Archive for the ‘RKO’ Category


Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Herman Schlom
Screen Play by Adele Buffington
Story by Carroll Young
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Samuel E. Beetley, ACE

CAST: Tim Holt (Tim Holt), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Gail Davis (Terry Muldoon), Hugh Beaumont (Brad Roberts), Mari Blanchard (Stella), George Nader (Paul Manning) Robert J. Wilke (Bellew), Cliff Clark (Terence Muldoon), Russell Hicks (Colonel Marvin), Robert Bray (Steve), Fred Graham (Joe).


This time around, Tim Holt and Chito get involved with the transcontinental telegraph. Terry Muldoon (Gail Davis) and her father are running the wire westward, and its completion will close down a number of military outposts. This will destroy Paul Manning’s supply business, and keep him from paying off his loans to Bran Roberts (Hugh Beaumont). Roberts and his bunch (which naturally includes Robert J. Wilke) take matters into their own hands —a “Gang-Stooge Terror Plot,” according to the ads — and eventually run afoul of Tim and Chito.


Overland Telegraph (1951) is one of my favorite Holt pictures. It’s a lot of fun to watch Hugh Beaumont as a bad guy. Mari Blanchard doesn’t have much to do but look pretty as Nader’s saloon-girl fiancé. But having Gail Davis on hand is a real asset, displaying a bit of the riding and shooting skills that would make her such a great Annie Oakley on TV. The Iverson Ranch is featured quite a bit, too.

b70-5266Gail Davis: “It was a good part for the girl, not just one of those smile into the sunset pictures. Tim was really cute, he had a friendly personality but was a bit of a kidder. So was Dick Martin, but both were very conscientious about their pictures.”*

Of course, director Lesley Selander and editor Samuel Beetley deserve a lot of the credit. They keep things moving at such a clip that the hour’s over before you know it. If you’ve ever seen a lousy B Western, you know that in the wrong hands, an hour can last forever. Selander is such a pro and has such a flair for these things that his films stand apart from the rest. He should’ve written a textbook on film pacing.


Overland Telegraph is part of Warner Archive’s fourth volume of the Tim Holt Western Classics Collection. It has several of the earlier entries and the last few, providing a great overview of the series. B Westerns didn’t come any better than these. As with the previous sets, the transfers are exquisite — a real tribute to the care and craftsmanship that went into these films. Highly, highly recommended (as if you hadn’t figured that out already).

SOURCE: * Westerns Women by Boyd Magers and Michael G. Fitzgerald.


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This is a big, big deal. Warner Archive has come through with the fourth volume in their Tim Holt series, giving us the beginning, and end, of Holt’s time at RKO. It’s a three-disc, nine-movie set that includes Wagon Train (1940, which got the series off to a terrific start), The Fargo Kid (1940), Cyclone On Horseback (1941), Riding The Wind (1942), Land Of The Open Range (1942), Thundering Hoofs (1942), Overland Telegraph (1951) and Trail Guide (1952). 

Overland Telegraph (seen in the Mexican lobby card above) is a particularly good one, giving Holt and Richard Martin a top director, Lesley Selander, and really good cast to work with: Gail Davis, Hugh Beaumont (as the bad guy!), Mari Blanchard, George Nader and Robert J. Wilke.

The set is available now. Thanks to everyone at Warner Archive for their dedication to getting these wonderful little films out there.

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TennesseesPartner title cropped

I really love Allan Dwan’s Tennessee’s Partner (1955).


I’ve always enjoyed Dennis’s blog dedicated to the Iverson Movie Ranch. It’s a frequent stop for me. Earlier this month, he posted some stuff on Tennessee’s Partner (1955) and its extensive use of the Iverson Ranch. Cinematographer John Alton did a masterful job on this one, and I doubt the ranch ever looked better than it did here.

If you’re new to this blog, be prepared to lose an hour or two or three.

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Tim Holt Movie Thrills Spread

This week’s Tim Holt Tuesday is brought to you by Paula over at The Ben Johnson Fan Page. It’s an article by Tim himself, or his ghost writer (Ghost Rider?), about his dad Jack, and you can download a PDF of it here.

A brief sample: “When I signed my contract with RKO Studios I asked just one favor: I asked them to give me the same dressing room my Dad had occupied there for so many years. They granted my request and it’s been a sort of permanent inspiration to me.”

