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Saturday, January 8, 2011

"The Great Horses"

Roy Rogers
            Story by Roger Edison

There surely is a long list of great horses from the silver-screens of Hollywood. What would any cowboy be with out his horse. I grew up watching many western movies as they showed the black and white films on Saturday television. When they introduce color TVs the world seemed to become more exciting viewing our favorite shows.

Although, to know the many famous horses, one has to go way back to early films beginning with the silent screen. Cowboys who could whistle and their horse would come running. Horses that could untie knots to even talk. The silver-screen has has numerous horses that have drawn the audience to theaters.

"Tarzan" and Ken Maynard first started in silent films during the 1920's. Ken train his horse to respond to verbal commands but as sound came into the movies, Ken had to mumble jumbo to Tarzan, which was a palomino half Arab and half American Saddle horse that later was replaced in the 1940 filming with a white horse named Tarzan II.

Ken used several horses which were look a likes too in fear of the likely hood of injury to his well trained horse. This was the day of enjoying Cowboys and Indians at the Saturday matinee and many cowboys along with their horses became popular.

Another during that era Tom mentions is cowboy William S. Hart. I remember seeing a very old movie with his first horse, "MIDNIGHT." Oh, that was such a beautiful black horse. It may have even influence the love for other great horses such as the Television and movie introductions of "My Friend Flicka" and "Fury." Both beautiful black horses, just like Midnight. However, Hart's horse, "Fritz" is best remembered for his scene crossing a canyon over a long fallen tree log in the movie "The Narrow Trail."

Although, Hart was innovative for his era of movies. He perform his own stunts sometimes being very dangerous. However, he likely is best remember for a scene in the movie "Singer Jim McKee" jumping his horse over a cliff falling and rolling to a gorge about 100 feet below. Hart used a dummy horse made to match his horse Fritz in ever manner including weighing 1,000 lbs. The scene appeared so real jumping his horse Fritz off the cliff. Fritz actually jumps over on a ledge just 12 feet below and the camera crew cuts while Hart mounts on the dummy horse held by a wire. The wire is cut after Hart is in the saddle and cameras rolling action that appeared so real, Hart had to prove he didn't kill a horse doing this stunt before the New York Board of Censors. Hart was a good horseman and his notes indicate his love of making western movies though film has so well improved since his hay day.



However, understanding horses from the movies, perhaps we need to see the 1937 movie "It Happened in Hollywood" featuring Richard Dix as the movie is about making western movies and of coarse the cowboy always getting his girl. Nine horses were viewed and it would be horse trainer Mr McCutcheon's horse "Dice" that would be selected. Dice, an attractive black & white pinto would also star with Gregory Peck and the lovely Jennifer Jones in "Duel in the Sun". Later the horse did "Arizona" and even Gene Autry once rode "Dice." McCutcheon continued to train Hollywood top horses in the motion picture industry for another 30 plus years.

Although, Roy Rogers riding Trigger or The Lone Ranger riding Silver were the most popular horses  and shows over the years. Roy was born Leonard Franklin Slye (November 5, 1911 – July 8, 1998), was an American Cowboy singer and an actor nicknamed "King of the Cowboys."  Roy moved to California during the early 1930's to seek a singing career.  After four years with little success, Rogers' formed "Sons of the Pioneers" with Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer in 1934. The group hit it big with songs "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"

1935, he worked steadily in preforming in western movies cast under his real name as "Leonard Slye." In 1938, Gene Autry temporarily walked out on his movie contract, Slye was immediately rechristened "Roy Rogers" and assigned the lead in Under Western Stars. Rogers became a matinee idol and American legend was born. Rogers' success as a singing cowboy landed many other roles including working along side John Wayne classic Dark Command (1940). Rogers became a major box office attraction drawing more money at the box office than the Duke from 1938 to 1955, holding first place from 1943 to 1952. (In the final three years of that poll he was second only to Randolph Scott.). Roy was married to Lucille Ascolese, but later divorced and married Grace Arline Wilkins. Giving child birth, Grace had complications and died several days later after the birth of son, Roy Jr. ("Dusty") in 1946. The following year, Roy married Dale Evans on New Year's Eve at the Flying L Ranch in Davis, Oklahoma, where a few months earlier they had filmed Home in Oklahoma. Rogers and Evans remained married until Rogers's death in 1998   Trigger was a palomino colt born the same year Rogers met Lucille in 1932.  The colt was name "Golden Cloud" foaled in Santa Cietro, California but renamed "Trigger."

