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The Rough Riders
8 Films released in 1941 - 1942
Rough Riders theme song by Edward J. Kay

The members of the Rough Riders:

Charles 'Buck' Jones (1891 - 1942)
(real name: Charles Frederick Gebhart)
portrayed "Marshal Buck Roberts" (who hailed from Arizona)

Timothy John Fitzgerald 'Tim' McCoy (1891 - 1978)
portrayed "Marshal Tim McCall" (who hailed from Wyoming)

Raymond William 'Ray' Hatton (1887 - 1971)
portrayed "Marshal Sandy Hopkins" (who hailed from Texas)

(From Old Corral collection)

L-to-R are Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Ray Hatton. Note the long frock coat that McCoy added to his traditional black/dark blue range costume. And Raymond Hatton continues to use a left side holster with his six-shooter in the butt forward position.

Buck Jones and Tim McCoy had been among the 'top guns' of Hollywood sagebrush stars in both silent and sound features. But their careers had waned due to their age and the influx of singing cowboys. Scott R. Dunlap, the production boss at Monogram Pictures, was a close personal and business friend of Jones and knew that Buck's career could be boosted if given the right screen property. Their connection began in the 1920s, when Dunlap directed some of Buck's silent oaters at Fox.

In 1941, a deal was struck for a new western series called the 'Rough Riders' starring Charles 'Buck' Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton. Interestingly, all three were about fifty years of age or older when the series began.

B westerns with a trio of heroes wasn't a newfangled idea. In 1936, the newly formed Republic Pictures introduced triple heroes in their Three Mesquiteers series. And Monogram Pictures began the Range Busters in 1940.

Raymond Hatton was familiar with the trio western. In 1939 - 1940, he portrayed 'Rusty Joslin' in nine of Republic's Three Mesquiteers adventures.

Jones, Dunlap and Monogram's Trem Carr formed 'Great Western Productions, Inc.' to produce the Rough Riders for release through Monogram. And eight films were released in 1941 - 1942 (see title listing further down this webpage).

Jones was 'Marshal Buck Roberts'; McCoy played 'Marshal Tim McCall'; and Hatton was 'Marshal Sandy Hopkins'. Production values were solid, plots were decent, and the charisma / interaction between the three movie veterans was quite enjoyable as they seemed to be having fun. And you knew the baddies were in trouble when Buck popped a slice of chewin' gum in his mouth. Though a tad slow in the action department, the eerie GHOST TOWN LAW (Monogram, 1942) is my favorite.

The series was popular and Monogram announced another eight films for season 1942 - 1943. But the best laid plans don't always come to fruition. World War II arrived and the October 1, 1942 issue of Film Daily carried a blurb on Tim McCoy's return to military service. The headline read: "Recall Col. Tim McCoy To Active Army Duty."

Still portraying their Rough Rider characters, Jones and Hatton did one more, the 63 minute DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE (Monogram, 1942).

But before DAWN was released, Jones died from burns and injuries suffered in the November 28, 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston, which killed nearly 500 people. He was rushed to the Massachusetts General Hospital but passed away on November 30, 1942. Buck was in Boston on the final leg of a personal appearance tour promoting his Monogram films and doing some War Bond work, and was attending a party at the Cocoanut Grove. Scotty Dunlap was seriously injured in the fire, but did recover.

The Rough Riders had a standard, nostalgic ending - Ray Hatton would boast that he's returning to Texas; McCoy was heading home to Wyoming; and Jones was riding back to Arizona. All three would bid farewell by saying "So long, Rough Riders!", and then gallop off in different directions as their theme song came up. That tune, which was also played over the opening titles and credits, was written by Edward J. Kay (1898 - 1973), prolific music director for the Rough Riders, Range Busters and more. The theme began with:

The Rough Riders ride, beware
The Rough Riders ride, take care
They're the finest bunch of fighters in the land
Chasing every rustler and guerilla band ...

Overall, a great series and certainly ranks among the finest achievements from little Monogram Pictures. All are fun but the best of the bunch are ARIZONA BOUND, GUNMAN FROM BODIE, BELOW THE BORDER ... and FORBIDDEN TRAILS which was the last film directed by Robert North Bradbury (Bob Steele's father).

Monogram reacted quickly to Jones' death and the demise of the Rough Riders.