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riders of the range1

Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Robert Swink

CAST: Tim Holt (Kansas Jones), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jacqueline White (Priscilla “Dusty” Willis), Reed Hadley (Clint Burrows), Robert Barrat (Sheriff Cole), Robert Clarke (Harry Willis), Tom Tyler (The Ringo Kid), William Tannen (Trump Dixon).


When unemployed cowhands Holt and Martin come to the aid of Dusty Willis (Jacqueline White) and her brother Harry (Robert Clarke), duking it out with saloon owner Clint Burrows, she gives them jobs on her ranch. Turns out Harry owes Burrows $3,000 in gambling debts, and Harry agrees to let Burrows’ men rustle some of his sister’s cattle to erase the debt. This kicks off a series of events that results in Holt being wanted for a murder he didn’t commit.


220px-Lesley_SelanderRiders Of The Range was directed by Lesley Selander (right), who did about 20 of the Holts for RKO. Selander worked his way up through the Hollywood studio system, from assistant cameraman to assistant director (learning a great deal from William S. Van Dyke on the Buck Jones pictures) to director. He did excellent work on the Hopalong Cassidy series for Paramount, signed on at Republic for a time, and wound up at RKO for the Holts. Selander worked miracles on the Holt films, turning out superior Westerns on RKO’s tight budgets (that were still more than other B Westerns were working with), getting plenty of production values from the incredible Lone Pine locations. In fact, regardless of budget, his Westerns (such as 1948’s Panhandle or 1955’s Shotgun) are always a cut above.

To me, Lesley Selander’s titles are the best of the Tim Holt series. And Riders Of The Range is a good one, with his usual pacing and focus on almost constant action. There are a number of fistfights, a few gunfights and lots and lots of riding and shooting. Before you know it, the hour’s up and Tim and Chito are riding off. Jacqueline White has a nice part, too.

Adventures_of_Captain_Marvel_(1941_serial)_2Tom Tyler plays The Ringo Kid, an outlaw employed by Burrows for the arranged rustling. A champion weightlifter, Tyler started his movie career as a stuntman in Silent Westerns, progressing to serial roles like Captain Marvel and The Phantom in the early 40s. (The Phantom is an excellent serial.) His career stalled when he was stricken with scleroderma (originally diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis), which limited him to smaller and smaller supporting roles, often without credit. His friends came to the rescue. John Ford gave him work (They Were Expendable, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, What Price Glory), Gene Autry put him in a couple episodes of his TV show, and Lesley Selander cast him a few of the later Holts. As Tyler’s condition grew worse, and he could no longer work in movies, he moved in with his sister in Michigan. Tom Tyler passed away in 1954, almost penniless. (Before working together on these RKOs, Tim Holt and Tom Tyler both appeared in John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939, with John Wayne as The Ringo Kid.)

Jacqueline White: “We shot the picture up at Jack Garner’s ranch, who rented out the place for lots of movies. Tim’s wife was with him and also along was his wife’s dog, a Doberman Pincher! Well, this dog hated Tim!… Richard Martin was a charming guy—real nice and tall! A good looking fellow.”*

Riders Of The Range is the last picture in the Tim Holt Western Classic Collection Vol. 2 from Warner Archive. Like all the films in the three volumes (released so far), it looks terrific. J. Roy Hunt’s camerawork is startling at times, and the DVD-R presents it flawlessly.

* Western Clippings interview

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Directed by George Archainbaud
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Desmond Marquette

CAST: Tim Holt (Ross Taylor), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jane Nigh (Stella), John Doucette (Bat), House Peters, Jr. (Rod), Inez Cooper (Anita Castro), Julien Rivero (Philipe), Ken MacDonald (Sheriff Carrigan), Vince Barnett (Pokey), Robert Peyton (Del), David Leonard (Padre), Tom Monroe (Dimmick).


Here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, Tuesday belongs to Tim Holt. 

When an earthquake hits Mexico, Senorita Anita Castro (Inez Cooper) organizes a relief effort in Arizona. Loading a mule train with donations of all sorts — including gold, silver and jewels — she heads toward the border. A gang of thieves, headed by John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. and assisted by Jean Nigh, get wind of Anita’s plan and plot to steal the treasure. Tim (called Ross Taylor this time) and Chito (Richard Martin) end up involved, of course — and lots of riding and shooting ensue.

