Sagebrush Stars

High Noon’s B-Western lots stir up Saturday Matinee memories.

High Noon’s B-Western lots stir up Saturday Matinee memories.
High Noon’s B-Western lots stir up Saturday Matinee memories.
Seventy years after Gordon Elliott shot to fame as Wild Bill Hickok in Columbia’s first Western movie serial, The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, his Stetson and Colt nearly topped the Hollywood lots sold at High Noon in Phoenix, Arizona, on January 26-27.

The top bid went to a Bohlin spur worn by John Wayne ($22,000). Understandable, since Wayne is still the only dead actor on the Harris Poll’s list of 10 favorite actors. The next two highest bids went to Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid jackets ($27,000 total). Hey, it’s the 100th anniversary of the shoot-out and the 40th anniversary of the movie release. So that’s not surprising, neither. But Elliott’s lot sold a few thousand higher than its high estimate of $7,500 ($10,500).

If a bad guy heard Elliott’s Hickok say, “I’m a peaceable man, but…,”?he knew he was in trouble. As a marshal in Abilene, Kansas, Hickok took on the Phantom Raiders, gang members who threatened the safety of Chisholm Trail cattle and rail passengers.

Some of the other notables who appeared in this serial included the original Tonto, Chief Thunder Cloud (see p. 25), and the six-foot former Indiana University halfback Kermit Maynard (whose brother Ken was linked to this auction, as well; his makeup box sold for $2,100).

Now don’t get this serial mixed up with The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok. Guy Madison played that Hickok, next to his 300-pound sidekick Jingles played by Andy Devine (“Hey, Wild Bill … wait for me!”).

Since Elliott’s portrayal of Hickok boosted his career into Western stardom, he would adopt “Wild Bill” as his movie moniker when he signed with Republic in 1943. Like the movie star who inspired him to make Westerns, William S. Hart, Elliott often played a badman who reforms.

Before he appeared in Columbia’s 15-chapter serial in 1938, though, he usually stood on the wrong side of the law in Westerns such as the silent 1928 Arizona Wildcat (with Tom Mix) and 1937’s Boots and Saddles, in which Gene Autry brought Elliott’s bad guy character to justice.

His last Western was 1954’s The Forty-Niners. Three years later, he retired to his ranch in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he took up collecting Western memorabilia. The 61 year old died of lung cancer in 1965. (An avid smoker, he had been a spokesman for Viceroy cigarettes in the 1950s.)

Other sagebrush stars associated with lots in High Noon’s auction included Roy Rogers, Mel Gibson, Gail Davis and John Travolta. Visit the article to view more Hollywood lots.

The auction hammered in at $2 million.

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