Raymond Hatton took his 'Sandy Hopkins' character and became the sidekick to Johnny Mack Brown who signed as Monogram's new sagebrush star in January, 1943. Brown's early Monograms had him portraying 'Nevada Jack McKenzie' and the films used ideas and scripts planned for the second season of the Rough Riders. He and Hatton even mimicked the Rough Riders ending, waving goodbye to each other and riding off on different trails. Scott R. Dunlap was the producer of about twenty of the Brown Monograms.

Monogram continued their Range Busters trio westerns. And in February, 1943, they signed Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson as the 'Trail Blazers'.

(From Old Corral collection)
Pressbook ad for
Monogram's 8 Rough Riders films:

Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet

Directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet

Directed by Robert N. Bradbury (Bob Steele's father)

Directed by Howard Bretherton

Directed by Howard Bretherton

Directed by Howard Bretherton

Directed by Howard Bretherton

Directed by Howard Bretherton

I still get an occasional e-mail asking if DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE (Monogram, 1942) is a Rough Riders film.

Jones and Hatton reprised their 'Buck Roberts' and 'Sandy Hopkins' roles from the Rough Riders ... and Rex Bell was added as the third member, kinda replacing Tim McCoy who was back in the Army for World War II service.

DAWN was based on a story by James Oliver Curwood. And Howard Bretherton was the director.

But DAWN wasn't advertised as a Rough Riders adventure.

Released in December, 1942, shortly after Buck's death, DAWN is a plodding and dull wagon train tale - and a sad ending to Jones' career.

Above - 1942 Monogram Pictures organization chart. Edward Kay was music department boss. Reporting to Vice President of Production Scott R. Dunlap were Production Supervisors (producers) Lindsley Parsons, Ed Finney, Sam Katzman, A. W. Hackel, Bob Tansey, and George W. Weeks.

The Great Western Productions, Inc. company was formed by Scott Dunlap, Buck Jones, and Trem Carr, and early 1940s production encyclopedias and yearbooks list the company as 'Great Western Pictures'. The address and phone for both name variations is identical to the address and phone number for Monogram Pictures. Dunlap was still using that company name in the 1950s.

(From Old Corral collection)

Released in July, 1941, ARIZONA BOUND (Monogram, 1941) was the first in the Rough Riders series and filmed in Prescott, Arizona. Has a great ending with Buck riding Silver through the front window of the saloon (looks like he was doubled by stuntman Cliff Lyons).

No question that Buck Jones was the star. Note the size of the images and lettering given the three members - Jones was the largest, followed by McCoy, and Ray Hatton came in third place. McCoy has his hand on the chest of Tristram 'Tris' Coffin who played the brains heavy in this one.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - a Dixie Cup Ice Cream premium. At the end of each adventure, our three heroes would laugh, chat and give us their "So long, Rough Riders!" farewell ... and then gallop off in different directions. And up came the Rough Riders theme song.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right are Buck Jones (on Silver), Raymond Hatton (on Lucky/Tex) and Tim McCoy (on Midnight?). Hatton, and a lot of other western heroes rode the paint Lucky/Tex (Jimmy Wakely and Jack Randall rode Lucky in some of their Monogram westerns, and John 'Dusty' King rode the same horse during his time as a member of Monogram's Range Busters). Notice that Hatton is on a different paint horse.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Trio westerns weren't new to Raymond Hatton. In 1939 - 1940, he portrayed 'Rusty Joslin' in nine of the Three Mesquiteers adventures at Republic Pictures. Above are Duncan Renaldo, Bob Livingston, and Hatton in COWBOYS FROM TEXAS (Republic, 1939).

Many B western stars and series were featured in Big Little Books, Better Little Books, et al.

The Rough Riders in FORBIDDEN TRAILS was covered in Whitman Publishing's Better Little Book #1486 in January, 1943.

At that time, Whitman Publishing Company was headquartered in Racine, Wisconsin.

Trade publications covered the brief lifespan
of the Rough Riders - a few articles and excerpts:

The beginning:

  • April 19, 1941 Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin: "A special announcement made during Monogram's recent convention was ... that Buck Jones has been signed to head a co-starring trio for Mono's new western series known as 'Rough Riders'."
  • May 17, 1941 Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin: "Scott R. Dunlap will produce the Buck Jones 'Rough Riders' series which may indicate that Monogram attaches a great deal of importance to the series and the group will have higher budgets than are usually accorded westerns."
  • May 21, 1941 Variety: "Col. Tim McCoy joins Buck Jones as one of the top buckaroos in the series of eight westerns under the general title of 'Rough Riders' at Monogram. Scott R. Dunlap is producing ..."
  • June 5, 1941 Film Daily: "Headed by Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Director Spencer G. Bennett [sic], the cast and crew of Monogram's 'Arizona Bound', first western in the company's new 'Rough Riders' series, leaves Hollywood tomorrow for Prescott, Ariz. where production will start on the picture Monday."
  • June 16, 1941 Film Daily: "Raymond Hatton has been signed by Monogram for a featured role in the new series 'The Rough Riders' westerns, which will star Buck Jones and Tim McCoy. Hatton will establish a comedy character ..."

