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Law for Tombstone: 1939

Law for Tombstone: 1939

October 1939. Memphis, Tennessee. "Entrance to a movie house on Beale Street." The double feature: "Rhythm of the Saddle" and Buck Jones in "Law for Tombstone." 35mm nitrate negative by Marion Post Wolcott. View full size.


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Segregated theaters could be strange

When I was a kid in the fifties and sixties, I frequently spent long stretches of my summer vacation in Mississippi visiting my grandparents and various other relatives. An older cousin went to college at Mississippi State in the fifties, long before the school was desegregated. He and his roomates were on good terms with an African engineering student who lived in their (segregated, of course) dorm, and one night they all went downtown to see a Movie; dialog is approximate!

Ticket clerk: "I am sorry, sir, we do not admit Negroes."
College kids: "He's not a Negro, he's from Ghana."
Ticket clerk: "Oh, OK."

This was a smooth and familiar situation, and there was no issue at all!

Gene Autry

Rhythm of the Saddle is a 1938 American Western film directed by George Sherman and starring Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, and Pert Kelton. Gene Autry, of course, competed with Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter as "singing cowboys."

In the early 1950s, my great-uncle, a Montana rancher, took a number of us, his grand-nieces and nephews, to see Gene Autry at the Big Timber rodeo. The star was too drunk to get on his horse. A couple of cowboys threw him into the saddle and he made the grand entry, but a few young cowboy hearts were broken that day.

Also Seen

Above the big poster for "Law Of Tombstone" is a poster for "Rhythm Of The Saddle" which starred Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette and Pert Kelton. Burnette was famous for being Gene's comedy relief sidekick and when Gene went into the Army Air Force he worked with other on screen partners at Republic Studios including nine movies with Roy Rogers. A later generation knew him as Charley Pratt, the engineer of the Hooterville Cannonball on "Petticoat Junction" until his death in 1967. Pert Kelton is probably most famous for being the original Alice Kramden in the Honeymooners sketches opposite Jackie Gleason of the "Cavalcade Of Stars."

The nightly feature, seen in the postere in the background is "St. Louis Blues" with Dorothy Lamour and Lloyd Nolan. Lower down on the cast list was William Frawley, probably best known to us today as Fred Mertz from "I Love Lucy," or Grandpa Bub from the episodes of "My Three Sons" that are never syndicated anymore because they're in Black & White.

Pastime Theater

I think this is the Pastime Theatre at 324 Beale St.

Cowboy Hero

Buck Jones, was wounded, in 1907, while serving in the US Army during the Moro Rebellion in the Phillipines. He died, at age 51, in November 1942, during a tragic nightclub fire in Boston. He was one of 492 patrons of the Cocoanut Grove when he was trapped as guests tried to flee, many of them were there at a party honoring him. Attached is a better view of the movie poster.

Stay away.

More than fifty years ago my late grand mother, a belle of the South from a different era, once told me, "Boy, if you ever go to Memphis stay away from Beale Street." Too much blues music I guess! I hear it is the place to go to in 2012.

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