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Rex Allen

by Frank M. Roberts

Comin' up- another look at another cowboy star. In describing him, the word 'beloved' would be fitting. Rex Allen, usually seen on screen with his beloved horse, Koko. (No relation to Hershey). The equine was modestly billed as, "the miracle horse of the movies." (Sorry, Trigger).

The movie actor was born in 1920 in a town colorfully named, Mud Springs. It's next door to Willcox, Arizona. It seemed only natural that the star was billed as, "The Arizona Cowboy." His movie name is his real name.

Rex had sort of a distinction. He was recognized as, "the last of the singing cowboys," and one of his movies was the last musical western. After that, it was all guns, no guitars. Whatever - one critic had this to say: "He brought to the 'B' western the best voice and the prettiest horse." Wow - a double whammy.

That voice was heard on record, on the Mercury label. One of his hits was, "Don't Go Near the Indians." In spite of the title, it was a love song. And, when fans weren't listening, they were looking at the Rex Allen comic books.

Another thing, and this is important: Rex was a real cowboy, born on a real ranch. He made 19 'B' western films, all for good, ole Republic. He got his contract with that studio while he was appearing on The National Barn Dance radio show on WLS in Chicago.

After doing rodeo, Rex decided that singing was better than being bucked off bulls - more bucks by being onscreen. Back to radio and, not surprisingly, eventually the 'powers-that-be' began to recognize that not only was he a talented singer who wrote many of the songs he performed in the movies, but he was also a versatile actor.

Speaking of that, moviegoers generally agreed that his fight scenes were very well done - i.e. - realistic. 'Villain' Roy Barcroft was, several times, at the receiving end of the Allen fists. The end result: Some of western movies' best fights.

And, of course, it was a rule of cowboy flicks - there has to be a sidekick. Allen had two of them who worked with him on a fairly regular basis and, they were two of the best. Check these names: Buddy Ebsen and Slim Pickens. It doesn't get much better than that, podner.

In "Colorado Sundown" he was accompanied by Mary Ellen Kay and June Vincent and, for music the studio used its own, 'Republic Rhythm Riders'. Sexy Rex-y (actually that was Rex Harrison's nickname) Allen had a variety of female co-stars. Another one was Penny Edwards.

Rex's favorite film was, "Rodeo King And the Senorita." Other standouts are "Utah Wagon Train" and "Colorado Sunset." The latter was a remake of a John Wayne movie.

Of course, it was inevitable - television. He starred in a series - again for Republic - called "Frontier Doctor." In 1960, he got tied up with Walt Disney where he was often heard (narration) but he was not seen in scenes. His voice was used for many shorts put out by that studio.

Also, he narrated the film about "Charlotte's Web." He was tagged as, "The Voice Of the West." (As a former radio announcer myself, I would have given my eyeteeth to sound like R. A.).

Eventually, he retired and went right back to his childhood home near Willcox, Arizona.

The cause of his death was weird. He was accidentally run over by a friend. The handsome blonde-haired gentleman had three marriages and three divorces. The ladies were Bonnie Lindor, Doris Winsor (cq), and Virginia Hudson. He was the father of five including smooth-voiced Rex Jr. who looked and sounded like dear ole dad. He was well known for his many tributes to cowboy songs and singers.

Postscript: I usually wind up these stories with a look at sidekicks and, I will resume that next go-'round. I need the extra time this go-'round to check my lottery winnings. (Har-de-har).

Watch Rex Allen Movies —»

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