Other Cowboy Stars – Ken Maynard in “Mystery Mountain”

September 12, 2008

We all know what Charles Starrett was doing in 1934.  He was preparing to don a cowboy hat on screen for the first time in “Gallant Defender.”  He’d never be far from one for the rest of his career.

Eight years Charles’ senior, Ken Maynard was resurrecting his own career over at Mascot.  After being let go by Universal, Ken had returned to rodeo for a few years.  Now he was shooting the 12 part serial “Mystery Mountain” at Iverson Ranch and Bronson Canyon.

The plot involves a mysterious crook named “The Rattler” who is stirring up trouble between the railroad men and the stagecoach men.  Ken Maynard plays Ken Williams, Detective for the railroad company.

Maynard is an interesting cowboy star.  He’s good looking with dark, slicked down hair.  He wears a black embroidered western shirt and a colored scarf.  He sports two pearl-handled pistols.  He’s got a very well trained horse named “Tarzan” who can do great stunts and other cool stuff like lie down on command.

He uses a lasso a lot.  Charles never used a lasso.  What’s up with that?

Maynard did a lot of his own stunts and was an expert horseman.  It shows.   Pretty exciting stuff (though they do speed up the action a fair amount at times.)

Ken also has a thick accent – Indiana.  He has a folksy manner and adds some nice authetic touches, like calming his horse during a stand-off with outlaws.

There’s an easy way about him — an easy smile and an easy manner.  This is in contrast to the off-screen Maynard, as illustrated by  the well-known stories about his ego and the ugly drunken tantrums he would throw on set.

When this film wrapped, Ken headed over the Columbia.  He made eight films there, starting with 1935’s “Western Frontier.”  I imagine he bumped into Charley a fair amount during those two years.  I wonder what Charley thought of Ken’s mean and drunken ways.  CS seems like such a gentleman and a generous soul, he must have been very popular with his crew.

Final thought: Ken Maynard mainly played characters named “Ken”.  This business is starting to look like a trend.  Tim McCoy is “Tim”, Bill Elliot is generally “Bill” or “Wild Bill”, Johnny Mack Brown is “Johnny”, Gene is “Gene”, Smiley is “Smiley”, etc.

What’s up with “Steve?”  Something wrong with the name “Charles”?

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3 Responses to “Other Cowboy Stars – Ken Maynard in “Mystery Mountain””

  1. mike newton said

    The trend of having the cowboy star use his own name in films started with Gene Autry. However Ken Maynard would use different last names in films including the one of “Manley.” Ken Manley. When he came to Monogram to work with Hoot Gibson in the Trail Blazers, he was “Ken Maynard,” Hoot was “Hoot Gibson,” and Bob Steele was Bob Steele. The reason that they didn’t use “Charlie” was because it didn’t sound western. The name “Steve” was picked by Paul Franklin, the scriptwriter. Producer Irving Briskin liked the name and suggested that they change the last name for every film. No matter, we kids always knew he was Durango.

  2. stevesomething said

    This information on Paul Franklin and Irving Briskin dubbing Charlie “Steve” is fascinating. What are your references here? Thanks for sharing.

  3. Anonymous said

    I have an old picture, probably taken in the thirties, of Ken Maynard sitting on the stoop of a “circus wagon” or “carnival wagon.” The wagon has a mural of Ken and Tarzan on one side of the door and “Ken Maynard and Tarzan” in large letters on the other side of the door. I believe the picture was taken in Southern Maine. Did Ken and Tarzan ever do a rodeo or carnival in Maine? Paul

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