Charles Starrett

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b. 28 March 1903, Athol, Massachusetts, USA, d. 22 March 1986, Borrego Springs, California, USA. While a student at Dartmouth, where he was a star football player, Starrett worked as an extra on a film…
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b. 28 March 1903, Athol, Massachusetts, USA, d. 22 March 1986, Borrego Springs, California, USA. While a student at Dartmouth, where he was a star football player, Starrett worked as an extra on a film being shot on campus, The Quarterback (1926). This experience fired his imagination and after graduation he acted in stock companies and appeared briefly in New York, including playing in Claire Adams, which had a seven-performance run on Broadway in November 1929. He then went to Hollywood, where he worked for Paramount, playing romantic leading roles from 1930. Among his films of this period were Fast And Loose (1930), Damaged Love (1931), Sweetheart Of Sigma Chi (1933) and Call It Luck (1934). From 1936, Starrett worked for Columbia Pictures where he became a leading cowboy star of the era. Over the next 17 years he made numerous films, including, from 1940, the Durango Kid series. These hugely popular films, in which Starrett was teamed with comic sidekick Smiley Burnette, kept his film career alive into the early 50s despite the encroachment of television into the Western genre. He had made well over 100 films by the time of his retirement. Thereafter, he spent his later years travelling.

Although Starrett did not become a singing cowboy, as did Gene Autry, the popularity of musical Westerns meant that his company, headed by the astute Harry Cohn, was eager to include songs in his films. In his 1937 film, The Old Wyoming Trail, a vocal group, the Sons Of The Pioneers, appeared and over the next four years were in almost 30 of Starrett’s films. One member of the group who did not appear in those later films was Leonard Slye who, in 1938, began starring in films himself, using the name Roy Rogers. In Starrett’s Fighting Buckaroos (1943), there was an appearance by Ernest Tubb, singing his huge hit, ‘Walking The Floor Over You’. Tubb was also in Starrett’s Ridin’ West (1944). Among other musical acts that appeared in Starrett’s films were Tommy Duncan, who led his Western All Stars in South Of Death Valley (1949), and Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart, who were in Ridin’ The Outlaw Trail (1951) and The Rough, Tough West (1952).