Cast & Crew
Wild Bill Elliott
George "gabby" Hayes
In the late 1800s, the citizens of Painted Valley rebel against the tyranny of territorial governor York by preparing a petition asking the President to admit them to the Union. York's thugs attempt to break up the meeting at which citizen Gabby Hayes is discussing the petition, but they are chased away by Red Ryder. Red, a well-known law-and-order man, has been summoned to Painted Valley by his aunt, The Duchess, who is a respected rancher. Gabby accompanies Red to the Duchess' ranch, where Red introduces her to his Indian ward, Little Beaver, who was rescued by Red when a dam burst and drowned his tribe. Also visiting the ranch are Jeff Stark, the president of the territorial bank, Hannah Rogers and her niece Beth, who is in love with Tom Hamilton, the Duchess' foreman. Unknown to the townspeople, Stark is in league with York, who has misappropriated public funds from Stark's bank in order to buy a monopoly on all transportation lines. Hannah, a weak-willed woman who covets her niece's ranch, is under Stark's control. The Duchess explains to Red that she has requested help from an old friend, James Wayne, who is an influential judge. Fearing that Wayne's investigation will uncover his wrongdoing, Stark orders Sheriff Kirk and Deputy Logan to kill whoever is on the next incoming stage. Logan and another deputy attack the stage and wound the passenger, then are chased off by Red. Believing the passenger to be Wayne, Red takes him to the town doctor, but after the man dies, discovers that he is Reverend George Allen. The sheriff then arrests Red for Allen's murder and claims that the stage driver saw him do it. Stark is not sure that Red will be convicted though, so he orders Hannah to visit Red in jail and slip him a gun loaded with blanks, after which Kirk will shoot Red while he tries to escape. Little Beaver finds the blanks, however, and switches the doctored gun with the sheriff's. Red escapes from Kirk and Logan, but Stark decides to use the jailbreak to his advantage by robbing the stage coming from Tucson and blaming it on Red. Stark gives Hannah a coded message to pass to the sheriff, who is searching for Red at the Duchess' ranch. Gabby and Red grow suspicious when Hannah gives the note to Kirk and blinks three times. Gabby steals the note, and by reading every third word, Red learns of Stark's plan. Red then rides to nearby Rockland, where the stage carrying the mine company's payroll is to change horses. Red stops the coach, which is carrying Judge Wayne, and explains the situation. Wayne agrees to Red's plan, which is to switch the payroll box with one filled with explosives. Red and the judge watch as the gang robs the coach, but Red's plan is derailed when Little Beaver, who followed him, arrives and is captured by the gang. Afraid that Little Beaver will be harmed, the Duchess beats Hannah until she admits that Stark and York are the leaders of the gang, and reveals the location of their hideout. Red, Gabby and Tom ride to the hideout to rescue Little Beaver, and both Kirk and Stark are killed during the ensuing shootout. Stark drops the doctored box as he falls, and a huge explosion kills the rest of the gang. Later, after watching Judge Wayne officiate at Beth and Tom's wedding, Red, Little Beaver and Gabby ride off in search of more adventures.
Wild Bill Elliott
George "gabby" Hayes
Edward M. Howard
Fred Harman's popular comic strip was distributed by the NEA Service from 1938 until the 1950s, after which it was distributed by the McNaught Syndicate and then by King Features until 1964. "Red Ryder" was voted "favorite comic strip" by the Boys' Clubs of America in the 1940s, and the cartoon hero became the "spokesman" for the Daisy BB Gun Company. A radio show based on Harman's characters began in 1942, and the strip was first put on the screen by Republic in the studio's 1940 serial entitled Adventures of Red Ryder. The twelve-chapter serial starred Don "Red" Barry as the red-haired cowboy, Tommy Cook as "Little Beaver" and Maude Pierce Allen as "The Duchess." Tucson Raiders was the first entry in Republic's feature-length series. Wild Bill Elliott starred as Red in sixteen of the twenty-three Republic features, and was applauded by critics for his portrayal of the cowboy who declared himself to be "a peaceable man." Appearing with Elliott were Bobby Blake as Little Beaver, Red's Indian ward, and Alice Fleming as his aunt, the Duchess. Frequent co-stars included Peggy Stewart, Roy Barcroft and Kenne Duncan. Comic western actors George "Gabby" Hayes and Emmett Lynn were each briefly featured in the series.
Each film opened with a shot of Elliott and Blake stepping out of a Red Ryder book, followed by opticals of Elliott riding, with his name and character name superimposed, and of Blake riding, with his name featured. Occasionally, other co-stars were featured in the book logo or riding opticals. In 1946, Elliott made his last appearance as Red in Conquest of Cheyenne, and Allan Lane took over the role in Santa Fe Uprising. Blake continued as Little Beaver, but Alice Fleming was replaced as the Duchess by actress Martha Wentworth. (By coincidence, the Duchess' "real" name was Martha Wentworth.) Lane played Red in seven films for Republic.
In 1949, Equity acquired the rights to Harman's comic strip. Jim Bannon starred as Red in four films for Equity, with Don Kay Reynolds playing Little Beaver and Marin Sais as the Duchess. Emmett Lynn returned to the series, which continued to feature Peggy Stewart. Allan Lane reprised his role as Red in the 1956 syndicated television series, which lasted for thirty-nine episodes. The series featured Louis Letteri as Little Beaver and Elizabeth Slifer as the Duchess. M-G-M's 1984 film, A Christmas Story, which was based on Jean Shepherd's book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, illustrated the enormous popularity of Red Ryder in the 1940s in its story of young "Ralphie Parker," whose only Christmas wish was for a "Genuine Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Lightning Loader Range Model Air Rifle." Modern sources include the following actors in the cast of Tucson Raiders: Fred Graham, Frank McCarroll, Frank Pershing, Bert LeBaron, Joe Yrigoyen, Charles Sullivan, Neal Hart, Ted Wells, Carey Loftin, Foxy O'Callahn, Ken Terrell and Tommy Coats. For more titles in the "Red Ryder" series, please consult the Series Index.