Back to prior page            Go to next page

The Texas Rangers
22 Films
Released 1942 - 1945

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - two of the members of the original Texas Rangers' team - Jim Newill on the left, and Dave 'Tex' O'Brien on the right.

(From Old Corral collection)

On the left is Tex Ritter, who replaced Newill in the last eight films. On the right is Dave O'Brien who was around for all 22 films in the series.
The members of
PRC's Texas Rangers:

James 'Jim' Newill (1911 - 1975)
portrayed "Jim Steele" in the first 14 films.

Dave 'Tex' O'Brien (1912 - 1969)
(real name: David Poole Fronabarger) was in all 22 films in the series. In the 14 films with Newill, Dave portrayed "Tex Wyatt". When Ritter arrived, there couldn't be two guys named Tex. So O'Brien's character became "Dave Wyatt".

Woodward Maurice 'Tex' Ritter (1905 - 1974) portrayed "Tex Haines" in the last 8 films of the series.

Guy Owen Wilkerson (1899 - 1971)
was "Panhandle Perkins" in all 22 films in the series.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is Guy Wilkerson.

Republic had the Three Mesquiteers ... and Monogram had the Rough Riders, Range Busters, and Trail Blazers.

Having multiple cowboy heroes seemed to be the norm, and Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) tried it unsuccessfully with the mediocre Frontier Marshal trio. The marshals were country/western singers/musicians Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd and Art Davis. Member number three was Lee Powell who had portrayed the 'masked man of the plains' in Republic's 1938 THE LONE RANGER serial. After a half dozen films, all 1942 releases, the Frontier Marshals were put out to pasture.

PRC gave it another try with new faces and a storyline based on the legendary Texas Rangers.

Plans were announced in July and August, 1942 trades and the Rangers were to be Dave 'Tex' O'Brien, Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, and former Frontier Marshal star Art Davis. But things changed. PRC had Fuzzy St. John concentrate on playing sidekick to Buster Crabbe as well as Bob Livingston in his Lone Rider oaters. And Davis was out due to his enlistment in the Navy on August 26, 1942 for World War II duty. Trade publications carried an announcement:

September 9, 1942 Variety: "... 'The Texas Rangers' will replace the 'Frontier Marshal' series on the 1942-43 program for Producers Releasing Corp." ; "... Dave O'Brien and Jim Newhill [sic] teamed in the top spots."

Shooting on the first Texas Ranger adventure, THE RANGERS TAKE OVER (PRC, 1942), occurred in October, 1942 and the film was released in December, 1942. The Rangers were:

As noted, THE RANGERS TAKE OVER (1942) was the opener and PRC's shortcuts and lean budgets were immediately apparent. Entry fourteen, BRAND OF THE DEVIL (PRC, 1944), was the last for Newill, who got a better offer from New York to co-star with June Havoc in the new Broadway play "Sadie Thompson". Newill's exit wasn't a problem as a veteran singing cowboy had recently become available to fill the slot - his name was Tex Ritter.

Ritter had started with producer/director Ed Finney at Grand National in the late 1930s, and their singing westerns had migrated to Monogram Pictures when Grand National went belly-up due to financial problems. After Monogram, Tex co-starred with Wild Bill Elliott at Columbia and Johnny Mack Brown at Universal. When Brown left for a long stay at Monogram, Tex did several solo starring efforts at Universal. Ritter was a bonafide sagebrush star with solid western movie credentials. The Texas Rangers needed help, and Tex and his trusty steed White Flash signed on for eight films.

In the fourteen adventures with James Newill, Dave O'Brien was first billed, portraying lawman "Tex Wyatt". When Ritter replaced Newill, there couldn't be two Rangers named Tex. Thus, O'Brien's character had a name change to "Dave Wyatt". Ritter also also got top billing over O'Brien.

Thanks to Tex, the series picked up a bit in tempo, and his pairing with O'Brien worked pretty well ... but the shoestring budgets and slipshod production values remained. There were other forces at work - World War II was winding down, production costs had steadily increased, and the B-western film was approaching it's twilight. FLAMING BULLETS (PRC, 1945) was the twenty-second and last in the series.

