Ride Him, Cowboy
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"John Wayne is a quiet, likeable western lead who, with a little more camera practice, should take shape as a second Gary Cooper." That's how Variety began its review of Ride Him, Cowboy (1932) on Nov. 1, 1932, in hindsight an ironic reminder that Wayne made scores of B movies before he ever became an iconic star. Ride Him, Cowboy marked Wayne's thirteenth credited role, and it's of interest for being one of a group of six films Wayne made between mid-1932 and mid-1933 that were partial or total remakes of silent Ken Maynard westerns.
Warner Brothers had recently absorbed the studio First National Pictures, including its film library, and producer Sidney Rogell believed that First National's Maynard westerns would be good material for talkie remakes. He convinced Warner Bros. producer Leon Schlesinger (whose greatest fame was in producing the "Looney Tunes" and "Merry Melodies" cartoon series) to partner up with him, and they in turn convinced studio chief Jack Warner to approve their project. The main appeal here was in re-using Maynard's stunt scenes. Maynard was a superb horseman and stunt rider whose work would no doubt continue to thrill audiences. It also helped that Maynard's westerns had been premium, expensive films with very good production quality -- something that no doubt appealed to Warner.
Four of the six resulting films, including Ride Him, Cowboy, are direct remakes of the Maynard films, while the other two have original stories -- though all incorporate silent Maynard footage with added sound effects. (Ride Him, Cowboy is a remake of The Unknown Cavalier , which was directed by Sidney Rogell's brother Albert Rogell.)
The producers turned to John Wayne to star because he looked something like Maynard and the intercutting of Maynard footage wouldn't be too jarring. They even found a horse for Wayne, billed as "Duke, the Devil Horse," that resembled Maynard's famous horse "Tarzan."
These films cost $28,000 apiece (Wayne was paid $825 per film), and they were profitable and well-reviewed. At the time of Ride Him, Cowboy's production, Ken Maynard was still active in movies but was under contract to Universal. Ride Him, Cowboy was re-released in 1940 to capitalize on the success of Stagecoach (1939).
Variety, incidentally, went on in its review to praise the film as "excellent western entertainment" with a "supporting cast...far superior to the usual galaxy in pictures of this type.... There is more story than hard riding in this, a point in its box-office favor."
Director: Fred Allen
Screenplay: Scott Mason (adaptation, dialogue); Kenneth Perkins (novel)
Cinematography: Ted McCord
Film Editing: Wm. Clemens
Cast: John Wayne (John Drury), Duke (Devil Horse Duke), Ruth Hall (Ruth Gaunt), Henry B. Walthall (John Gaunt), Otis Harlan (Judge E. Clarence 'Necktie' Jones), Harry Gribbon (Deputy Sheriff Clout), Frank Hagney (Henry Sims/The Hawk).
by Jeremy Arnold
Fred Landesman, The John Wayne Filmography
Randy Roberts and James S. Olson, John Wayne American
Donald Shepherd and Robert Slatzer with Dave Grayson, Duke