(The Wonder Horse)
THE WARNER BROS. SERIES
When Warner Bros., absorbed First National in the late 1920's
it acquired an impressive silent film list that included Ken Maynard's
well produced westerns.
Sidney Rogell, a former First National executive insisted
that Maynard's films still had value and aproached Warner's
produced Leon Schlesinger with a novel plan.
Although Maynard's career was moving downhill in an alcholic fog,
although he had never been much of an actor,he was a great stunt rider
having once been the leading attraction in the
Kit Carson Show and Ringling Brothers Circus.
He could stand on a horse, swing under a horse, perform trick roping,
and his horse Tarzan was the best in the business.
For more, please see:-
Rogell believed it was a shame to allow Maynard's First National
work to waste away in storage.
For more, please see:-
He had a simple plan. Recycle the best part of the films.
Schlesinger liked the idea and he and Rogell convinced Jack Warner
to make a series of low budget westerns including the Ken Maynard
Budgeted at $28'000 each, the westerns were designed
for Warner's rural markets and as the bottom half of double features.
All they needed was sound effects and another actor who looked something like
Ken Maynard for dialogue and close-ups.
Duke had the same wiry build as Maynard and
looked enough like him to pull off the trick
Rogell and Schlesinger hired him for $825 a picture on 6 picture contact.
In the year between mid-1932 and mid-1933
Duke and Duke the Wonder Horse'
who looked like Maynard's 'Tarzan. made:-
(Please click on movies above
for individual profiles and reviews)
Four of the films are direct remakes of Maynard pictures
and the other two use footage from them.
In each, Duke played a character who's first name was always 'John'
and the films combined Maynard's stunts, with humour and romance.
Standard material but as the Motion Picture Herald commented about one of the films,
"John Wayne's drawl and deliberate style of movement
are fitted to effect a likeable picture"
They were modest productions and none of them attracted much attention
at Warner's, a studio that viewed westerns as a social disease.
However they returned excellent profits and received enthusiastic reviews
Desperate to move on to, hopefully better things
Duke after a three fill in movies for Warner Bros.
The Life of Jimmy Dolan (1933) Baby Face (1933) & College Coach (1933)
was approached by Director
Robert North Bradbury for the Poverty Row studio
to star in a series of westerns
under the title of
Lone Star Productions