Eight films were completed and released in 1941 - 1942. Plans were for another eight for 1942 - 1943:

  • May 16, 1942 Motion Picture Herald: "The 'Rough Riders' series, featuring Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton, will make eight western productions, two of which will be specials - 'Dawn on the Great Divide' and 'Overland Wagon Trails'."
  • September 9, 1942 Variety: "Scott R. Dunlap will produce two outdoor specials for Monogram's 1942-43 program, first of which is 'Dawn on the Great Divide'. Buck Jones, Tim McCoy and Raymond Hatton share top roles."

Colonel Tim McCoy leaves for World War II duty:

  • October 1, 1942 Film Daily: "Hollywood - Colonel Tim McCoy featured in the 'Rough Riders' produced by Scott R. Dunlap for Monogram release has been recalled to active service with the U. S. Army and reports at Fort Washington, Md., today for a refresher course preparatory to a probable assignment to headquarters of an Army corps."

Then came the death of Buck Jones from injuries suffered in the November 28, 1942 Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire. DAWN ON THE GREAT DIVIDE (Monogram, 1942) was released in early December, 1942 with Jones, Hatton, and Rex Bell. Producer Scott R. Dunlap was seriously injured in the fire and did recover:

  • December 1, 1942 Film Daily had front page coverage of the November 28, 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire: "At least 20 Film People Lost in Night Club Disaster" ; "Buck Jones' Burns Fatal" ; "Jones ... died at 4:35 yesterday afternoon (November 30, 1942)"
  • December 1, 1942 Motion Picture Daily: "Scott R. Dunlap, veteran producer for Monogram and for 22 years Buck Jones' personal manager, was reported in extremely critical condition at City Hospital ..."
  • Many trade publications covered Buck's funeral on December 7, 1942 in Los Angeles. From the December 7, 1942 Motion Picture Daily: "Funeral services for Charles (Buck) Jones, who died as a result of burns suffered in the Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston will be held today ... in the chapel of Bresee Bros.& Gillette. Honorary pallbearers will be W. Ray Johnston, Trem Carr, Charles J. Bigelow, Austin C. Sherman, Dr. Donald Cass, Leslie [sic] Selander, George Moyer, Dr. C. D. Dickey, V. McCollum and W. S. Van Dyke."

Monogram hires Johnny Mack Brown to replace the Rough Riders series. And Maynard and Gibson arrive as the 'Trail Blazers':

  • January 27, 1943 Variety: "Johnny Mack Brown shifts from Universal to Monogram under a new contract calling for a series of westerns to be produced by Scott R. Dunlap. Series will take the place of 'The Rough Riders', which was broken up by the death of Buck Jones in the Boston night club fire and the re-entry of Col. Tim McCoy into the Army. Raymond Hatton, third of the 'Rough Riders' trio, is slated to work with Brown in the new series."
  • January 30, 1943 Showmen's Trade Review: Monogram has signed Johnny Mack Brown to a term contract for a series under Scott R. Dunlap to replace 'The Rough Riders' which was broken up with the death of Buck Jones and the departure of Col. Tim McCoy to active Army duty. Raymond Hatton, the last of the trio, is expected to work in the new series with Brown."
  • February 24, 1943 The Exhibitor: "Launching Monogram's third western series, Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard were last week signed as co-stars in a series of six pictures to be produced and directed by Robert Tansey under the general title of 'The Trail Blazers.' Other western groups now under the Monogram banner are George W. Weeks' 'Range Busters', with Ray Corrigan, Dennis Moore, and Max Terhune, and Scott R. Dunlap's new combination headed by Johnny Mack Brown and Raymond Hatton."

Left is Scott R. Dunlap (1892 - 1970) ... friend and business manager of Buck Jones ... injured in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire which killed Jones ... primarily remembered for his work at Monogram in westerns such as the Rough Riders.

Dunlap's official title was Vice President in Charge of Production, and he reported to Monogram boss and president W. Ray Johnston.

The Jones and Dunlap connection began in the 1920s, when Dunlap directed eleven of Buck's silent oaters at Fox.

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