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Tim McCoy

by Frank M. Roberts

Once again - another look at yesteryear's cowboy screen heroes and, this time - it's the real McCoy. (I couldn't resist that). Timothy John Fitzgerald McCoy was born in a town made famous in song by Lefty Frizzell -- Saginaw, Michigan. The date was April 10, 1891. At that time, that locale was easily described as "the real West." His dad was town police chief.

Tim McCoy was a devotee of Indian culture, history and language. He went to St. Ignatius College (now Loyola). In World Wars 1 and 2 he served in the Army, but never saw combat. He retired as a colonel.

Eventually, he settled in Wyoming and homesteaded 5,700 acres (Rhode Island?). Like a good, true cowboy he spent most of his time raising horses. He also worked the rodeo circuit. And, he was brigadier general for his adopted state.

Next, the movies. The year was 1922. He wasn't an actor, he was a technical director for a well-known movie, "The Covered Wagon." Then, into acting and he made some film history. He was MGM's only 'B' western star, sharing screen time with a lion.

Next, he signed with Universal. The year was 1930, and he made still more movie history. He joined Columbia's roster of stars and was supported in his first two flicks by Big Bad John - Wayne, that is - a very young John Wayne.

In 1934 he made eight more films for Columbia. Then, he had 10 for a company called Independent Puritan. The actor had a trademark leer. He offered a chilling stare just before stepping into action with his first draw which was followed by impressive fight scenes. Outstanding in all his films is the fact that McCoy, nicknamed by the Arapahoe tribe as High Eagle, always portrayed the Indians sympathetically.

His next venture was the circus - not as a performer but as a big top owner. There was nothing funny about his clowns and the other big top performers. He went broke from the venture.

Just as cowboy stars come to the rescue - so did Monogram. He was back in the saddle again - four pictures. That was followed by eight for Victory. Then - er - he went to work for good, ole PRC. His best film during that period was, "Code Of the Cactus."

In 1941 he returned to Monogram for the 'Rough Rider' series with Buck Jones and Raymond Hatton. It was - well - a trio of has-beens. Be that as it may, those movies were quite successful even though they worked with bitty budgets of $60,000 per. McCoy was the most famous - so famous his handsome face was adorned on Wheaties boxes. Speaking of appropriate, you had serial/cereal.

Then 'it' happened. The 'B' movies became history so, the next stop was the tube. McCoy hosted a show on KTLA in L. A., of course, and also of course, it was "The Tim McCoy Show." (Duh). He alternated between showing his old movies and giving history lessons about the old West.

His co-host was also a veteran of cowboy-Indian movies - Iron Eyes Cody. He played native Americans on and off-screen but, his heritage was Italian.

McCoy won a local Emmy for his work, but he got a tad uppity. His competition was Webster Webfoot for 'Best Children's Show. The cowboy star didn't show up for the honor, explaining, "I'll be damned if I'm going to sit there and get beaten by a talking duck." Heck, Mickey Mouse never complained.

Here are the titles of some of his films: "Building Courage," "Ghost Patrol," which featured Walter Miller and the oft seen, Claudia Dell. "Whirlwind," featured Alice Dahl (not Arlene) as well as Pat O'Malley and Matthew Betz. "Frontier Crusader," co-starred Dorothy Short, Lou Fulton, Carl Hackett, and Ted Adams. The gamblers' favorite was "Aces and Eights." Most of the other names can be listed in the category: unknown.

* * * *

I would be remiss if I failed to tell you something about Mrs. McCoy number two. The took their vows in 1946, and had two sons - Ronnie and Terry. They stayed married until 1973, when she died, a victim of cancer.

Here's the fascinating stuff: Inga Arvad was a Danish journalist who was investigated by our government in the early 1940s - the investigation stemming from rumors that she was a Nazi spy. There were photographs of her accompanying Adolf Hitler, yet. She was listed as his companion at the 1936 Olympics and, twice, she interviewed him.

Don't stop reading now. She had two marriages before McCoy hit the scene and, in late 1941 and 1942 she was one of several who had an affair with John F. Kennedy. At that time, the dogged J. Edgar Hoover, head honcho of the FBI, had his agents investigate her activites via wire taps. Bottom line: There was no evidence found to show that she was guilty of, "any wrongdoing." That evidence notwithstanding, Hoover continued the wire taps of both Arvad and Kennedy when they were together. All that time and money - and the result resembled Sen. Joseph McCarthy's reds everywhere investigations. Nada! (Pictures of Arvad with Hitler and Kennedy are on her web site).

McCoy had some good roles, but his wife was, shall we say, the real McCoy in more ways than one.

* * * *

I always wind up these articles with a look at second bananas. Louis Lindley of Kingsburg, CA. was everywhere. We know him best as Slim Pickens (the story of my bank account). He rode his first horse when it was known as a horsie. He was two-years-old. He rode well two years later and, when he was 15 he quit school and signed for his first rodeo.

He became the country's top clown (even 'topper' than Emmett Kelly). He was the highest paid bull buffoon in history. Impressive. He fought more than 200 bulls - and - dare I say it - that's no bull.

Pickens made his screen debut in the Rex Allen movie, "Rocky Mountain," and, of course, he had roles in many flicks including another Allen offeriing, "Boy From Oklahoma." And, there were "The Outcast," "Last Command," "Stranger At My Door, "Great Locomotive Chase," "One-Eyed Jacks," and his most memorable role - riding the bucking bomb, yowling several "yahoos" in "Dr. Strangelove."

Watch Tim McCoy Movies —»

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