Friday, September 18, 2009

'Riders of the Silver Screen'

As our week-long salute to western movies comes to a close, I thought I would share with you my list of favorite B-western stars.

I cherish these films. Most of them were made on the cheap, and yet, the producers still managed to churn out entertaining pictures that are enjoyable even today.

My heroes have always been cowboys, so here are a few of my favorites from the so-called B-westerns:

Roy Rogers The great debate between B-Western fans is over who was better -- Roy or Gene. Truth be told, they both were great. But, Roy has always been my favorite.

Can't really tell you why, other than I just liked his look, his aw-shucks sincerity, his attractive wife Dale Evans and his entertaining TV series. Oh, and his horse Trigger probably has something to do with it as well.

Roy was a gentleman and a great role model for kids. It's too bad his TV series hasn't gotten better treatment in syndication or on DVD.

Tex Ritter How can you not like Tex? He had a fantastic voice, a likable screen persona and an entertaining way about him. Sometimes, famous friends would show up in his pictures, too, like Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. His son, the late John Ritter, once said he used to watch his parents' movies as a child and think that was real life. If only...

Hopalong Cassidy Hoppy was a bona fide cult hero during his heyday. William Boyd's character was unusual in that he was a good guy who wore a black hat. Like Tex Ritter, he had a fantastic voice. His films are some of the more entertaining in the genre. A really cool box set (collected in a lunch box!) of his complete films is available on DVD.

Sky King I know this was a TV show, but I have to throw Sky King into the mix because a) it's basically a western with the hero using an airplane instead of a horse and b) the star, Kirby Grant, also appeared in several B-movies. Sky King is another character that was/is a great role model for kids. I have no idea why this hasn't been seen on TV in decades. A complete series box set is available, but it's rather expensive.

Gene Autry You can't leave Gene out of the mix. He had the best voice of any of the singing cowboys and could throw a mean punch. I like his TV series a bit better than his movies, although Pat Buttram gets on my nerves. Gene is one of the cowboy legends, no doubt about it.

Allan "Rocky" Lane I can't tell you why I like Allan Lane as much as I do, other than I've seen several of his movies on Marshal Andy's "Riders of the Silver Screen" and have enjoyed them to the hilt. His career spanned nearly 40 years -- and don't forget he was the voice of TV's "Mr. Ed"!

You can see many of these B-western heroes at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays on Marshal Andy's "Riders of the Silver Screen," which airs in Knoxville on Channels 2 and 15. Don't forget about the special live taping of the show at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Sept. 19).

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