Wild Bill Elliott

Last updated
Wild Bill Elliott
The Devil's Trail 1942 poster.jpg
Born
Gordon Nance

(1904-10-16)October 16, 1904
DiedNovember 26, 1965(1965-11-26) (aged 61)
Other namesGordon Elliott, William Elliott, Bill Elliott
Occupation actor
Years active 19251957
Spouse(s)Helen Josephine Meyer (1927–1961)
Dolly Moore (1961–1965)

Wild Bill Elliott (born Gordon Nance, October 16, 1904 November 26, 1965) was an American film actor. He specialized in playing the rugged heroes of B Westerns, particularly the Red Ryder series of films.

Contents

Early life

Elliott was born Gordon Nance on a ranch near Pattonsburg, Missouri, the son of Leroy Whitfield Nance, a cattle broker, and his wife, Maude Myrtle Auldridge. [1] [2]

The young Nance grew up within 20 miles of his birthplace; he spent most of his youth on a ranch near King City, Missouri. His father was a cattle rancher and commissioner buyer for the Kansas City stockyards. Riding and roping were part of Nance's upbringing. He won first place in a rodeo event in the 1920 American Royal livestock show. He briefly attended Rockhurst College, a Jesuit school in Kansas City, but soon left for California with hopes of becoming an actor. [1]

Career

Elliott starred in the 1952 western Fargo. Fargo (1952) - movie poster.jpg
Elliott starred in the 1952 western Fargo.

By 1925, he was getting occasional extra work in films. He took classes at the Pasadena Playhouse and appeared in a few stage roles there. By 1927, he had made his first Western, The Arizona Wildcat, playing his first featured role. Several co-starring roles followed, and he renamed himself Gordon Elliott, but as the studios made the transition to sound films, he slipped back into roles as an extra and bit parts, as in Broadway Scandals , in 1929. For the next eight years, he appeared in over 100 films for various studios, but almost always in unbilled parts as an extra.

Elliott began to be noticed in some minor B Westerns, enough so that Columbia Pictures offered him the title role in a serial, The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok (1938). The serial was so successful, and Elliott so personable, that Columbia promoted him to starring in his own series of Western features, replacing Columbia's number-two cowboy star, Robert "Tex" Allen. Henceforth, Gordon Elliott was known as Bill Elliott. Within two years, he was among the Motion Picture Herald's top-10 Western stars, where he would remain for the next 15 years.

In 1943, Elliott signed with Republic Pictures, which cast him in a series of Westerns alongside George "Gabby" Hayes. The first of these, Calling Wild Bill Elliott , gave Elliott the name by which he would be best known and by which he would be billed almost exclusively for the rest of his career.

Following several films in which both actor and character shared the name Wild Bill Elliott, he took the role for which he would be best remembered, that of Red Ryder in a series of 16 movies about the famous comic-strip cowboy and his young Indian companion, Little Beaver (played in Elliott's films by Bobby Blake). Elliott played the role for only two years but would forever be associated with it. Elliott's trademark was a pair of six guns worn butt-forward in their holsters.

Elliott's career thrived during and after the Red Ryder films, and he continued making B Westerns into the early 1950s. He also had his own radio show during the late 1940s.

In an interview with Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr., Ben recalls teaching many actors to ride a horse, including Bill. Bill didn't just learn to ride a horse but asked Ben many questions about style and technique. According to Ben, Bill become a very good horseman in his own right while the others "looked like a sack of walnuts on a horse."Video on YouTube

His final contract as a Western star was with Monogram Pictures, where budgets declined as the B Western lost its audience to television. When Monogram became Allied Artists Pictures Corporation in 1953, it phased out its Western productions, and Elliott finished out his contract playing a homicide detective in a series of five modern police dramas, his first non-Westerns since 1938. [3]

Elliott retired from films (except for a few TV Western pilots, which were not picked up). He worked for a time as a spokesman for Viceroy cigarettes and hosted a local TV program in Las Vegas, Nevada, which featured many of his Western films.

Personal life and death

Elliott married Helen Josephine Meyers in February 1927. Their daughter, Barbara Helen Nance, was born October 14, 1927. Elliott and his wife were divorced in 1961. He married Dolly Moore that same year. Following his retirement in 1957, he moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he bought a ranch. He died there from lung cancer on November 26, 1965, aged 61. He is interred at Palm Downtown Mortuary/Cemetery in Las Vegas. [1]

Partial filmography

(His 3 serials and 16 Red Ryder films are noted below)

Related Research Articles

<i>Red Ryder</i> 1938-1965 American comic strip

Red Ryder was a Western comic strip created by Stephen Slesinger and artist Fred Harman which served as the basis for a wide array of character merchandising. Syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association, the strip ran from Sunday, November 6, 1938, through 1965.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Milburn Stone</span> American actor (1904–1980)

Hugh Milburn Stone was an American actor, best known for his role as "Doc" on the CBS Western series Gunsmoke.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom London</span> American actor (1889–1963)

