The End of the Silent Westerns: The 1920s
In the last decade of the silent
Westerns, Tom Mix is the Number One cowboy. However, he has a number of stars working to capture that
title. The list includes Harry
Carey, Jack Holt, Art Acord, Hoot Gibson, Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Fred
Thomson, and Ken Maynard. Except
for two actors, all prove a stability to go on into the talkies and, if
fact, play lead roles into the 1940s.
All supply in their Westerns a mixture of riding, fighting,
shooting, comedy and drama.
Ken Maynard is the most clearly showy, trying
to out do the daring feats of horsemanship of Tom Mix pictures.
A former preacher, Fred Thomson has glamour.
Some consider his the most handsome of the period Western stars.
He mixes effectual stunt action with clear ethics.
Hoot Gibson relies comedy with the minimum
of action and never carries a gun.
movies often include humorous interludes; however, he reaches substantial
force as in Joaquin Murieta in The
begins making one reel Westerns with Griffith at Biograph; however,
he gains stardom with Universal. Director
John Ford directed many of these films.
He often plays a character named Cheyenne Harry, a good guy bad guy
quality. Carey does
not have matinee idol looks.
Originally cowboys, Art
Acord and Jack Holt, though very popular at the box
office, are the least stylish of all the 1920s Western stars.
The thrill of a Wild
West show excites Col. Tim McCoy that he runs away from
home. In Wyoming, he becomes
skilled with cattle and horses. In
addition, he is an Arapaho Indians expert and Indian liaison for The Covered Wagon (1923). His film career includes starring in a series of Westerns for
MGM in the late 1920s and for Columbia films of the early 1930s.
In his films, he works hard, within the formula limitation, to
bring some historical values and themes.
In End of the Trail (1932),
McCoy plays an army officer sympathetic to the Arapaho Indians (he
serves as an technical advisor on The
one of the most pro ‑ Indian features).
McCoy shots the film entirely on location at the Arapaho
reservation in Wyoming and its Indian scenes are convincing that the
studio uses them in other films. The
Western repeatedly swings between historical fact and fantasy, Tim
McCoy is one of the few B-Western stars that go with facts.
reference is common in the Western. An
example is In Old Oklahoma (1943), a typical Republic picture about the Oklahoma oil industry in
Oklahoma in the early 1900s. In
the storyline, we find that the hero (John Wayne) is a member of
the Rough Riders during the Spanish American War.
Unable to secure oil leases, Wayne goes to Washington to
appeal to the President, who is Teddy Roosevelt. Since Teddy leads Wayne and the other Rough Riders in
the charge up San Juan Hill led by Teddy, the President greets him with
open arms, grants the leases and makes a speech about the pioneering
spirit being �the essence of America�.