Buddy Roosevelt (1898-1973)
- Warner Baxter, Old Arizona, 1928. Raoul Walsh was driving back to LA from actor-directing the Western in Utah when a jackrabbit smashed through his windscreen. Both hit him in the face, he lost his eye – and won his (signature) eye-patch. Irving Cummings took over helming with, first, Buddy Roosevelt (who immediately broke a leg!) and then Baxter as the new Cisco Kid. Peter Bogdanovich called Baxter’s performance amateurish. Yet he won an Oscar for it!
- John Wayne, Riders of Destiny, 1933. “Why that's Singin’ Sandy… the most notorious gunman since Billy the Kid…” (Duke was dubbed!) Buddy, the Colorado cowpoke and stuntman (from as far back as for Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik, 1920) won 265 screen roles in 39 years, yet missed out on what became Duke’s kick-start into all things Western…
- John Wayne, Sagebrush Trail, 1933. According to Hollywood legend, it happened like this… Producer Paul Malvern, a stuntman, himself - and ex-child acrobat with The Ringling Bros Circus - offered Buddy a contracted series of 24 B-Westerns at Monogram.
- John Wayne, West of the Divide, 1933. Mrs Buddy (one of Clark Gable’s cousins) didn’t like what she was hearing and without Buddy knowing - allegedly - she told Malvern he was not paying enough. If he wanted Buddy - and he obviously did - stump up!
- John Wayne, Lucky Texan, 1933. Well, Ma’am, I’m not paying one cent more. Take it, leave it or get outa here… Malvern then called over another young cowpoke hero who’d caught his eye… as The Man From Monterey (when his horse was called Duke). However, poor Malvern is rarely credited for polishing Marion Michael Morrison into John [pause] Wayne.
- John Wayne, Blue Steel, 1933. Yes, yes, OK, Raoul Walsh discovered Duke first and selected him - over Gary Cooper - as the almost absurdly young-looking lead in his A-Western, The Big Trail. That was 1930, that was. And that was one gigantic flop, that was. Wayne scurried back to the Bs to pay the rent.
- John Wayne, The Man From Utah, 1933. “I didn’t know how good [pause] I had it when I was makin’ those [pause] quick Westerns,” drawled Wayne.
- John Wayne, Randy Rides Alone, 1934. “April to September [pause] we worked like hell, makin’ our quota of pictures [pause] which were already sold in advance in a package [pause] to the exhibitors.”
- John Wayne, The Star Packer, 1934. Paul Malvern productions cost about $11,000, Wayne getting $2,500 a throw. That meant only one horse per film, footage from one flicker turning up in the others, plus the same sets, certainly the ranch houses of the good or the bad.
- John Wayne, The Trail Beyond, 1934. Director Robert N Bradbury’s 55-minute scripts were quite often the same re-cycling jobs, too. His son was another B-cowboy star Bob Steele, one of Wayne’s high-school classmates (along with Bob’s twin, Bill).
- John Wayne, ’Neath Arizona Skies, 1934. As Wayne told me about it in London, March 1974, the Bs went thisaway. “All we ever did was tell a story. [Pause]. He’s gone to Red Gap. Where’s Red Gap? There’s Red Gap! [Pause]. Let’s git after him to Red Gap. Here’s Red Gap… And each one [pause] was lousier than the other.”
- John Wayne, Lawless Frontier, 1934. “I’ve been in more bad pictures that just about anyone in the business,” said Wayne. That’s when Will Rogers reminded him: “Hey, ya workin’, ain’t ya?” John Wayne, Texas Terror, 1934. The Bradbury set was a great film school. George “Gabby” Hayes was in the first film, Yakima Canutt in the second. He was usually a villain - and, as Wayne’s double, was often chasing himself on-screen. (Just the one horse, remember). They were in most of the Monogrammers, teaching the new kid all he needed to know… about cowboying, riding horses, falling off ’em, acting, more realistic punch-ups, stealing scenes.
