Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Overland Stage Raiders highlighted in new book
McFarland & Company, one of the world's leading publishers of film books, has just released Western Film Series of the Sound Era. This 475 page hardcover book, by Michael R. Pitts, is an impressive reference work.
Pitts is the author of 30 earlier books, including Poverty Row Studios, 1929-1940: An Illustrated History of 55 Independent Film Companies (McFarland), and the two volume Famous Movie Detectives (Scarecrow Press). Those notable works, like Western Film Series of the Sound Era, touch on the career of Louise Brooks.
The western was hugely popular genre in the 1930s, and it packed cinemas during the early sound era. This volume covers 30 western film series produced from the mid 1930s to the early 1950s. Included are such long-running series as Hopalong Cassidy, The Durango Kid, and The Three Mesquiteers, as well as those that had moderate or brief runs like The Singing Cowgirl and The Texas Rangers. There are also chapters on The Cisco Kid and The Lone Ranger. Major stars like John Wayne, Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, Tim McCoy, and Johnny Mack Brown headlined such popular fare.
Western Film Series of the Sound Era contains a plot synopsis and analysis of each series, it's place in cinema history, photographs, illustrations, a bibliography and a detailed filmography. Western Film Series of the Sound Era does not contain material on Empty Saddles (1936), the western Brooks made near the end of her film career. That film starred Buck Jones and was a stand alone - and thus is not included in this new book devoted to series films.
However, Western Film Series of the Sound Era does contain a substantial chapter on the many films made under The Three Mesquiteers banner. One of them, Overland Stage Raiders (1938), was the last in which Louise Brooks had a role. It starred a youthful John Wayne, who would soon find film immortality as the Ringo Kid in John Ford's Stage Coach (1939). Brooks wrote about Wayne in an uncollected essay, "Duke by Divine Right."
Pitts' book has interesting background material on The Three Mesquiteers series (it's history and changing actors), as well as on the making of Overland Stage Raiders. For example, I hadn't known that the silent film star Raymond Hatton, who appeared along side Brooks in Now We're in the Air (1928), later appeared in the The Three Mesquiteers series. Brooks herself is mentioned on page 352, and the author notes that the actress "was paid $300 for her work in the Republic feature." Pitts also encapsulates the film's admittedly "rather complicated plot."
Western Film Series of the Sound Era is available on-line and at better bookstores. Check it out.
Copyright thomas gladysz / Louise Brooks Society
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