Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Betty Grable with Tom Tyler – and remakes of “Galloping Thru”

The name Betty Grable hardly needs any introduction to those familiar with Hollywood’s Golden Age. While her popularity was at its height during the 1940’s and 1950’s, prior to those two decades her film appearances were confined to B-movies. One of these low-budget movies Betty was originally slated to appear in was “Galloping Thru” – with Tom Tyler as her leading man, as stated by the author Michael R. Pitts in his book "Astor Pictures: A Filmography and History of the Reissue King, 1933-1965”. On the surface this does not sound so far-fetched; Tom himself was the first choice to play the lead role in F. W. Murnau’s 1931 epic film “Tabu: A Story of the South Seas”.  That never happened, and as fate would have it, Betty Grable would never have the chance to play opposite Tom although her looks, charm and personality were certainly a match for his. There was a reason Betty was called “The Pin-Up Girl” in the 1940’s, that familiar pose of her showing off her legs, wearing a swimsuit that became a ubiquitous image during World War 2. Matched with a weightlifting champion by the name of Tom Tyler, such a pairing might have opened the door to more movies for both stars, possibly even A-list movies, at least sooner for Betty.

After Betty died in 1973 at the age of 56, a number of movie contracts both signed and unsigned survived and were eventually put up for auction. One of the unsigned contracts was for Trem Carr Pictures, which produced the Tom Tyler Monogram movies of the early 1930’s. One of these movies was “Galloping Thru”, but the contract stipulated that she was to use her first stage name of Francis Dean. Betty Grable never signed the contract, perhaps in the hope her next role might be in an A-list movie. That however did not happen until 1940 when she replaced actress Alice Faye in “Down Argentine Way”, finally establishing herself as an A-list actress with Twentieth Century Fox studio, becoming their biggest – and highest paid – star by 1947. While Betty Grable did not have the opportunity to play opposite Tom Tyler, Betty Mack did. The second Betty worked with Tom before, playing his leading lady in “God’s Country and the Man”, “Partners of the Trail”, and “The Man from Death Valley”, all released in 1931. Astor Pictures re-released "Galloping Thru" in 1939, eight years after its initial release by Monogram Pictures.


Movie remakes in Hollywood is hardly a new trend; the practice dates back to silent film years. Tom Tyler’s earliest movie remake of the sound era is “Terror of the Plains” (1934) – remade from “West of Cheyenne” (1931), his first feature-length sound movie. The second remake was “Coyote Trails” (1935), from “Ridin’ Thru” (1934), minus the element of the dude ranch in the plot. The Monogram movie “Galloping Thru” has its share of remakes too, but has a double lineage, depending upon the plot elements being counted, as well as the documenting sources. The history of remakes of “Galloping Thru” as listed here come from the book "Becoming John Wayne: The Early Westerns of a Screen Icon, 1930-1939” By Larry Powell, Jonathan H. Amsbary, and from IMDB. The John Wayne book has “Galloping Thru” being remade three times; IMDB, two times. What makes the two lineages really interesting is this: there are a total of five different writers involved with these remakes, creating minor variations in the story without disturbing the main story elements which qualify as a remake.

“Becoming John Wayne” remake lineage of “Galloping Thru”:

Galloping Thru 1931:
Director: Lloyd Nosler
Writers: Wellyn Totman (screenplay and story)
Stars: Tom Tyler

The Dawn Rider 1935:
Writer: Lloyd Nosler
Stars: John Wayne

Western Trails 1938:
Writers: Norton S. Parker and George Waggner
Stars: Bob Baker

Dawn Rider 2012:
Writer: Joseph Nasser
Stars: Christian Slater

IMDB remake lineage of “Galloping Thru”:

A Son of the Plains 1931:
Writer: Robert N Bradbury
Stars: Bob Custer

Galloping Thru 1931:
Director: Lloyd Nosler
Writers: Wellyn Totman (screenplay and story)
Stars: Tom Tyler

Blue Steel 1934:
Writer: Robert N Bradbury
Stars: John Wayne

Note how IMDB places “Galloping Thru” second in the history of its remakes – after “A Son of the Plains”, written by Robert N. Bradbury. Bradbury also directed “A Son of the Plains”, “Blue Steel”, and “The Dawn Rider”. Lloyd Nosler, who directed “Galloping Thru”, also wrote the story for “The Dawn Rider”. It sounds like both Nosler and Bradbury had a hand in establishing a solid enough basic western plot that would be repeated up to the present day. It is gratifying to see a Tom Tyler B-film leading a series of remakes like this, even if the behind-the-scenes names are responsible for the “heavy lifting”. "Galloping Thru" remains a lost film.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Tom Tyler and His Pals: The Sound Era

Tom with Andy Shuford in "A Rider of the Plains"
By the early 1930’s when Tom Tyler transitioned to making sound movies, the “Tom and His Pals” marketing motto since his silent film years underwent a transition, too. For one thing, Tom’s riding partner was an adult male, sometimes in the form of Ben Corbett, Billy Franey or even George “Gabby” Hayes. One western even had an African-American as Tom’s pal – Fred “Snowflake” Toones, in “Single Handed Saunders” (1932), a rarity in itself. There remained a few exceptions to this, primarily in an attempt to recapture the magic of Tom and his pals previously seen in the silent films made for FBO. To that end, two movies produced by Trem Carr introduced a young pal to Tom’s character: “A Rider of the Plains” (1931) and “Two Fisted Justice” (1931). In 1933, Monarch Productions followed suit with “War of the Range”. Each one of these movies had a different child actor in the role of Tom’s pal, and one unique feature of these boys is, unlike Frankie Darro, these kids all had blonde hair. Following is a brief profile of the three child actors who played Tom Tyler’s pal for an hour’s length of action and adventure.

