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Ken Maynard

Real name:
Kenneth Olin Maynard

1895 - 1973

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - Ken Maynard circa 1935 with a big smile, big sombrero and THAT shirt with the arrow pockets.

Click HERE to take a gander at Maynard's saddle which he used from about 1935 through the Trail Blazers series. This saddle was sold for about $23,000.00 at the High Noon auction in Mesa, Arizona in mid January, 2003.

Joel Towler provides some photos and remembrances of his friend Ken Maynard and Ken's wife Bertha. Click HERE.

(Courtesy of Rey Freeman)

Above, a pen and ink drawing of Ken and Tarzan by Rey Freeman, used with permission.

Ken Maynard was not born in Mission, Texas nor any other western locale.  He and his brother Kermit were born in Vevay, Indiana in 1895 and 1897 respectively. In addition to sons Kenneth and Kermit, William H. Maynard and Emma May Maynard (nee Stewart) had three daughters - Trixie, Willa and Bessie. Much of the growin' up years for Ken and Kerm were spent in Columbus, Indiana.  While Kerm opted to stay in Indiana, attend school, and do some college time at Indiana University, the older brother headed west.

The biographies of the senior Maynard are a mass of confusion and conflict.  Some say he ran away from home to join a circus/traveling tent show ... others say he returned to Indiana and ultimately got parental permission to join the circus ... he was a World Champion rodeo performer ... he was in the U. S. Army and stationed at Camp Knox (now Fort Knox) during WW1 ... he toured with a variety of Wild West shows and wound up as the star performer with the Ringling Bros. circus in the early 1920s ... Buck Jones, Tom Mix or both encouraged him to come to Hollywood.

What and how much of the above is real versus studio publicity or Maynard exaggerations?

Many of Ken's biographies note that he won the prestigious "All Around Cowboy" award at the 1920 Pendleton, Oregon Roundup.  He didn't win in 1920 or any other year, and confirmation was relatively easy.

I sent an e-mail to the website.  Excerpts follow from a couple e-mails from them: "I just looked up the contestant list and I couldn't even find his name (Ken Maynard) on that.  Hoot Gibson won the Round-Up All Around in 1912. Yakima Canutt won the All Around in 1919 and 1920 as well as 1917 and 1923."

I also checked with Boyd Magers who writes: "Went through the rodeo results which are charted in Rodeo History and Legends by Bob Jordan (Privately published, 1993) for Prescott, Cheyenne, Pendleton and Calgary in saddle bronc, steer roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, calf roping and all-around cowboy. Lots of Yakima Canutt, Art Acord, Hoot Gibson, Tom Mix and Frank McCarroll. No Ken Maynard. Of course, these aren't all the rodeos but they are the biggies."

We do know that Ken Maynard grew up to be a good looking galoot and a very accomplished horseman.  His first movie roles were in non-westerns at Fox in the mid 1920s, but nobody seemed to notice or care. His portrayal of Paul Revere in JANICE MEREDITH (Cosmopolitan, 1924) was his breakthrough role (though he didn't have the lead in that film).

His starring career began in 1925 when he signed on with the independent Davis film production company. With Davis, he would do several low budget silents such as $50,000 REWARD (Davis, 1925) and THE GREY VULTURE (Davis, 1926). In 1923, he married Jeanne M. Knudsen. He tied the knot with South Bend, Indiana resident Mary Leeper in 1925. Those were Ken's second and third marriages, as genealogical information on the Maynard family indicates he married Arlie Harlan of Tompkinsville, Kentucky on December 8, 1916.

(Courtesy of Dave Smith)

Photo of Ken, in uncharacteristic formalwear and top hat, while he was working for Davis.

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above, mid 1920s shot of Ken and Tarzan. Maynard was about 30 years old at the time of this photo.

Climbing further up the ladder of success, he inked a deal with the more prestigious First National Pictures. From 1926-1929, he was the resident range rider at First National and appeared in about twenty silents including THE RED RAIDERS (First National, 1927). He even traded his western clothes for a mountie uniform in CODE OF THE SCARLET (First National, 1928).

In these early days, Maynard was lithe, handsome, and looked great in the saddle ... and when he acquired the palomino Tarzan around 1925, the man and hoss seemed to blend together into a singular screen presence.

Tidbit: stock footage from these Maynard First National silents were used in lots of films. First National became Warner Bros.-First National, and a young John Wayne did six oaters for Warners in 1932-1933. Wayne rode a white horse named 'Duke', which was required in order to match the stock footage showing Tarzan.

(Courtesy of David Null)

The trussed up Maynard finally locates a water hole in this lobby card from THE UNKNOWN CAVALIER (First National, 1926).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Maynard is wrestling with two unidentifieds in a lobby card from GUN GOSPEL (First National, 1927) (the man on the right might be J. P. McGowan).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above are Gladys McConnell and Ken Maynard in a lobby card from the silent THE GLORIOUS TRAIL (First National, 1928).

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above are Ena Gregory and Maynard in a lobby card from THE WAGON SHOW (First National, 1928).

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