John Wayne’s Back in the Saddle

John Wayne: Neath The Arizona Skies John WayneJohn Wayne rides again in a series of DVD releases of his work for Monogram Pictures made between 1933 and 1935.

The early works of the legendary actor have been available on DVD from different sources over the years because they have fallen into the public domain (aka PD). But these DVDs being offered by Movies Unlimited are issued in newly copyrighted,  digitally mastered and restored fine quality DVDs transferred from the original 35MM nitrate negative material.

Each movie in the series is presented with original music themes added by noted musician Billy Barber, who also wrote The Oak Ridge Boys’ hit “Little Things” and Ray Charles’ “Love is Worth the Pain.” Billy supervised the weaving of the new themes throughout the upgraded soundtracks.

In these popular “B” westerns, you can witness “The Duke” in his formative years, perfecting his famous walk, heroic persona, trademark speech pattern and acting style.  The films were produced cheaply by Paul Malvern as part of his Lone Star Productions released through Monogram Pictures and also showcase frequent sidekick George “Gabby” Hayes and/or stunt expert Yakima Canutt, typically cast as a bad guy.

The films include:

Sagebrush Trail (1933): “The Duke” skips prison after being wrongly imprisoned for murder, then joins a gang of outlaws in hopes to finding the real guilty man.

The Lucky Texan (1934): Easterner Wayne heads west to join forces with “Gabby” Hayes in a mining operation that is terrorized by claim jumpers.

The Man from Utah (1934): Deputy Wayne has to enter the rodeo in order to expose a gang using dirty tricks at the meet.

‘Neath the Arizona Skies (1934): John attempts to save a Native-American girl who has been kidnapped by meanies out to nab the oil-rich land of which she’s an heir.

Randy Rides Alone (1934): “The Duke” is tops as a lawman who goes undercover to target the rats robbing an express service.

The Trail Beyond (1934): Wayne goes out on a dangerous mission in the Northwest to find a missing girl and a gold mine that seems impossible to locate.

West of the Divide (1934): Our Man John goes back to his boyhood abode to track down his father’s murderer and his own missing brother.

The Lawless Frontier (1935): Wayne is in hot pursuit of his parents’ murderers and, after rescuing a prospector and his granddaughter, believes the killer is a Mexican bandit. But is it?

Paradise Canyon (1935): G-man John Wayne tries to halt counterfeiters working out of a cave headquarters near the Mexican border.

Texas Terror (1935): Sheriff Wayne puts his lawman responsibilities on hold in favor of panning for gold after he believes he killed a companion. 

Blue Steel (1934): When a frontier town’s leading citizen is behind a scheme to rob the locals blind, it’s up to gunslinging marshal John Wayne to stop the lawbreakers in their tracks.

Riders Of Destiny (1933): John Wayne plays undercover special agent “Singin'” Sandy Saunders (although the Duke’s screen crooning was dubbed by Smith Ballew) in this early oater. 

The Dawn Rider (1935): The early bird catches the worm, and in this John Wayne oater the Duke sets out at the crack of dawn to catch the worms who killed his father during a robbery.

The Desert Trail (1935): Rodeo star John Scott (John Wayne) rides hard to clear himself and his buddy, gambler Kansas Charlie, when the pair is falsely accused of robbery. 

While filmed on meager budgets, each film features fast-paced action, impressive stuntwork (most of it choreographed by the great Canutt) and John Wayne at his most heroic.  They were directed and written by the prolific Robert N. Bradbury, the father of cowboy screen star Bob Steele, whose career dated back to the silent era. Bradbury often helmed movies at  Monogram Pictures, one of Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” enterprises specializing in action and adventure efforts done on a low budget.

The John Wayne westerns were actually put together by Lone Star Westerns headed by Paul Malvern and released by Monogram.  Malvern went on to produce such films for Universal as House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. And along with the John Wayne Lone Star entries, Monogram released films with such cowboy heroes as Bob Steele, Johnny Mack Brown, Bill Cody, Tim McCoy and Tex Ritter, as well as The Rough Riders, the Range Busters and The Trail Blazers.

