosevelt.
When talkies arrived, Wales was able to continue his heroics in seventeen western shorts and features released in 1930 - 1934. All were Poverty Row efforts, and most were from John R. Freuler's Big 4 company and William M. Pizor's Imperial Pictures. There was one change of pace - he and Neva Gerber starred in the ten chapter THE VOICE FROM THE SKY (Ben F. Wilson Productions, 1930) which was the first sound cliffhanger and among the lost / missing until some picture elements were recently discovered. And there was one missed opportunity - circa 1932, shoestring independent producer Mitchell Leichter had plans for a Wales series of oaters ... but that didn't happen.
He re-united with Lester F. Scott, but not in a cowboy adventure. SECRETS OF HOLLYWOOD (1933) was produced and distributed by Scott via states rights and directed by George Merrick. Trade and newspaper blurbs indicate that Mae Busch starred along with Wales and June Walters (Luana Walters). Plot had Mae reminiscing about old Hollywood personalities, and lots of silent film clips were included to highlight her remembrances. Theater ads indicate it played at a few movie houses in 1934 - 1935. SECRETS is among the lost / missing / unavailable and the UCLA Film and TV archive has some elements.
Wales' finale as a cowboy hero was THE WAY OF THE WEST (Empire/Superior, 1934) ... and he was about thirty nine years old.
During that early to mid 1930s period, he must have realized that his days as western movie lead were coming to an end. And he shifted to background / character parts and can be spotted in credited and unbilled roles in Mascot and Universal serials and sagebrush adventures with Tom Tyler, Ken Maynard, Hoot Gibson, many others. Retiring his "Wally Wales" persona, he chose "Hal Taliaferro" as his new screen name, and became a familiar face in scores of oaters and serials, mostly at Republic, Universal and Columbia. Les Adams reminded me that Wales began using that Hal Taliaferro moniker in THE UNKNOWN RANGER (Columbia, 1936), which starred Bob Allen.
In Les' Prolific Performers listing on the Old Corral, you'll find that Wales has about 200 SOUND film appearances, of which 162 were westerns and 21 were cliffhangers. And his work at Republic Pictures consisted of about 50 films during a 15 year period ending around 1950.
(From Old Corral collection)
The above photo shows Wally Wales / Hal Taliaferro as one of the five Texas Rangers in THE LONE RANGER (Republic, 1938) chapterplay, and he was billed as Hal Taliaferro in this. L-to-R are Lee Powell, George Letz (George Montgomery), Hal Taliaferro, Lane Chandler and Herman Brix (Bruce Bennett).
As the serial progresses, four of the five Rangers are killed off. The first to die was George Letz as "Jim Clark"; then came Hal Taliaferro as "Bob Stuart"; Lane Chandler as "Dick Forrest" was the third; and finally, Herman Brix as "Bert Rogers" ... that left Lee Powell as Ranger "Alan King" - the Lone Ranger.
(Courtesy of Leota Whitaker Gandrau)
Above are real life friends Wally Wales (Hal Taliaferro) and Charles 'Slim' Whitaker in an unidentified still from one of the Bob Allen or Jack Luden oaters for producer Larry Darmour which were released in 1936 - 1938 by Columbia Pictures. Wales and Whitaker first connected during Wally's silents for Action Pictures, and 'Slim' had parts in about a dozen of those.
Slim's daughter Leota Whitaker Gandrau recalled that "Wally Wales, Charlie King and Al Bridge were like her uncles. They spent so much time at her house that it was as if they lived there."
Above are screen captures from Wales' last starring western, THE WAY OF THE WEST (Empire/Superior, 1934). 'Robert Emmet' was Robert Emmett 'Bob' Tansey, and the film was released by Superior Talking Pictures in October, 1934. Wales was about 39 years old.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above - Wally Wales and trusty steed 'Silver King' in CARRYING THE MAIL (William Pizor/Imperial, 1934), one of his several western shorts for producer William M. Pizor. 'Silver King' was once owned by silent western star Fred Thomson. Wales' favorite hoss in silents was a brown named "Piute".
Above - screen capture of a very stern looking Wally Wales in THE DESERT OF THE LOST (Action Pictures / Pathe, 1927) ... and he was about 32 years old.
He was still picking up occasional movie jobs in the post World War II period.
In the early 1950s - after 30+ years in Hollywood - he returned to his Montana roots and lived on the Alderson's Bones Brothers Ranch. He built a cabin and spent much of his later life devoted to his favorite hobby, painting landscapes of the rugged Montana countryside.
He was married twice and had no children. In the 1940 census, his wife is listed as Maybel (born in Montana), and I believe her maiden name was Maybel Towers. In June, 1940, he filed for divorce and she wound up with their Beverly Hills home. Marriage number two was very brief - Guinevere Costello and Floyd T. Alderson tied the knot on October 5, 1949 in Denver, Colorado and she was granted a divorce on January 9, 1950 in Sheridan, Wyoming. He didn't contest the breakup.
The February 14, 1980 Sheridan, Wyoming Press newspaper and March 4, 1980 issue of Variety reported that he suffered a series of strokes, passed away February 12, 1980 from pneumonia at the Eventide nursing home in Sheridan, Wyoming, and his "remains have been sent to the Colorado Anatomical Society". (Most biographies incorrectly report his death date as February 10, 1980.)
