Nat Levine and Gene Autry ... and Smiley Burnette
Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette were performers on the National Barn Dance radio program which originated from station WLS in Chicago. And both headed to Hollywood in 1934 to work for Mascot.
Jack Mathis' Republic Confidential, Volume 2, The Players (Jack Mathis Advertising, 1992) has more on Gene's contract:
(From Old Corral collection)
Released in September, 1935, TUMBLING TUMBLEWEEDS (Republic, 1935) was Autry's first starring B western. The title lobby card above shows him on the original Champion (with that unique face blaze and three white socks). Armand Schaefer was associate producer and Levine was the producer.
Armand Schaefer (1898 - 1967) became a business associate and personal friend to Gene Autry, and they first connected at Mascot and Republic Pictures. When Autry returned from World War II duty, he did a few westerns at Republic to finish out his contract. Then he began a series of oaters for Columbia Pictures as well as creating various TV programs via his "Flying A" television company. Armand 'Mandy' Schaefer was president and executive producer of Gene's production company.
Nat Levine and John Wayne
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
A young John Wayne starred in three cliffhangers for Levine, and gave him a boost as a good lookin' action hero. His first was THE SHADOW OF THE EAGLE (Mascot, 1932) and the above lobby card is for Chapter 1. "The Carnival Mystery". The other two were THE HURRICANE EXPRESS (Mascot, 1932) and THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Mascot, 1933).
In 1932 - 1933, Wayne starred in six B westerns for Warners.
Then came sixteen "Lone Star" sagebrush adventures released 1933 - 1935 by Monogram and produced by Paul Malvern.
Wayne and Malvern were swept up in the new Republic Pictures organization and teamed for another eight oaters released by Republic in 1935 - 1936. Trem Carr was producer on these, but after he exited Republic, Nat Levine took charge of Wayne's last two, THE LONELY TRAIL (Republic, 1936) and WINDS OF THE WASTELAND (Republic, 1936).
The next stop for Wayne and Paul Malvern was Universal Pictures where Wayne starred in a half dozen non-westerns in 1936 - 1937, the first of which was SEA SPOILERS (Universal, 1936).
He and Johnny Mack Brown starred in BORN TO THE WEST (Paramount, 1937; alternate title: HELL TOWN).
In May, 1938, Wayne signed a multi-year contract with Republic and his first assignment was portraying "Stony Brooke" - and replacing Bob Livingston - in eight of the Three Mesquiteers trio series released in 1938 - 1939. His first was PALS OF THE SADDLE (Republic, 1938), released in August, 1938.
There was a break in filming those eight as Wayne was loaned out to producer Walter Wanger and director John Ford for STAGECOACH (United Artists, 1939).
Nat Levine and Frankie Darro
Nat Levine and stunt man Yakima Canutt
Nat Levine and stunt man Cliff Lyons
Nat Levine ... and horses and dogs