|The Range Busters|
24 Films released from 1940 - 1943
Theme song: "Home on the Range"
|The 6 members of the Range Busters trio:|
|Ray 'Crash' Corrigan (1902 - 1976)
Real name: Raymond Benitz
appeared in 20 of the 24 films
Max 'Alibi' Terhune (1891 - 1973)
Real name: Robert Max Terhune, Sr.
appeared in all 24 films
John 'Dusty' King (1909 - 1987)
Real name: Miller McLeod Everson
appeared in 20 of the 24 films
|Dave/Davy Sharpe (1909 or 1910 - 1980)|
Real name: David Hardin Sharpe
appeared in 4 of the 24 films
Dennis 'Denny' Moore (1908 - 1964)
Real name: Dennis 'Denny' Meadows
appeared in 4 of the 24 films
Rex Lease (1901 or 1903 - 1966)
Real name: Rex Lloyd Lease
appeared in 1 of the 24 films
|(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above - a color tablet cover showing the original members of the Range Busters. From left to right are John 'Dusty' King, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan and Max 'Alibi' Terhune.
With the success of Republic's Three Mesquiteers, several forces came together in 1940 to develop a new series with multiple heroes. Involved were big, muscular Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, producer George W. Weeks, and Monogram Pictures. Another member of the production team was S. Roy Luby. Good probability that Luby was a friend of Corrigan and/or Weeks as he was involved in twenty three of the twenty four adventures, and he often performed two jobs, directing and film editing.
Corrigan was the lead and comic relief was in the hands of ventriloquist Max 'Alibi' Terhune (and his wise-cracking dummy Elmer). Both were ex-Mesquiteers, having played the roles of "Tucson Smith" and "Lullaby Joslin", respectfully, in that outstanding Republic series. In my opinion, the several replacement Mesquiteers that followed Corrigan and Terhune were never as good as these originals.
Early - mid 1940 tradepaper articles mentioned that the new series was to be called "The Two Pals", and Corrigan and John King were the stars. But Max Terhune got added to make it a trio, and very briefly, the group became "The Three Pals". Then came a final name change to "The Range Busters".
The Busters was clearly a lower budget copy of the Mesquiteers. Monogram Pictures Corporation distributed the series but was not directly involved in production. Corrigan got a substantial share of the profits (and in an interview years later, Ray said he received 50%). It also helped that a lot of the filming would be done at Corrigan's movie ranch in Simi Valley, California.
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Above are the production and distribution companies for the Range Busters. January, 1941 Boxoffice and Film Daily tradezines had articles about Weeks changing the name of his production company from Phoenix Productions, Inc. to Range Busters, Inc.
Ray Corrigan had been on the Hollywood scene since the early 1930s, primarily at MGM as a muscular stand-in and double for Johnny Weissmuller and in walk-ons and bit-parts in movies such as MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. Prior to joining the Mesquiteers in 1936, his major roles were in chapterplays - there was a support part in THE VIGILANTES ARE COMING (Republic, 1936) followed by the lead in UNDERSEA KINGDOM (Republic, 1936). Max Terhune had become friends with Gene Autry during their radio work on the WLS Barn Dance. Gene enticed Max to come to Hollywood, helped the Terhune family get settled, and arranged with Republic to give Max a part in the early Autry oater RIDE, RANGER, RIDE (Republic, 1936).
Above - Range Busters producer George Warren Weeks (1885 - 1953).
(From Old Corral collection)Above - John 'Dusty' King
Playing second lead in the Range Busters was John King, a big-band singer (Ben Bernie Orchestra) with a reasonably good baritone, and he'd warble a tune or two in each adventure. He had some prior movie experience, including parts in the Deanna Durbin musical THREE SMART GIRLS (Universal, 1937), CHARLIE CHAN IN HONOLULU (20th Century Fox, 1938), and THE HARDYS RIDE HIGH (MGM, 1939). King also starred in Universal's ACE DRUMMOND serial in 1936. Les Adams reminded me that King also had the lead in 1939's GENTLEMAN FROM ARIZONA, a Natural Color (Cinecolor) Monogram offering.