Direction of the Rangers' cinema efforts were handled by B-movie veterans Al Herman (2 films), Elmer Clifton (9), Harry Fraser (7) and Oliver Drake (4), all of whom had labored for major film companies as well as Poverty Row. All had started in silent pictures, mostly on the production side. Oliver Drake was normally a script writer but in later years, would also direct. All four knew how to work within miniscule budgets and tight shooting schedules. Their time at PRC meant "food on the table". Arthur Alexander and Alfred Stern had production responsibility, and they co-produced or alternated as solo producers on the Texas Rangers.

Tex Ritter retired from cowboy films and concentrated on singing, personal appearances, Capitol records, Grand Old Opry, etc. He had several hit songs, including the title tune from Gary Cooper's HIGH NOON (1952). He passed away in 1974.

Dave O'Brien made a few more B features and then became entrenched as the star, writer and director on the Pete Smith comedy shorts at MGM. Later, he was a writer on the Red Skelton TV show, and the team won an Emmy award in 1961 for the comedy sketches on the 1960-1961 Skelton shows. Loving the sea and sailing, O'Brien passed away from a heart attack in 1969 during a yacht race near Catalina.

James Newill, who had a fine voice, returned to the stage and singing ... and did some business ventures unrelated to Hollywood. He passed away in 1975 from cancer.

You'll find biographies on Newill, Ritter and O'Brien on the Old Corral - look in the Heroes section.

As to PRC, they had Buster Crabbe and Al 'Fuzzy' St. John doing the Billy the Kid/Billy Carson group that would run for 36 films during the years 1941-1946. With the demise of the Texas Rangers, PRC re-adjusted priorities and cowboy heroes, and out came a couple series. Bob Steele had portrayed Billy the Kid prior to Buster Crabbe but left PRC for Republic's Three Mesquiteers trio. He returned to PRC for his final starring roles, a group of four 1945-1946 releases which were produced by Arthur Alexander and helmed by Harry L. Fraser. PRC's other new range rider was singin' cowboy Eddie Dean. His initial oaters were given higher budgets (by PRC's standards) and filmed in glorious CineColor, a two-strip color process similar to Republic's Tru-Color which was used in the post-World War II films of Roy Rogers. In Dean's first starrer, SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945), we were introduced to a black-garbed range rider named Al LaRue. But that's another story.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from L-to-R are Dave 'Tex' O'Brien (on King), Jim Newill (on Alamo) and Guy Wilkerson, the original members of the Texas Rangers.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above is the title lobby card for the first Texas Rangers film, THE RANGERS TAKE OVER (PRC, 1942). In the center image, prolific baddie Charlie King is mixing it up with Dave O'Brien. O'Brien is shown on the left and on the right is singing cowboy James Newill, who had earlier starred in the Renfrew of the Royal Mounted adventures. Newill appeared in the first fourteen films in the Texas Rangers series. The heroine in RANGERS is gorgeous Iris Meredith who did many leading lady roles in westerns and serials at Columbia Pictures. Iris married director/assistant director Abby Berlin in 1941 and after a few early 1940s roles at PRC, she retired.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right are Dave O'Brien, Guy Wilkerson and Jim Newill in a lobby card from THE RANGERS TAKE OVER (PRC, 1942).

(From Old Corral collection)

Above from left to right are the final members of PRC's Texas Rangers' trio: Dave O'Brien, Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson. Ritter replaced Jim Newill in the last 8 films of the series. The above scene occurs in the opening minutes of FRONTIER FUGITIVES (PRC, 1945).

(From Old Corral collection)

THE WHISPERING SKULL (PRC, 1944) had a mystery twist and was one of the better PRC Texas Rangers films. Tex Ritter replaced Newill for the final eight entries in the series.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - Tex Ritter pounds away on stuntman and supporting player Kermit Maynard, the brother of Ken Maynard, in FLAMING BULLETS (PRC, 1945) the last film in the Texas Rangers series and Ritter's finale as a western film hero.

Back to prior page            Go to next page