Border Treasure (1950) is one of the later RKO Holts, and I’ve always considered it one of the stronger entries in the series. First, the bad guys are terrific — and Nigh has a good role as Stella, the saloon girl who falls in with John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. There’s a great, extended saloon fight between Holt and Doucette. And Richard Martin adds a nice touch as he shows compassion for Mexico and its people following the earthquake. (This one has Tim and Chito doing some real ranch work, mending fence, which I always find a cool addition. Come to think of it, Tim does the work — Chito conveniently disappears.)


This time, George Archainbaud directs. He got his first director credit in 1917, and spent much of his career at RKO. His The Lost Squadron (1932) is excellent. Archainbaud got heavily into TV in the 50s, with much of his work coming from Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions. For a while, he was alternating between Gene’s TV show and later features (including 1953’s Last Of The Pony Riders, which turned out to be Gene’s Autry’s final film).

Director of Photography J. Roy Hunt spent a number of years at RKO, where he shot Val Lewton’s I Walked With A Zombie (1943),  The Devil Thumbs A Ride (1947) and Mighty Joe Young (1949) — in between many of these Holt films. Hunt retired not longer after the Holt series came to an end, never making the transition to television that kept so many of his contemporaries employed well into the 1960s.

These RKO Holts make great use of Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills, perhaps rivaled only by Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott’s Ranown Cycle. Some work for Border Treasure was also done at the area’s Anchor Ranch. The RKO Ranch in Encino and the beautiful San Fernando Mission of L.A.’s Mission Hills district are also featured. (Boy, I gotta get out to California — my Points Of Interest list is getting longer and longer.)


Border Treasure is one of 10 Holt pictures in Warner Archive’s Tim Holt Classic Western Collection Volume 3 — and it’s a beautiful thing from logo to logo. The Lone Pine scenes are sharp and bright, with a real feeling of depth. I’d love to take a frame from one of the Lone Pine scenes and hang it on my wall (over the sofa would be nice) — and this transfer seems sharp enough to let me do it.

In the early days of this blog, the Holt RKOs were high on our want lists. To have them presented like this is more than I expected. To say I highly recommend this — the DVD-R set or the movie itself — would be ridiculously redundant at this point.

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This week’s Tim Holt Tuesday is a real treat, an interview conducted by John Brooker in 1970. John sent this as a comment to a previous Holt post, but it screamed for a better showcase than that. It appeared in Western Clippings about five years ago. I’m really stoked to be able to feature it here. Thanks so much, John.

The Tim Holt Westerns that were released in the UK had a high profile with us Front Row Kids because, more often than not, they were shown in tandem with the latest Disney feature. But they were shown in haphazard order so while some of the later ones never made it across the Atlantic the occasional pre-War title such as Bandit Trail didn’t get a UK release until the early 50s.

The first time I met Tim Holt was in October 1967 at the KLPR Radio and TV Station in Oklahoma where he was sales manager, but my recording equipment had quit on me so I had to be content with a chat, a look around the station and a couple of pictures.

I decided if I returned to the US I would call on Tim again, and I did just that three years later. I found him very much like his on-screen Western character — matter of fact and unassuming — and a little dismissive of his movie career. I waited for Tim to light his pipe and then turned on the recorder…

John Brooker: Tim, how did you get into Westerns at RKO?

Tim Holt: The first time was with George O’Brien in The Renegade Ranger with Rita Hayworth who was just getting started. I believe George O’Brien quit over money so RKO needed another Western star and I was put forward.

JB: How many Westerns were there in your RKO series?

TH: Too many I think (laughs). All in all I think I made 141 (Tim gave this figure in other interviews around this time, but he actually appeared in just over 70 movies, 47 of them starring B Westerns at RKO – JB)

JB: Did you have your own screen horse in either series?

TH: Oh yes…. before the war I had a horse called Duke which was, strangely enough, American standard bred and after that I had a horse that was half thoroughbred and half quarter horse… called Lightning.

14_Tim Holt -- Lightning sized

JB: Are they still alive?

TH: No, they’ve both passed away… and I probably should have (laughs)

JB: Can you remember the budgets on your series?

TH: They were very, very low — anywhere between 65 and 75 thousand.

JB: Was that pre-War or after?