The initial entry hit the screen in late Summer, 1940, and was aptly titled THE RANGE BUSTERS (Monogram, 1940). The first sixteen featured Corrigan, King and Terhune, and fans were comfortable with that teaming and consistency. But several changes occurred in the last eight. Corrigan exited for a while - reportedly because of a salary issue and/or disagreement with producer George W. Weeks - and was replaced by stuntman/actor Dave Sharpe. When Sharpe departed for World War II service, Rex Lease filled in for half a picture. Then Corrigan was back, John King went into military service, and King's replacement was Dennis Moore. Terhune was the only member to appear in all twenty-four.
The Range Busters' theme song, "Home on the Range", was played over the opening credits courtesy of veteran music director Frank Sanucci. While the opening titles and credits changed over the series lifespan, many featured rodeo announcer and performer Rex Felker from Haskell, Texas doing some rope spinning. And some scripts had our three heroes time warping from old west settings to patriotic World War II themes (such as TEXAS TO BATAAN (Monogram, 1942), COWBOY COMMANDOS (Monogram, 1943) and BLACK MARKET RUSTLERS (Monogram, 1943)).
Sol Roy Luby was a veteran of various film production jobs, and had worked at the Max Fleischer cartoon factory and directed some Reb Russell westerns in the mid 1930s. He also spent several years laboring at producer A. William Hackel's Supreme Pictures, sometimes editing and sometimes helming oaters with Johnny Mack Brown and Bob Steele. With the Range Busters, Luby did double duty on most of the films. He directed nineteen (except for the four with Dave Sharpe and one with Dennis Moore). And under his pseudonym/alias of "Roy Claire", Luby handled the film editing on twenty three. A very busy guy.
In charge of the quartet with Dave Sharpe was Robert Emmett 'Bob' Tansey who happened to be between jobs at Monogram. Earlier, he was the producer, director, et al on the 1941-1942 Tom Keene series. After completing the four Range Busters, Tansey began work on Monogram's new Trail Blazers with Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson.
The Range Busters rode off into Hollywood history in adventure #24, BULLETS AND SADDLES (Monogram, 1943), which was released in the Fall of 1943. About six months earlier, we also bid farewell to Republic's Three Mesquiteers when Tom Tyler, Bob Steele and Jimmie Dodd did the 51st and last in that series, RIDERS OF THE RIO GRANDE (Republic, 1943).
The demise of the Busters wasn't a problem for Monogram. The little studio had hired Johnny Mack Brown in early 1943 and his initial entries for producer Scott R. Dunlap were being released along with the final batch of Range Busters. As mentioned earlier, Monogram had brought two old timers back to the silver screen - Ken Maynard and Hoot Gibson were their new Trail Blazers, working for producer and director Bob Tansey.
Corrigan was tired of the cowboy film rat race, and he had become too busy (and profitable) with his Corriganville movie ranch. Around 1937, he invested in some real estate in California's Simi Valley and developed it as a multi-purpose movie location. Most/all of the Range Busters were done there, as well as A grade features like FORT APACHE (1948) with John Wayne. Also lensed at Corriganville were Columbia's JUNGLE JIM series with Johnny Weissmuller and TV shows such as THE ADVENTURES OF RIN TIN TIN and SKY KING. Corrigan opened the ranch to the public and his staff would stage shoot-em-ups and such. He even employed several of his movie buddies at the ranch, including Max Terhune and Victor Daniels (Chief Thunder Cloud). During its existence, thousands of movies and TV shows were made there. In the mid-1960s, Corriganville became Hopetown when it was purchased by Bob Hope.
Ray probably picked up some extra cash by using his Corriganville ranch for some/most of the Range Busters. Some of the opening titles and credits mention that filming was done at the "Ray Corrigan Ranch" (not "Corriganville"). I asked movie location expert Tinsley Yarbrough for more info on the locations used in the Range Busters: "They mainly used Corriganville but also Iverson and other sites as well as the Monogram town set".
During World War II, John King served about four years in the Air Corps as a Tech Sergeant in Special Services at the Air Corps training base in Douglas, Arizona. After his discharge, King could no longer find movie roles, so he joined CBS radio in Los Angeles. Around 1947, the family returned to Douglas, Arizona where King became general manager of the new KAWT radio station. In the early 1950s, John, wife and daughter relocated to the San Diego, California area, and from 1954 - 1908, he owned and operated "John's Waffle Shop" in In La Jolla, California.
