Sunday, September 26, 2010


(Updated Tuesday 9/28/2010 -- See REX ALLEN DAYS)

EXCLUSIVE TO HENRY’S WESTERN ROUND-UP! Robert ‘Bobby’ Blake, who as a child actor starred as ‘Little Beaver’ in nearly two-dozen Red Ryder westerns, made an unannounced low-key appearance at the celebration of Republic’s 75th Anniversary at the studio's old home in Studio City, now CBS Studios. The event was a smashing success – I’ll have extensive coverage of the celebrity panels and other fun in next week’s entry. But it was perhaps a half hour before the celebration ended at 5 p.m. that the now rarely seen former Republic star slipped quietly in among the fans.

(photos top to bottom: Robert Blake with Wild Bill Elliot, Robert Blake with Mike Stern yesterday, Robert Blake with Mike Stern thirty years ago)

Michael Stern, who was working for the event, spotted Blake and chatted with him for a few minutes. “We were in front of Carla’s Café, and he said, ‘This was the commissary, and everything around it was all dirt roads. Just dirt. And over there,’ he pointed in the opposite direction, ‘is where we shot the movies.’ He was there for a very short time. He wanted to be there as a fan, that’s my feeling. I showed him a picture I had on my phone of when we met at an Actors and Others for Animals event from thirty years ago. He looked and laughed, and said, ‘I was alive then.’ He was very kind.”

Born in Nutley, New Jersey in 1933, Robert Blake started his acting career in 1939, in the OUR GANG series, which had moved from Hal Roach Studios to M.G.M., under his birth name, Mickey Gubitosi. He changed his professional name to Bobby Blake in 1942, continuing in the OUR GANGs while playing supporting roles in films like CHINA GIRL and ANDY HARDY’S DOUBLE LIFE.

In 1944 Bobby moved to Republic Pictures to play Little Beaver, sidekick to Wild Bill Elliot’s Red Ryder in TUCSON RAIDERS, the first feature to follow up on Republic’s popular ADVENTURES OF RED RYDER serial, which had starred Don 'Red' Barry, and Tommy Cook – another Republic Celebration attendee – as the first Little Beaver. Many western aficionados consider the RED RYDERs to be the finest of all the Republic series. Wild Bill Elliot starred as Red Ryder in sixteen films, Allan Rocky Lane portrayed him in seven, Alice Fleming played ‘The Dutchess’ in the sixteen Wild Bill films, but only Bobby Blake starred in all twenty-three Red Ryder features that Republic produced.

When not wearing the Indian wig that he reportedly despised, Blake could be seen in other Republic Westerns with stars like Roy Rogers, and appeared in loan-out films to other studios, including THE BIG NOISE with Laurel and Hardy, as Junior Puplinsky with Jack Benny in THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT, and most famously as the street urchin who sells Humphrey Bogart a lottery ticket in TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.

As Blake matured, he went through a stage when acting roles were scarce, and he could most frequently be seen in television westerns like THE ROY ROGERS SHOW, CISCO KID and HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL. He made a powerful comeback as an adult actor in 1967, starring in IN COLD BLOOD and TELL THEM WILLY BOY IS HERE. He became hugely popular as the star of the long-running series BARETTA. His most recent screen role is as ‘Mystery Man’ in David Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY (1997).


Join the Autry in celebrating the birth of "America's Favorite Singing Cowboy," Gene Autry. Museum visitors can enjoy Gene Autry movie screenings throughout the day, buy $10 Gene Autry DVDs in the Autry Store (a 50% discount), get a birthday treat in the Golden Spur Cafe (free for Autry members), and receive 20% off all membership levels—enjoy the Autry member benefits for one year for as low as $36! 10:00 am - 4:00 pm


Rex Allen, last of Republic’s singing cowboys, and the narrator of countless Wonderful World of Disney episodes, will be celebrated in his hometown of Wilcox this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 1st – 3rd. It’s the 59th Annual Rex Allen Days, and for the twelfth year the celebration will include Western Music, Cowboy Poetry, Trick Horses, Wild West Entertainment, Personal Appearances by Western actors and – you guessed it – Rex Allen movies!

There will also be two concerts by Rex Allen Jr., with special guest stars Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers, and Johnny Western, the man who wrote and sang The Ballad of Paladin, theme from HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL, and many others. For more info, call The Rex Allen Museum at 520-384-4583, or CLICK HERE.


Rope and Wire, a website that describes itself as, “ a gathering place for Western Writers, Cowboys Poets and Old Western Movies Buffs,” is sponsoring a Western short story contest. Entries need to be unpublished, in English, between 2,500 and 4,000 words. The deadline is November 30th, and there is a $15 entrance fee – you can enter more than one story, but you pay each time. The more entries, the bigger the prizes – 1st prize wins $5 out of each entry, 2nd prize wins $3 of each entry, and 3rd prize wins $2 from each entry. For more details, CLICK HERE for the Rope and Wire site. Good luck! And by the way, the site has links to TONS of on-line B-westerns!


Chili cook-off, vendors, country music, Old West shootout, food, beer and wine, carnival booths, dunk tank, pie-eating contest, kids’ activities. Proceeds benefit U.S. military troops and their families. St. Margaret’s Episcopal School at Gateway Field. 949) 248-9468


A staggering number of western TV episodes and movies are available, entirely free, for viewing on your computer at HULU. You do have to sit through the commercials, but that seems like a small price to pay. The series available -- often several entire seasons to choose from -- include THE RIFLEMAN, THE CISCO KID, THE LONE RANGER, BAT MASTERSON, THE BIG VALLEY, ALIAS SMITH AND JONES, and one I missed from 2003 called PEACEMAKERS starring Tom Berenger. Because they are linked up with the TV LAND website, you can also see BONANZA and GUNSMOKE episodes, but only the ones that are running on the network that week.

The features include a dozen Zane Grey adaptations, and many or most of the others are public domain features. To visit HULU on their western page, CLICK HERE.



Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. Currently they have THE ART OF NATIVE AMERICAN BASKETRY: A LIVING TRADITION, through November 7th. I've seen the show three times, and am continually astonished at the beauty and variety of the work of the various tribes. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.


Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.


Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run THE LONE RANGER at 1:30 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

By Monday I'll have added info about a Western pilot, the upcoming Rex Allen Days Celebration, The Lone Pine Film Festival, and all sorts of other cool stuff! And of course next week my Full Coverage of the Republic Studios 75th Anniversary Celebration!

Hasta manana!


All Contents Copyright September 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. I attended this great Republic event being a western fan, Wild Wild Wild West fan and having been an actor on CBS show Bailey Kipper, POV which was shot there in 98 and 99; I just found you great Blog. Congrats. PS...MY very best to Robert Blake, you still have fans out here!