Charles shavingjpg

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Careful, Charlie.

The Autry Museum of the American West has a wing where the history of the B-Western is chronicled.   A short film that plays on a monitor surrounded by posters and props pays tribute to the 5 most influential figures of the B-Western: Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, Tim McCoy and Hoot Gibson.  (This is the second film.  The first features Gilbert Anderson and William S. Hart.)

This is their list.  Personally, I’d leave off Hoot, but that’s me.  I would also argue that Charlies is either number 6, or he’s number 1 of the next list.  When he debuted as a cowboy star in 1936, Charles was already a throw-back to a more traditional B-Western star, the kind of star embodied by the Autry 5 in their hey-day.  Because, even by 1936, the 5 were doing new, weird stuff.

Ghost PatrolTim McCoy is flying planes for the DOJ and investigating death rays in ’36’s “Ghost Patrol.”  I’ve written about these strange Western/Sci-Fi hybrids before (and better — check out my thoughts on Tom Mix in “The Miracle Rider” or Gene Autry in “Phantom Empire”.)

I like Tim McCoy.  He’s cool in a steely-eyed sorta way.  He has a casual stiffness and a pretty droll sense of humor.

The film is a bore.  It’s terribly slow-paced, and not just because of McCoy’s much-ballyhooed authenticity.  Dick Curtis, for example, takes nearly three minutes to set up a ham radio.  And we get to watch every second.

Charles replaced Tim McCoy at Columbia.  His costume is an echo of Tim’s — white hat and scarf, black shirt.

I’m afraid that “Ghost Patrol” has not inspired me to a very long entry here.  So I will sign off, and say a little prayer that some of Charles’ lost titles show up soon, so that this site doesn’t get too boring.

Where’s Charley?

July 6, 2009

This framed poster is for sale at the Autry Museum of the American West.

Charles at the Autry 001

Let’s examine a sampling of the stars we have here, and count their contributions to the great film library of Columbia studios.

Jane Wyatt made 2 films for Columbia.

Hugh O’Brian was also in a grand total of 2 films for Columbia.  Like Wyatt, neither were westerns.

Alan Hale Jr. was cast in 5 films for the studio, 2 of which were westerns.

Terry Moore did 6 films for the studio.  Number of westerns = zero.

Walt La Rue made an appearance in 8 films, primarily as a stunt man.

Clayton Moore appeared in 10 films for Columbia, playing second-fiddle to Charles Starrett in 4 of them.

Gail Davis was under contract for Columbia for 2 films, both as the love interest in a Charles Starrett vehicle.

Question: where’s Charles Starrett?  Where is Durango?  Starrett was the star of 135 films for Columbia,  and appeared as the Durango Kid in the longest running western series that the studio ever had.  As I’ve noted elsewhere in this blog, Charles’ films make up nearly FIVE PERCENT of the entire Columbia film library.

And his autograph doesn’t rate?  Is this justice, I ask!

The final insult is that Charles’ stunt man for years and years, Jack Mahoney, is proudly featured here.

That Starrett Jaw!

July 2, 2009

Charles jaw was such a distinctive feature that the stuntmen doubling for him had to wear this.

Stuntman chinstrapjpg

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

That’s right.   A stunt jaw for a stunt man.