Many fans and critics feel that Wales/Taliaferro was among the finest of the character and supporting players in westerns and serials. He played all kinds of roles - buddy to the hero, henchman, lawman, villain assistant, etc.
And I always smile when seeing him in his "whiskers and grime" look - the dirty face, whisker stubble, sweat-stained hat, and tobacco juice around the lipline. A good example is shown in the picture (at the top of this webpage) which is from his 1936 - 1938 oaters with Bob Allen and Jack Luden at Columbia Pictures. He was still using that 'grime' look, slightly modified, in his portrayal of gold prospector 'Nugget' in the cliffhanger THE PHANTOM RIDER (Republic, 1946).
As I work on Old Corral webpages, I frequently pop a video into the ol' VCR or DVD player and listen as I type. Wales has a very distinctive voice, and I can easily recognize him without even looking at the TV screen.
Hans Wollstein sent a tidbit about Wales: "I have a little story about Wally, told to me by Janus Barfoed, a well-known Danish stills collector who once spent a week with Wally at his ranch. Seems that Howard Hawks was so happy with Hal Taliaferro's performance as 'Old Leather' in RED RIVER that he inquired how such a newcomer had become that good. When Hal told him that he was actually Wally Wales and had starred in westerns in the silent era, Hawks, for some reasons, took this as a kind of betrayal and vowed never to use the actor again. Wales / Taliaferro was at a complete loss as to why Hawks had this sudden change of attitude but he never did work with the director again."
My first edition of Shoot-Em-Ups by Buck Rainey and Les Adams is well worn. Yet I never noticed or paid attention to the Dedication page in the front of the book to Harry Carey, Buck Jones ... and Wales. The Wales dedication reads:
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. These polls did not begin until 1936. At that time, Wally Wales' was no longer a B western hero.
|Below is a chart of Wally Wales / Hal Taliaferro's movie career from 1927-1957 in westerns, serials, shorts, and other films. He had no TV work. Dates and film counts are from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).|
Total films in this chart = 222 and most are westerns and serials.
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), trade publications, and newspapers have information on Floyd Taliaferro Alderson, AKA Wally Wales and Hal Taliaferro.
Note the dual census records in 1940 followed by the newspaper divorce notice on Floyd and wife Maybel.
And the 1930 census has father Louis/Lewis and sons Allen and Irving and their families in Birney, Rosebud County, Montana, and they're in the farming and Dude Ranch business.
fridley.net genealogy website has info on Floyd Taliaferro Alderson and family: http://www.fridley.net/alderson/p98.htm#i4886
A history of the Army Spruce Squadrons indicates that the units never left the states. Wales' 83rd Spruce Squadron was stationed in / around Vancouver Barracks, Washington, South Beach, Oregon, and Yaquina, Oregon. Their work involved spruce logging, road and railroad construction, and supporting a plant where spruce lumber was milled into airplane components: http://www.swansongrp.com/spruce_units.html
Brief history of the 83rd Spruce Squadron: http://www.swansongrp.com/spruce_units.html#83rd
Wikipedia article on the Army's Spruce Production Division during World War I: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spruce_Squadron
The Department of the Interior, National Park Service has the 150+ page registration of the Bones Brothers Ranch on the National Register of Historic Places. The following link will take you to that document. When it loads, scroll to page 8 and there's a description of "Floyd Alderson's Cabin" which was located about a quarter mile from the ranch complex: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/71976553
Montana State University archives has a 1939 Dude Ranch brochure from the Milwaukee Road railroad with a description of various dude ranches including the Bones Brothers Ranch: https://arc.lib.montana.edu/caroline-mcgill/item/99
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Wally Wales / Hal Taliaferro. IMDb has an incorrect death date of February 10, 1980: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0907404/
Some biographies on Wales/Taliaferro have him married to ... or the boyfriend of ... or a relative of ... actress Ethel Wales (1878 - 1952). Not so! She was about seventeen years older than he. And his surname wasn't Wales. Anyway - here's the IMDb on Ethel Wales: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0907386/
Daniel Neyer's "The Files of Jerry Blake" website has more about Wales / Taliaferro in serials: https://filesofjerryblake.com/serial-character-actors-2/hal-taliaferro/
YouTube has several of Wally Wales' silent and sound starring movies: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%22wally+wales%22
and YouTube also has Wales' DESERT OF THE LOST (Action Pictures / Pathe, 1927): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdsNr0H7CJ8
Collection of Wally Wales 1914 - 1957 papers, stills, scripts and artifacts is housed at the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming: http://uwcatalog.uwyo.edu/record=b2136760~S1
Article "From Spurs to Screen: Wyoming Boy Makes It Big In Hollywood" is about Wally Wales' background and papers at the American Heritage Center. Includes a photo of his make-up kit, complete with a drawer full of mustaches: https://ahcwyo.org/2014/01/24/from-spurs-to-screen-wyoming-boy-makes-it-big-in-hollywood/
Alderson had strong political views. Here's a 1961 op-ed he wrote in the Billings, Montana Gazette titled "Birney Man Bids Legionaires to Fight Communism": https://www.newspapers.com/clip/76886617/the-billings-gazette/