TH: That was the early ones….the later ones ran 90… that’s when the producer would tear his hair out.

JB: That was a high budget for a B Western.

TH: Oh yes… and they would still net half a million apiece.

JB: Did you do your own stunts and fights?

TH: Most of them, yes. Strange thing, John… they’d leave all the dangerous stuff where you might get hurt or cut up or something like that until the last day of the picture. That way, if you got hurt you wouldn’t delay production…they were very considerate that way.

JB: Davey Sharpe doubled you in a couple…

TH: Davey was in the early ones…. I did most of it in the later ones. (In Dynamite Pass, for example, Tim does a fast horse to wagon transfer – JB)

JB: What sort of stunts would you not have been allowed to do… because of insurance?

TH: I don’t think there were any… of course in those days we didn’t have what they call a falling horse like they have now… we used a running W… that would automatically fold up the horse’s front legs… but you knew exactly when it was going to happen… you either put your foot in the stirrup or you used a set of steps on the side of the stirrups… and then as the horse would fall out from under you you would just hit the ground and tumble…

JB: Did you get hurt?

TH: I had my share of knocks… broke a few bones…

JB: Could you give brief details of your working day.. what time you got to the studio…

TH: In those days it was a long day… for the simple reason that we would have to travel an average of.. I would say.. about 80 miles to locations.

JB: Where were they?

TH: Oh, they were all over… Victorville.. the Garner Ranch… Agoura… Lone Pine. Now at Lone Pine, we would have to travel and stay there. We went to work when the sun came up and it was light enough to shoot… and we kept shooting til the sun went down… bit like KLPR… a daylight to dusk operation…. we did most of the interiors on the RKO lot.

JB: How long was each film in production?

TH: You mean the actual filming… average about eight days… but then it had to be scored… the music had to be put into it… it had to be edited… it would take about three months to get a picture out in general release.

JB: Why did the series come to an end?

TH: Howard Hughes decided he didn’t want to make any more B pictures. TV was hitting the theatres hard. It wasn’t economically viable to make our pictures any more.

JB: Is that when you left Hollywood?

TH: Yes. I came to Oklahoma in 1947 with a rodeo and that’s where I met my wife. When the series finished I headed back here for good. I never did like Hollywood that much… there was nothing magical about it for me.

JB: What’s happened generally since then, since your series ended?

TH: Well, I went up to Iowa to get a degree in animal nutrition. Then I went into the home building business until 1962… then in ’62 I came here with KLPR.

JB: How about film-wise?

TH: I’ve done about six or seven.

JB: The Monster That Challenged The World (1957).

TH: It wasn’t bad for a science fiction… wasn’t too bad a picture at all.

monster 2

JB: The last time we met you mentioned making a Western with Nick Adams but since then he passed away.

TH: Yes, we were going to do a sequel to Treasure Of The Sierra Madre. It was his idea… and it was a great idea but unfortunately he passed away a couple of years back.. Treasure Of The Sierra Madre was one of my favourite films… that and The Magnificent Ambersons. They gave me a change from the Westerns. I just finished a film that was a satire on hillbillies ….the story about a Reverend who’s a moonshiner. I don’t think they’ve decided on a title yet (This Stuff’ll Kill Ya – JB).

JB: Do you know the name of the production company?

TH: Yes. Ultima… out of Chicago.

JB: Is it a full length feature? What sort of running time?

TH: Feature length… it will be shown in theatres. I have also just done an episode of The Virginian (Season 8’s “The Woman Of Stone”— TR). And I thought we worked fast at RKO!

13848215_236 cropped

JB: Do you keep in touch with any of your Hollywood contemporaries?

TH: Not really. Richard Martin’s still a good friend… we keep in touch. We had such fun together on the series.

JB: Don Barry’s talking about launching a new series of B westerns in colour. Do you think they could ever come back?

TH: I think so…. the time could be right….we need family entertainment… in the old days children identified with their cowboy heroes and stars like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry set them a good example…. nowadays the sex and violence is overdone…. I think the pendulum could swing the other way.

The interview was finished but Tim took me around the station and loaded me up with a dozen or so country music albums. In the movie library there was just about every Three Stooges two-reeler on the racks. They were being shown over and over again on a daily basis. But there wasn’t a Tim Holt Western in sight.

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