- John Wayne, Rainbow Valley, 1934. And walking… “Yak taught me all his stunt tricks. He’s the best fighter, horse rider and stuntman who ever lived. I even copied Yak’s smooth-rolling walk.”
- John Wayne, Paradise Canyon, 1934. And… pausing. “I also copied the way Yak talks… [pause] kinda low with quiet strength.” A star was being born here. Clint Eastwood had Rawhide. Wayne had his Bs. Same thing, really.
- John Wayne, The Dawn Rider, 1935. Not sure if Buddy Roosevelt would have been so eager to learn to ropes as Wayne was. Buddy felt he knew it all from his silent Westerns in the 20s.
- John Wayne, Desert Trail, 1935. Buddy’s real name was Kenneth Stanhope Sanderson (changed in honour of ex-President Teddy Roosevelt). All his 1924-1925 heroes had been called Buddy… Buddy Benson, Blake, Lawson, Roberts, Wallace, Walters, West. So were his films: Battling Buddy, Biff Bang Buddy, Cyclone Buddy, etc.
- John Wayne, Westward Ho, 1935. This and the next seven Malvern produced (or “supervised”) cow-Bs went out under the banner of Republic’s eagle after the studio merged with the toppermost B-makers, Mascot and Monogram. (The Monogrammers quit the pact inside two years).
- John Wayne, New Frontier, 1935. OK, time for The Question: Would Buddy have made all these movies? Maybe the public - or Saturday matinee kids - would not have taken to him. Or, not for so long, for so many?
- John Wayne, Lawless Range, 1935. Answer: I dunno! Impossible to guage. The A-movies dictated the box-office, not the B features supporting them. Whatever the genre, Bs were not designed to attract the public. They were “programmers.” That was their function - to complete the programme on offer at cinemas. Or at the Saturday matinees - the cineductation for generations of US and UK kids.
- John Wayne, The Lawless Nineties, 1935. The A-films and their A-stars seduced the ticket-buyers. The Bs were icing on the cake. Like the newsreels. And the toons. So unless, he was a drunk, a paedophile - or dead - there was scant cause to replace a B-hero.
- John Wayne, King of the Pecos, 1936. Therefore, it is safe think that Buddy Roosevelt would have stayed the course and made all these 24 movies. Whether John Ford would ever have noticed Buddy - and approved of him - is an entirely different speculation. Well, Pappy did toss him a bit in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in 1962. That was Buddy’s last hurrah. The rest was… TV.
- John Wayne, The Oregon Trail, 1935. By 1938, Wayne was superstarring in Stagecoach (with Yakima Canutt). And Roosevelt wasn’t. He just continued grinding out low-rent Westerns with decreasing budgets. Unbilled bits, in the main… Most B-cowhands used to say they were (like jockeys) merely “scufflin’ for groceries.”
- John Wayne, Winds of the Wasteland, 1936. There he was was, Buddy as … Alamo Defender (twice… Duke would have approved), Barfly (even Drunken Barfly), Blacksmith, Bounty Hunter, Boxing/Courtroom/Show/Trial (and even anging) Spectatoprs, Hanging) Spectator, Cattle Buyer, Civilian (almost as invisible as Bystander, Pedestrian), Cowhand, Deputy Marshall, Deputy Sheriff, Gunman, Kibitzer (oh very Western!), Indian, Inquest Bailiff, Lynch Mob Member, Man Offering To Buy Drinks, Miner, Mountie, Rancher, Rebel Arsonist, Second Hold-Up Man, Wagon Train Member, and, obviously, Wrangler. Plus many Henchmen… and more Townsmen… one, With Rifle!
- John Wayne, The Lonely Trail, 1936. Oh, and the bit part that truly summed up the Buddy Roosevelt career: Cowboy In Casting Office. In a 1931 film called… Make Me A Star. Well, his wife sure ruined that hope.