Andy Shuford

Born as William Andrew Shuford on December 16, 1919 in Helena, Arkansas, Andy was best known for his roles in “Law of the North” (1932) and “A Rider of the Plains” (1931). Andy’s first film appearance was in a Little Rascals short, “Ten Years Old” in 1927. Prior to working with Tom Tyler, he was an established child star in his own right, appearing in “The Big Trail” (1930) and “The Great Meadow” (1931). Andy played Tom’s partner Silent Sandy in “A Rider of the Plains” (1931) – so named due to his tendency to talk too much when he was not supposed to. Consequently, his mouth tended to get him into trouble. Tom remained firm with him at all times in bringing him up, for he plays a parental role to Sandy in this movie and is not just a “big pal” to the boy. Andy’s last movie appearance was in “The Mayor of Hell” (1933), which starred James Cagney. When he joined the United States Army Air Corps during World War 2, Andy left his film career behind, becoming a highly decorated pilot and achieving the rank of colonel. Andy Shuford died on May 19, 1995 at the age of 77 in Monteagle, Tennessee.

Bobby Nelson

Robert John Nelson was born on January 17, 1922 in Sana Monica, California. Acting came naturally to Bobby, the son of a silent film star and director, Jack Nelson. Bobby’s first film role came in 1926 at the age of four in the silent film “Beyond the Rockies”. His onscreen personality and charm soon led to further roles in movies, such as “Tarzan the Mighty” (1928), “Oliver Twist” (1933), and the Gene Autry film serial, “The Phantom Empire” (1935). As Danny in “Two Fisted Justice”, nine-year-old Bobby played an orphan who lost his guardians to an Indian attack, taken in by Kentucky Carson (Tom Tyler). Witnessing a murder, Danny risks losing his beloved dog Sagebrush. Very reminiscent of the silent films Tom Tyler made with Frankie Darro, who was sometimes characterized as being an orphan, Bobby’s performance was worthy of a juvenile Oscar, had the award existed in 1931 (it was introduced in 1934). But this was not Bobby’s only appearance with Tom Tyler; he also had a role as Ezra Podge in Chapter 4 of “Battling with Buffalo Bill”, also released in 1931. Bobby’s last film role was in “The Boothill Brigade” (1937), and five years later in 1942, joined the Army during World War 2. His military career lasted four years before he was discharged in 1946. As an adult, he was a public accountant. Sadly, Bobby died at the young age of 52 on December 5, 1974 in Los Angeles.

Wesley Giraud

Wesley Giraud was Tom’s last young pal Jimmy Carlysle, appearing in “War of the Range” (1933). Sporting blond hair and freckles, Wesley was born on July 1, 1918 in New York City. His first film appearance was in “One Man Law” (1932) starring Buck Jones. He also appeared in movies like “No Greater Glory” (1934) which also starred Frankie Darro, “The Plainsman” (1936), and “Boys Town” (1938). As Jimmy Carlysle, the younger brother of Grace Carlysle (Caryl Lincoln), Wesley was a natural as Tom’s young pal: the type of boy who loved the outdoors with his rugged personality, faithful pal to the very end, when Tom helps the boy on the mend after he is shot. The last movie Wesley made was “Gallant Sons” (1940). After his film career, Wesley worked in the furniture business, then as a mailman. In 1971, Wesley survived a stroke, rehabilitating while watching movies he appeared in on television. He died at the age of 74 on May 5, 1993 in San Diego, California.

Honorary mention: the adorable moppet named Bill in “Single Handed Saunders” who brings his broken wagon to Tom the Blacksmith to fix. Bill appears to have either light brown or possibly red hair. Unfortunately this young actor’s name is not credited nor mentioned anywhere on IMDB or elsewhere. If anyone knows his name, please send it to me so I can add it. Thank you!

April 21, 2020 - We have a name for this little boy! Noel Newhard, age 3 in the screencap below. His father Guy Newhard was a film actor and camera man who had a minor role as a cowboy in "Single Handed Saunders". Many thanks to JimmieFan at Nitrateville for helping to identify this young man! Read more about Noel and his father in the article given to me by JimmieFan here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

"Powdersmoke Range" from Movie Action Magazine digitized

As with "The Last Outlaw", "Powdersmoke Range" (1935) has not been officially released on DVD, although it has been shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). In addition to Tom Tyler, this RKO western also stars Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Bob Steele, Boots Mallory, Ray Mayer, Sam Hardy, and many other big-name western stars from that era. The story runs thirteen pages and is from Movie Action Magazine, November, 1935. To read this 9.56 MB digitized scan, click here.

Monday, April 6, 2020

“The Last Outlaw” from Boy’s Cinema digitized

Not yet officially released on DVD to my knowledge, “The Last Outlaw” (1936) is now available for viewing – as a digitized film booklet format, scanned from the December 19, 1926 issue of Boy’s Cinema, the popular British publication.  This RKO “urban-western” also stars Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, Henry B. Walthall, and Margaret Callahan. The story runs thirteen pages, one column long. To read this 12.3 MB digitized scan, click here.