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Don "Red" Barry

  1. Wild Bill Elliott, Tucson Raiders, 1943.      The big shock when Republic Pictures turned  the 1940 hit serial cowpuncher, Red Ryder, into 16 movies, the role went not to the fans’ favourite, but to Elliott, who had been happily playing himself in eight oaters. He, in turn, was succeeded by two others, but none  reached the height (nor the later bit part lows) of the first guy, still known today as  Red. He soon hated the nickname, the  reason he fled the  16 films. (His credit reverted to Donald by 1958  - and he had nothing to do with Buster Crabbe’s serial, Red Barry!) For the fans, he was a hinterland Gable,  for Republic’s chief eagle,  Herbert J Yates, a Cagney type.  Too feisty for the studio’s top directors, William Witney (who called him The Midget) and John English who simply refused to work with him a third time. “He had such a temper! ” his first Ryder leading lady, Vivian Austin, told Mike Fitzgerald. “He’d walk off the set - often!  Stopping production just because he disagreed with [director] Bill Witney, or somebody, about some minor thing. I don’t like saying negative things about the departed, but he wasn’t a very nice fellow when we worked together.” He was  the toughest hombre, seven to 15 kills per pictures. His last kill was himself: a 1980 gun-shot  suicide.  He remains the sole Western star referred  to (by a 1942 New York Post critic)  not as a cowboy but as a… “cow chap.”




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