Our old pal, Bob Steele.

Can I call you Bobby?

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Look what I spotted on the big board of donors in the lobby of the Autry Museum.

Yes, it’s Charles wife, Mary, nestled neatly between veteran character actor Richard Fransworth who did stunts on the fourth Durango Kid film of 1946, Galloping Thunder,  and Regal Rents, the party rental company serving such events as the Academy Awards, the Fiesta Bowl and, presumably, the Autry.

Mary has also donated a number of items of Charles to the museum, as I have reported here and here.

Sadly…More Smiley

September 27, 2009

I thought I’d discovered all evidence of Smiley at the Autry.  I was wrong.

More Smiley at the Autry

Beware potential visitors.

Every little bit of Smiley

September 19, 2009

I spend a lot of time at the Autry Museum, especially in the summer (as should be apparent from my last half-dozen posts).  It’s close to our home, the little one likes the place, it’s not the sort of museum where you have to be particularly quiet, the people are friendly, and it’s got, hands-down, the best air-conditioning in the L.A. area.

We often find ourselves in the Imagination Gallery, aka, the cowboy movie section.  There’s a blue screen there and a saddle with a button under the horn.  If a little finger pushes it, baby is part of a chase scene set to the William Tell overture.  Briar rides this about 800 times every visit.

I’ve had plenty of time to peruse the exhibits and I’m happy to report that there is very little Smiley Burnette  on display.  Fellow Smiley-phobes, you are free to roam these halls with little fear of running into images of the big unfunny man in the battered black hat.

I count two (2) images of Smiley.  The first is a brief appearance in the aforementioned tribute film to stunt men where he is barely recognizable, expect to the keen eye of those who have suffered through hours of his inane antics.

The second, and final, image is this, tucked in with a number of other stills running along the top of the displays.

Smiley Sucks at the Autry

It’s surprising really, seeing how long he was with Gene Autry.  I mean, pretty much from the beginning, and, after a break as Starrett side-kick, right up until the end.  He’s not even mentioned in the literature or the 20 minute film on Gene’s life.

But, look!  Don’t get me wrong!  I’m NOT complaining!

A Special Breed

August 31, 2009

The Autry National Center of the American West (aka, the Autry Museum) has a series of short films  playing on monitors interspersed among the exhibits.   These presentations examine the history of B-Westerns.  I’ve written about these films before.

Around the corner from the Charles Starrett exhibit there plays a tribute to the stunt men of the B-Western.  It begins with a quick-paced montage of movie stunts (a horse and rider diving off a cliff, a wagon rolling down a hill, etc) and culminates with a long shot of a cowboy maneuvering along a buckboard on a “speeding” wagon, clearly on a soundstage.  Recognize someone?

Special Breed 006Special Breed 007Special Breed 010Special Breed 011

“…a special breed of people who make movie magic appear to be real.”

I’ll agree with the “special” part, but, c’mon, Smiley as a stuntman?  The guy can barely pull off a convincing pratfall.

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.

Autry Museum Collection

July 20, 2008

The Autry National Center of the American West is located across from the LA Zoo in Griffith Park. In their Imagination Gallery, they have a collection of memorabilia from various movie cowboys.

In one display case they have Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Ken Maynard and Tim McCoy.

In the next case, we find Hoot Gibson, Johnny “Mack” Brown, Russell Hayden, Bill Elliot, the Hoxie Brothers…and Charles Starrett.

Charles’ collection consists of his hat, boots, holster and pair of revolvers, a belt, and a white scarf.

Of interest, the on-line catalog lists the scarf as having been donated by Mary A. Starrett and the remarks are such:

“White silk chiffon scarf, mid- to late 1900s.
Triangular shape with hemmed edges.
According to donor, scarf was made from material that was once part of a Rita Hayworth dinner dress.”

I had always thought that the “Story Of The Scarf” involved the black scarf that Starrett wore as the Durango Kid.  A reader or two has confirmed that the scarf in question was the white scarf that Starrett wore pre-Durango.

Completing the collection are two neat items. One is Charles’ gold SAG card. This is his Screen Actors Guild membership card and it is made of gold. Charles was one of the founding members of SAG. I’ve never seen a real gold card before.

Last is a leather script binder, with his name and the images of a horse and a cactus embossed on the front.

The Autry is a beautifully laid-out and smoothly run museum which is worth a visit.