Terhune and Elmer remained busy for years, and Max's last western series occurred when he replaced Raymond Hatton as the sidekick to Johnny Mack Brown at Monogram in the late 1940s. And he was a featured attraction for many years at Corriganville.
Dave Sharpe made a few more film appearances (such as co-starring with Eddie Dean in the 1946 PRC Cinecolor COLORADO SERENADE) and then settled in as a second unit director and premier stuntman.
Dennis Moore still had some saddle pal and starring roles to do. He became a sidekick to Jimmy Wakely at Monogram. He also did cliffhangers and was the lead in RAIDERS OF GHOST CITY (Universal, 1944) and THE PURPLE MONSTER STRIKES (Republic, 1945). A decade later, Moore was the star/co-star in the last two serials that were filmed, BLAZING THE OVERLAND TRAIL (Columbia, 1956) and PERILS OF THE WILDERNESS (Columbia, 1956).
As to producer George W. Weeks (1885 - 1953), his Hollywood career faded quickly after the Range Busters ended.
Sol Roy Luby (1899 or 1904 - 1976) did a few more movies, but most of his later work was editing early TV shows such as MY LITTLE MARGIE, ROCKY JONES, and THE STU ERWIN SHOW.
Some observations and closing thoughts:
On the next webpage, I've listed some titles as the "Best of the Range Busters". Please read that with a grain of salt. To refresh my memory, I re-watched most of the films over a month long period prior to updating this section. There were a few gems, but most were just OK ... routine ... not great, but not too bad. Around the same time, I was also doing a major revamp of the Jones-McCoy-Hatton Rough Riders and viewing their films again. And my memory is still reasonably solid on Republic's Three Mesquiteers.
The Range Busters were fun ... they have their moments ... and most of us include them on our list of B-western favorites. But the Mesquiteers and Rough Riders were better. I understand that Dave Sharpe made more money doing stunt work and second unit directing. But I wish he did more starring westerns ... and I wish he did more of the Range Busters.
I did gain an appreciation for S. Roy Luby. I visualized him out on Corriganville's dusty backlot roads doing his directing thing. After filming was complete, he'd hibernate to a nondescript building for a week or two, editing miles of 35mm with tinny Frank Sanucci music cues into a reasonably coherent western that the theater owners would buy and Saturday matinee audiences would enjoy. He did that ... nearly two dozen times with the Busters. The "almost as busy as Sam Newfield award" goes to S. Roy Luby.
I still like the Range Busters. I just moved them down a couple notches on my favorites list.
(From Old Corral collection)
Above are Ray 'Crash' Corrigan and John 'Dusty' King (on the paint horse 'Lucky/Tex', which was also used by Raymond Hatton, Jimmy Wakely, others). Corrigan rode several white horses during his Range Busters days. and in the above photo, his mount is 'Silver/Silver Chief'. You'll find more on Ray's hosses in the Trusty Steeds section of the Old Corral. Note the different horse that Corrigan is riding in the lobby card below.
(Courtesy of Boyd Magers)
Above from left to right are Max Terhune and Elmer (on 'Banjo'), Ray Corrigan (on an unidentified white horse) and John King (riding 'Lucky/Tex') in a lobby card from Range Busters #2, TRAILING DOUBLE TROUBLE (Monogram, 1940). Note that Corrigan as the lead/star gets slightly larger type for his name versus King and Terhune.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
There's always exceptions! Above are Max Terhune (on 'Banjo') Ray 'Crash' Corrigan (on 'Silver/Silver Chief') and John 'Dusty' King on an unknown paint horse, not Lucky/Tex. Scene still is from Range Busters #7, WRANGLER'S ROOST (Monogram, 1941).
(Courtesy of Les Adams) |On the left is a blurb from the pressbook for LAND OF HUNTED MEN (Monogram, 1943), and mentions that John King and Dave Sharpe had departed for World War II duty ... and Dennis Moore had joined the series and Ray Corrigan was returning.|
The oft reported story is that a salary issue and/or disagreement with producer George W. Weeks was the cause of Ray Corrigan going "missing in action" from four of the films (the ones in which Dave Sharpe substituted). Or perhaps there was some other reason, such as Corriganville business or personal/family issues.