Tom London was an American actor who played frequently in B-Westerns. According to The Guinness Book of Movie Records, London is credited with appearing in the most films in the history of Hollywood, according to the 2001 book Film Facts, which says that the performer who played in the most films was "Tom London, who made his first of over 2,000 appearances in The Great Train Robbery, 1903. He used his birth name in films until 1924.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Tyler</span> American actor (1903–1954)

Tom Tyler was an American actor known for his leading roles in low-budget Western films in the silent and sound eras, and for his portrayal of superhero Captain Marvel in the 1941 serial film The Adventures of Captain Marvel. Tyler also played Kharis in 1940's The Mummy's Hand, a popular Universal Studios monster film.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Chatterton</span> American actor (1881–1952)

Tom Chatterton was an American actor and director..

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Don "Red" Barry</span> American actor (1912–1980)

Donald Barry de Acosta, also known as Red Barry and Milton Poimboeuf, was an American film and television actor. He was nicknamed "Red" after appearing as the first Red Ryder in the highly successful 1940 film Adventures of Red Ryder with Noah Beery Sr.; the character was played in later films by "Wild Bill" Elliott and Allan Lane. Barry went on to bigger budget films following Red Ryder, but none reached his previous level of success. He played Red Doyle in the 1964 Perry Mason episode 'The Case of the Simple Simon'.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marin Sais</span> American actress

Marin Sais was an American actress whose career was most prolific during the silent film era of the 1910s and 1920s. Sais' acting career spanned over four decades and she is possibly best recalled for appearing in Western themed films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dan White (actor)</span> American actor (1908–1980)

Dan White was an American actor, well known for appearing in Western films and TV shows.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Farnum</span> American actor (1876–1953)

William Farnum was an American actor. He was a star of American silent film cinema and became one of the highest-paid actors during that time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert J. Wilke</span> American actor (1914–1989)

Robert Joseph Wilke was an American film and television actor noted primarily for his roles as villains, mostly in Westerns.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reed Hadley</span> American actor (1910–1958)

Reed Hadley was an American film, television and radio actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chief Thundercloud</span> American actor (1899–1955)

Victor Daniels, known professionally as Chief Thundercloud, was an American character actor in Westerns. He is noted for being the first actor to play the role of Tonto, the Lone Ranger's Native-American companion, on the screen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eddy Waller</span> American actor (1889–1977)

Edward Carlingford Waller was an American stage, film and television actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frank Hagney</span> Australian actor (1884–1973)

Frank Sidney Hagney was an Australian actor. He is known for his work on It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Ride Him, Cowboy (1932) and The Sea Beast (1926).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Livingston (actor)</span> American actor (1904–1988)

Robert Edward Randall was an American film actor known under his stage name, Robert Livingston. He appeared in 136 films between 1921 and 1975. He was one of the original Three Mesquiteers. He had also played The Lone Ranger and Zorro.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Allan Lane</span> American actor (1909–1973)

Allan "Rocky" Lane was an American studio leading man and the star of many cowboy B-movies in the 1940s and 1950s. He appeared in more than 125 films and TV shows in a career lasting from 1929 to 1966. He is best known for his portrayal of Red Ryder and for being the voice of the talking horse on the television series Mister Ed, beginning in 1961.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Forrest Taylor</span> American actor (1883-1965)

Edwin Forrest Taylor was an American character actor whose artistic career spanned six different decades, from silents through talkies to the advent of color films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Millican</span> American actor (1911–1955)

James Millican was an American actor with over 200 film appearances mostly in western movies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Walter Sande</span> American actor (1906–1971)

Walter Sande was an American character actor, known for numerous supporting film and television roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Elliott (actor)</span> American actor (1876–1956)

John Hugh Elliott was an American actor who appeared on Broadway and in over 300 films during his career. He worked sporadically during the silent film era, but with the advent of sound his career took off, where he worked constantly for 25 years, finding a particular niche in "B" westerns.

References

  1. 1 2 3 "More About 'Wild Bill Elliott'", Daviess County [Missouri] Historical Society Journal, March 15, 2004.
  2. Debate about the exact year of his birth arose, but his parents' marriage license in Daviess County, Missouri, Marriage Records for 1901 and U.S. Census records and the ages listed for his siblings make clear that he was born in 1904 and no other year. 1910 U.S. Census, Gentry County, Missouri.
  3. Wild Bill Elliott
  4. Blottner, Gene (2011). "The Wildcat of Tucson". Wild Bill Elliott: A Complete Filmography. McFarland & Company. pp. 150–151. ISBN   9780786480258 . Retrieved 2017-10-09. Bill Elliott's presence, with a matching performance by Kenneth MacDonald, brings this western saga satisfactorily to the screen. [...] An interesting subplot has heroine Evelyn Young momentarily switching her affection from Stanley Brown to his brother, Eliott. Lambert Hillyer's direction is first rate.
  5. "Red Ryder".