AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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King of the Cowboys
Alternate Title: Starlight on the Trail
Director: Joseph Kane (Dir)
Release Date:   9 Apr 1943
Production Date:   6 Jan--late Jan 1943
Duration (in mins):   67
Duration (in feet):   6,069
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Roy Rogers (Roy Rogers)  
    Smiley Burnette (Frog Millhouse)  
    Bob Nolan   and The Sons of the Pioneers:
    Hugh Farr    
    Karl Farr    
    Tim Spencer    
    Pat Brady    
  and Lloyd Perryman    
    Peggy Moran (Judy Mason)  
    Gerald Mohr (Maurice)  
    Dorothea Kent (Ruby Smith)  
    Lloyd Corrigan (William Kraly)  
    James Bush (Dave Mason)  
    Russell Hicks (Governor)  
    Irving Bacon (Alf Cluckus)  
    Norman Willis (Buxton)  
    Trigger (Roy's horse)  
    Stuart Hamblen (Duke Wilson)  
    Bud Geary (Heavy)  
    Yakima Canutt (Heavy)  
    Lynton Brent (Heavy)  
    Rex Lease (Heavy)  
    Eddie Dean (Tex)  
    Forrest Taylor (Cowhand)  
    Harry Burns (Joe)  
    Earle Hodgins (Barker)  
    Dick Rich (Man on exterior of rodeo)  
    Herbert Heyes (Sheriff)  
    William Gould (Sheriff)  
    Jack Kirk (Bartender)  
    Raphael Bennett (Garage attendent)  
    John Dilson (Bryson)  
    Ralph Peters (Governor's chauffeur)  
    Charles Sullivan (Usher)  
    Dick Wessell (Hershell)  
    Kate Lawson (Buxom woman)  
    Elmer Jerome (George Smedley)  
    Emmett Vogan (Well-dressed man)  
    Fred Johnson (Juggler clown)  
    Dick Alexander (House manager)  
    Jack Ingram (Guard)  
    Jack Ray (Guard)  
    Harrison Greene (Telegrapher)  
    Hugh Sothern (Businessman)  
    Herb Rawlinson (Businessman)  
    Edward Earle (Businessman)  
    Ed Cassidy (Dignitary)  
    Ed Peil Sr.    

Summary: The governor of Texas sends for rodeo star Roy Rogers after learning of how Roy and his pal, Frog Millhouse, apprehended bank robber Duke Wilson and his gang. A wave of sabotage has been spreading through the Southwest, and the governor asks Roy to act as an undercover operative and find the culprits, who have been targeting factories supplying materials for the war effort. The governor's last agent, who was murdered, left a clue that he was "following Mary," and so Roy strikes out with Frog to look for Mary. Their travels lead them to the Merry Makers Carnival and Tent Show, which is owned by Dave Mason and features Maurice, who has a mind-reading act. Unknown to the governor, his assistant, William Kraly, is the leader of the sabotage ring, and it is he who orders Maurice and the reluctant Mason to carry out the bombings and arsons. Upon hearing Mason's pretty stepdaughter Judy comment on the unlucky incidents that seem to follow them, Roy decides to infiltrate the show and arranges to be hired as a singer. Kraly has already alerted Maurice and Mason that Roy is the governor's new operative, however, and they have hired him only to keep an eye on him. Kraly's method of operation is to send an agent to Maurice's show to pose as an audience member, and, while pretending to ask an innocent question, alert Maurice to his identity with a code word, followed by coded instructions. Roy uncovers this method, although he is still unaware of Kraly's complicity, and follows Maurice, Mason and their men as they go to blow up an important warehouse. They capture Roy, however, and after tying him up, leave him to be killed in the explosion. Roy escapes just before the dynamite goes off, and with Frog's help, learns that the ringleader will be going to the town of Freeman to pick up an important message. When Roy alerts the governor, Kraly finds out and sends his men to drive the governor's car off the road as he travels to Freeman. Meanwhile, Maurice catches Roy stealing his code book and is about to shoot him in cold blood when Mason stops him. Mason threatens to expose the operation but is shot by Maurice, who frames Roy for the murder. Roy is arrested but escapes with the help of Judy and her friend, magician Ruby Smith. The friends return to the carnival, where Kraly himself has come to deliver a message from the audience to Maurice. Roy shoots Kraly as he attempts to escape, while Frog captures Maurice and learns that his men have planted dynamite to blow up a supply train. Roy rides to the pass and arrives just in time to defuse the explosives as the train travels across the bridge. After the gang is rounded up, the governor presents a scroll of appreciation to Roy, "King of the Cowboys." 

Production Company: Republic Pictures Corp.  
Distribution Company: Republic Pictures Corp.  
Director: Joseph Kane (Dir)
  Art Siteman (Asst dir)
Producer: Harry Grey (Assoc prod)
Writer: Olive Cooper (Scr)
  J. Benton Cheney (Scr)
  Hal Long (Orig story)
Photography: Reggie Lanning (Photog)
Art Direction: Russell Kimball (Art dir)
Film Editor: Harry Keller (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Charles Thompson (Set dec)
Music: Morton Scott (Mus dir)
Production Misc: Johnny Bourke (Loc mgr)
Country: United States

Songs: "Ride, Ranger, Ride," music and lyrics by Tim Spencer; "Ride 'Em Cowboy," music by Roy Rogers, lyrics by Tim Spencer; "Roll Along Prairie Moon," music and lyrics by Ted Fio Rito, Harry MacPherson and Albert Von Tilzer; "I'm an Old Cowhand," music and lyrics by Johnny Mercer; "A Gay Ranchero (Las Altenitas)," music and Spanish lyrics by Juan José Espinosa, English lyrics by Abe Tuvim and Francia Luban; "Biscuit Blues," music and lyrics by Bob Nolan; "Red River Valley," traditional.
Composer: Juna José Espinosa
  Ted Fio Rito
  Francia Luban
  Harry MacPherson
  Johnny Mercer
  Bob Nolan
  Roy Rogers
  Tim Spencer
  Abe Tuvim
  Albert Von Tilzer

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Republic Pictures Corp. 1/4/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12006 Yes

PCA NO: 9116
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Western
Sub-Genre: with songs
Subjects (Major): Cowboys
  Undercover operations
Subjects (Minor): Attempted murder
  Radio, Short wave

Note: The working title of this film was Starlight on the Trail . Most of the songs were missing from the viewed print. HR news items include Olin Howlin and Nika Fisher in the cast; Howlin was not in the released picture, and the appearance of Fisher has not been confirmed. According to other HR news items, the film's budget was doubled in Nov 1942 due to the "reception received by the oat opera star [Roy Rogers] while making personal appearances," and the scenes of the bridge targeted for explosion by the saboteurs were filmed on location near Santa Barbara, CA. Modern sources include the following actors in the cast: Charles King, Jack O'Shea, Eddie Dew, Reed Howes and Roy Bucko. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   10 Apr 1943.   
Daily Variety   5 Apr 43   p. 3.
Film Daily   5 Apr 43   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Nov 42   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jan 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jan 43   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 43   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jan 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jan 43   p. 3, 9
Hollywood Reporter   5 Apr 1943.   
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jun 43   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   5 Apr 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald   10 Apr 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   3 Apr 43   p. 1241.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   10 Apr 43   p. 1249.
Variety   7 Apr 43   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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