Today is the birthday of Charles Frederick Gebhart, a.k.a Buck Jones (1889-1942). Born in Indiana, he was raised in Montana, where he learned to ride and rope. Following military service, he worked as a professional cowboy, which led to employment in Wild West Shows. In the mid teens, he went out to Hollywood, working first as a stuntman, eventually becoming a double for Tom Mix. His first starring role was in 1920 and he rapidly became one of the top western stars of the 1920s, along with Mix, Hoot Gibson and Ken Maynard. According to historian Anthony Slide, in 1928 (at the height of his fame) he made a successful big time vaudeville tour with his horse “Silver”. Jones continued starring in B movie westerns and serials through the early years of the talking era. He was to die tragically in 1942 during a party held in his honor when a fire broke out at the Coconut Grove night club in Boston, in which an astounding 492 people were killed.
In tribute to him, here is a 1934 trailer for his “Red Rider” serial:
For more on early film history don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.