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Archive for the ‘Allan “Rocky” Lane’ Category

Directed by Harry Keller
Produced by Rudy Ralston
Written by M. Coates Webster
Music by Stanley Wilson
Cinematography: John MacBurnie
Film Editor: Harold Minter

Cast: Allan “Rocky” Lane (Marshal Rocky Lane), Eddy Waller (Sheriff Nugget Clark), Mona Knox (Alice Scott), Roy Barcroft (Ed Brill), Isabel Randolph (Deborah Cranston), Richard Crane (Deputy Dan Reed), William Henry (Bert Cranston), Edward Clark (Printer Tom), Pierre Watkin (Head Marshal), Stanley Andrews (Henry Scott), Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan, Fred Aldrich, Art Dillard, Roy Engel, Marshall Reed, Tex Terry, Dale Van Sickel, Black Jack

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I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the first Allan “Rocky” Lane picture to be featured on this blog. I’ve got to get around to Monte Hale, too!

Thundering Caravans (1952) was one of Lane’s later pictures for Republic. His last, El Paso Stampede (1953), was released a little over a year later. Republic would be done with the series Western entirely after 1954’s Phantom Stallion with Rex Allen.

Allan Lane grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and dropped out of Notre Dame to give acting a go. He was spotted and signed by Fox, but moved over to Warner Bros. That didn’t work out so well, and Lane gave up the movies for a while. He was back in supporting parts at Fox in the mid-30s, and after a few thing like RKO’s The Law West Of Tombstone (1938), he made his way over to Republic.

After serials like King Of The Royal Mounted (1940) and The Tiger Woman (1944) with Linda Stirling, Lane was launched as a Republic cowboy star. Next, in 1946, he took over the Red Ryder role after Wild Bill Elliott left the series. When that ran its course, he was back to playing Allan “Rocky” Lane through 1953. From there, he did mostly TV guest roles until providing the voice of Mr. Ed (1961-1966). 

Thundering Caravans has Lane a marshal coming to the aid of the sheriff of Edgewater, who’s trying to get to the bottom of a series of robberies. Wagons of ore are disappearing, and the local newspaper is badmouthing the sheriff as election days comes near. 

Eddy Waller is a hoot as Nugget, the sheriff. Waller was a constant in these Lane pictures, but he wasn’t a sidekick in the regular sense. While he’s always named Nugget Clark, he’s a different character from film to film. In Thundering Caravans, he and Lane don’t know each other at all.

Roy Barcroft doesn’t have a lot of screen time as Ed Brill, an escaped convict, but he gets to be plenty despicable before he’s through. Barcroft was a given in Republic pictures at this time, since he had an exclusive 10-year contract with the studio. They put him in everything they could.

The girl this time around is Mona Knox, an actress and pinup girl who appeared in a handful of films and some TV in the 50s and 60s. She appeared in Flying Leathernecks (1951), The Las Vegas Story (1952) and a couple of Bowery Boys pictures. She doesn’t have a whole lot to do in Thundering Caravans.

Harry Keller was an editor turned director, and he did a number of these later Lane Westerns, including the last one, El Paso Stampede. (He did the Rex Allen’s last, too.) Keller made the move to TV, with some Universal-International Westerns here and there — Quantez (1957), Day Of The Badman (1958) and Seven Ways From Sundown (1960). As with a lot of editors who climb into the director’s chair, you can count on Keller’s pictures to be well-paced, with some solid actions scenes.

Solid action was the order of the day at Republic as their series Westerns wound down. They’re short (usually under an hour), with plenty of riding and shooting (some of it stock footage), and the casts and sets are kept to a minimum. Thundering Caravans looks like it was shot at Iverson Ranch — some rear-projection footage is definitely Iverson.

It’s a shame Republics like Thundering Caravans aren’t around on DVD or Blu-Ray. They’re a lot of fun. 

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One of my favorite things about Christmas is Trail Of Robin Hood (1950), one of the Trucolor Roy Rogers pictures directed by William Witney. It’s a wonderful thing. It features the song “Ev’ry Day Is Christmas In The West,” which seems worth sharing tonight.

“Ev’ry Day Is Christmas In The West”
Written by Jack Elliott
Performed by Roy Rogers and The Riders of the Purple Sage

They say that Christmas comes but once a year
But don’t you believe it’s so.
That’s only a story you may hear
From those who just don’t know that…
Ev’ry day is Christmas in the West!
Ev’ry day is Christmas in the West!

There’s always an evergreen tree nearby
And always stars like ornaments in the sky.
Nature makes a present of each day.
Skylarks softly carol on their way.
There you’ll find the true kind of love
The Lord above expressed
For ev’ry day is Christmas in the West!

A big thanks to Bob Madison.

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This morning, I saw Chubby Johnson in the “Gunpowder Joe” (1953) episode of The Lone Ranger. Seemed like time to make him Character Actor Of The Day.

He was born Charles Rutledge Johnson in 1903, in Terre Haute, Indiana. He worked as a journalist and radio announcer for years, and he was in his 40s when he did his first film, Abilene Town (1946) with Randolph Scott. He kept both careers going for a while. 

Around the time of the underrated Rocky Mountain (1950), Errol Flynn’s last Western, Chubby decided to concentrate on the movies. He’d go on to make more than 80 pictures.

L-R: Myron Healey, Claudia Barrett, Allan “Rocky” Lane and Chubby Johnson in Republic’s Night Riders Of Montana (1951).

Republic needed a replacement for sidekick Eddy Waller in the Rocky Lane series. Chubby rode alongside Allan Lane for most of 1951 and ’52.

L-R: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Chubby Johnson and Stepin Fetchit in Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952).

Chubby’s in lots of great stuff. High Noon (1952), Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952) and The Far Country (1954), Calamity Jane (1953) with Doris Day, Gunsmoke (1953, with Audie Murphy), Law And Order (1953), Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954), The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) and on and on.

On TV, Chubby was a regular in Sky King the Rex Allen series Frontier Doctor, and he guested on shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Thriller, Death Valley Days, Sugarfoot, The Andy Griffith Show, Temple Houston, Dennis The Menace and Maverick. He stayed plenty busy.

His last pictures were Support Your Local Sheriff! and Sam Whiskey in 1969. He passed away in 1974.

With Howard Keell and Doris Day on the set of Calamity Jane (1953).

Chubby could make the most of a small part, and really shine when given something bigger, as in Bend Of The River and Calamity Jane. Another one of those guys who gives a picture a lift when he turns up.

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