Tune in your television set on any Saturday afternoon and you might find some of your favorite cowboy stars. Republic Films brought these roughriders into the hearts of millions of Western fans. Monte Hale can be remembered as “Man From Rainbow Valley,” the “Prince of the Plains,” “The Outcast of the Trail,” keeper of the “Law of the Golden West,” “The Missourian” and more.
Monte is a native of San Angelo, Texas. At the age of thirteen he bought his first guitar for $8.50 and played at a local war bond rally. It was there that he was discovered by Philip Isley (father of Jennifer Jones) and sent to Hollywood for a screen test at Republic Films. He hitchhiked all the way and stopped at a gasoline station just around the corner from the studio long enough to wash his face and comb his hair before making his appearance. Monte’s screen test was so impressive that he was immediately signed to star in “The Big Bonanza” with Richard Arlen. After this Monte was signed to a seven year contract with Republic where he started his grooming period with films that included “Steppin in Society” with Edward Everett Horton and films with Wild Bill Elliott and Sunset Carson.
At this time, the executives at Republic were looking for someone to test a new color film and decided to team Monte with Adrian Booth thus making Hale Republic’s first western star in a color series. This color film, “Home On The Range” was in Magnacolor and Monte’s next seven films were made in Trucolor. After this point in time, Monte went on to star in 19 of his own films.
Monte was tall and handsome and possessed an excellent voice. With this in mind, Republic put this, as well as his songwriting talent to work in a series of unusual westerns; offbeat in a sense because while he was ostensibly a singing cowboy, his films were not musical westerns like those of Autry and Rogers. Instead of building the picture around the music, as had been done in the past, Monte’s films were mainline dramas in which he stopped to sing a song now and then. Monte developed into one of Republic’s most popular singing cowboys.
After Monte’s departure from Republic, he went on to do guest starring roles on such TV series as “Gunsmoke,” “Honey West,” “Tales of Wells Fargo,” “Wild Bill Hickok” and “Circus Boy.” He was also a member of the panel on “Juke Box Jury” and appeared on the “Western Star Theatre” radio program.
There were more films in store for Monte as he appeared in “Yukon Vengeance” with Kirby Grant, later to land the role of Rock Hudson’s attorney in “Giant.” Monte’s last film role was that of the town drunk in “Chase” with Marlon Brando.
Monte Hale appeared all over the country at veterans’ hospitals and theatres. His friendly manner was genuine; he loved people, especially children. Never too tired to perform, Monte gave free shows to kids lined up outside of theatres wherever he was booked. Fawcett publications was responsible for selling over 2 million copies per month of the Monte Hale Comic Book to these young fans. These comic books were sold in six series’ and were published in twenty-seven different languages. They are now considered collectors’ items.
The nostalgia wave of recent years brought many events and western film festivals to Americans across the country and Monte was one of the first western stars asked to appear. He appeared in Orlando, Nashville and Los Angeles. He appeared in Rose Bowl Parades as well as becoming active in the Greater Los Angeles Variety Clubs.
Below he is seen at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles with Ben Johnson, Charlton Heston, George Montgomery and Gene Autry and in the second photo he is with Gene Autry and Clayton Moore.
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