"Hi-yo, Silver, away!" The horse would then gallop toward the setting sun, followed by someone asking, "Who was that masked man, anyway?" Someone else would respond, "Why, he's the Lone Ranger."  Radio first broadcast the show premiered January 30, 1933, on WXYZ Detroit, Michigan. Each episode was introduced with the announcer's words: "In the early days of the western United States, a masked man and an Indian rode the plains, searching for truth and justice. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoof beats of the great horse, Silver. The Lone Ranger rides again!" 

The Lone Ranger
Originally, the masked man's true identity was not revealed, though it was hinted that he might be a historical Western hero. Republic movie serial (1938) and elements of that story were worked into the radio series, the hero was revealed to be a Texas Ranger named John Reid, one of six Texas Rangers massacred by the Cavendish Gang. The story indicates that Reid is use to infiltrate the gang but gang member named Collins believes any man who you betray the Rangers would betray the gang shooting him in the back and leaving him for dead.

Reid's childhood friend, a Native American known as Tonto, comes upon the massacre scene and discovers Reid is still alive. Tonto takes him to safety and nurses him back to health.  Reid is reminded that when they were young, Reid had rescued Tonto after renegade Indians had murdered his family leaving Tonto for dead and gives Reid a silver ring which is how Tonto recognizes the seriously wounded Reid. From Radio, to movie screen, to TV series and back to movie screen, the Lone Ranger is folk lore of the American Cowboy where good conquers evil. While the different versions of this epic introduced many different tunes, best remember and related is the William Tell Overture. Now 61 years later, actor Clayton Moore portraying the role as the Lone Ranger can still be seen on Television as we calls out "Hi-yo, Silver, away!"

Mr Ed the talking Horse


Does anyone remember Mr. Ed the talking horse? Sure horses talk, just ask any horse whisper. Mister Ed, the palomino horse who could talk played by gelding "Bamboo Harvester" and voiced by Allan Lane. His famous line "Wilbur" was the TV hit during the early 1960's but then there was also a talking mule "Francis" that made several hit movies during the 1950's.


James Drury rode the cute appaloosa "Jody" on the Virginian TV Series then replaced with another horse called "Appy" or sometimes also called "Joe". Jim still visits many of the western sets and festivals. Perhaps one day we can get a clear cut of this appaloosa. Doug McClure had a find horse too named "Buck."

Can your remember "The Rifleman" Starring Chuck Conners as "Lucas McCain? Johnny Crawford played his son "Mark McCain" riding the pretty paint "Two Bits."

So many horses have come across the movie screens. How about one of the most impressive horse scenes every from the 1982 movie "Man from Snowy River" where Tom Burlinson portrays Australian Wrangler Jim Craig rides "Denny" successfully over a steep mountain side as they negotiate the treacherous descent. The movie is remarkable as the wrangler works to catch the bumbees (Australian wild horses) as this scene is powerful and extreme much as the horse used in 2004 movie "Hildago" and the unbelievable tales of Frank Hopkins and his American Mustang.


Extreme and often Hollywoodish. However, there are also the real horses of everyday. Tammy Sronce, two time world Champion Cowboy Mounted Shooting rides superb horse named "Handsome." Molly Rush rides with ACTHA and Extreme Cowboy Racing on her beautiful "KATIE BREEZIN' BY"   Molly also owns a custom Trophy Buckle business manufacturing awesome silver and gold custom Rodeo Buckles when not riding. She also used this horse in law enforcement.

There are so many magnificent horses that has blessed us on the silver screen. Some focusing on advertising such as the renowned Budweiser Clydesdale's with their creative commercials or the Lipizzan Stallions that tour around the world showing off their superb training.

Horses have always been a powerful tool for man. They help conquer the world carrying man across to distant lands into the many battle fields. They moved logistic pulling carts and coaches. They worked the field of harvest, to modern advertising promotions. They even run free upon the majestic deserts of modern America. There is a silent word unsaid that speaks POWERFUL as one peers upon the horse. Pushed aside to modern technology to become pets of little girls threaten of extinction as man recklessly seeks conquest. Sure they still have their place on earth and not just in the movie screen. I love them all for what is a cowboy without his horse other than being a lonely ole soul.

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