Monogram began operating in 1931, and eventually became the home of such popular series as the “Mr. Wong” films with Boris Karloff, then Bela Lugosi, and the “East Side Kids.” The studio also made a habit picking up series that had worn out their welcome with other releasing companies such as Charlie Chan, Joe Palooka and The Cisco Kid.  Monogram Pictures morphed into Allied Artists in 1953 and eventually produced such major pictures as William Wyler’s Friendly Persuasion, Billy Wilder’s Love in the Afternoon, Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, Franklin Schaffner’s Papillion and John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King.

While John Wayne’s career actually began several years before the Monogram films, he really perfected his screen characterization in this series. Previously, he had worked for Columbia, Fox and Warner Brothers, but the efforts from Monogram were tailored to his talents by Bradbury. After Monogram, Wayne would sign on with Republic Pictures, which was set to be absorbed into one studio with Monogram and other companies, but plans fell through, leaving Wayne to compete against his old studio stomping grounds.

For complete movie descriptions including cast members, directors and more, head over to our remastered John Wayne Lone Star Westerns.

What’s Your Favorite John Wayne War Movie?


  • Gord

    Monogram was also home to the Bowery Boys low-budget comedies and the Bomba the Jungle Boy fun stuff with the recently deceased Johnny Sheffield leaving his “boy” from the Tarzan days well behind.  Do wish WB who do, I believe have rights to the Mongram library would release cleaned up, remastered Bomba movies.


    • Jerry

      Movies Unlimited does offer one title from the Bomba the Jungle Boy series, “The Lost Volcano” (1950)… however, it hasn’t been remastered.  The audio is quite good but the picture quality is only mediocre, although watchable just for the fun of it.

  • Irv

    Gord: Thanks for pointing this out. soemtimes we’ve found that films from these “Poverty Row” studios are i n bad shape which keeps them from getting onto DVD. There have been lots of calls for Bomba titles, however!  

  • Bjodrie

    I think John Wayne took off after he made Stagecoach.I didnt like his early Weaterns.

  • Blair kramer

    I never had much interest in John Wayne’s short oaters prior to STAGECOACH.

  • Wayne P.

    The Big Trail, directed by Raoul Walsh in 1930, was the Dukes lone ‘A’ picture before Stagecoach 9 years later and have always wondered why he didnt get better scripts to star in during the ’30’s since he did so well in that movie.  Surely he wouldnt have chosen to stay at Monogram and then Republic if hed gotten more quality offers, although he was very close to the latter studios head honcho.

    • Blair kramer

      As an actor,  John Wayne wasn’t ready for the big time when he appeared in THE BIG TRAIL.  Also, as I understnd it,  the film wasn’t exactly successful.  To my mind,  Wayne really didn’t show strong acting ability before he did THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA.

  • Bryan Ruffin

    These films may have been low budget, but they had some really good stories! I am convinced that several, though not all, could have been taken to someone with a larger budget and made into blockbusters. The story lines had enough “meat” to them to keep an audience. I think that may be why Duke was able to hone his craft so much as he did while doing them. He was able to prove his capacity and, at least some of, his depth.

  • Frank Kowal

    In reading the description, it seems as if new music has beed added to the films. I would hope that we would have the option of watching them with the new music, or watching them as they were originally made. One of the aspects I like about these early Monogram films is hearing all the squeaks and clinks and bangs by the horses and wagons – this is what you would have heard if you were actually there, and it would be a shame if these ambient sounds were no longer able to be heard.

  • Richard Oravitz

    I agree with Frank Kowal. I’ve been waiting forever for these John Wayne Lone Star Monogram Westerns to be remastered but if I can’t watch them without an intrusive music track tacked on then again it’s another no sell item as far as I’m concerned. A great deal of the enjoyment of watching these films comes from them having a lack of background music, being able to enjoy the sounds of wagon wheels and squeaking porch doors…Does anyone out there know if the music can be removed? If not, what a shame. I would have bought them all.

  • Pingback: John Waynes Classic Monogram Westerns Get a Makeover at Movies Unlimited - -