THE MOVIES IN WHICH BOB NOLAN APPEARED
With the exception of "In Old Santa Fe", Bob Nolan appeared with the Sons of the Pioneers in the films we have listed. At times, various members of the group would be unable to appear and another singer/actor would fill in for him. But not for Bob. Bob appears in every film.
In the Columbia / Charles Starrett films, Bob, Tim and Glenn Spencer wrote the majority of the songs they performed. In other movies, the Pioneers usually accompanied a singing hero - Roy Rogers, Dick Foran, Gene Autry or Bing Crosby. The Starrett pictures were the best film showcase for the Classic Sons of the Pioneers and for Bob’s music.
When Tim Spencer left the Sons of the Pioneers for a period of time from 1936 to 1938, Bob had full songwriting responsibility for the Starrett movies. Every picture had three or four songs in it and a new film was released on an average of every three weeks. At the same time, he was writing more and more for radio programs. These were busy, heady days.
Bob also proved to be a competent actor in the B-Western style and soon moved into the second lead position with Charles Starrett. At this point in his acting career, he approached his work with enthusiasm and interest. He hired a stuntman to teach him to ride and he mastered the requisite film cowboy hero quick-draw-and-twirl with his revolver. He did many of his own stunts. His fight scenes were believable. For all this he received a small weekly salary of $33 but the films made his face and voice familiar nationwide. Eventually, Columbia paid him an extra $10 for each song.
It appears that the Columbia studio had plans for Bob. They moved him into the second lead position vacated by Donald Grayson when botched cosmetic surgery on Don's nose spoiled his looks and his value to the company. Although Bob was already handsome, well built and popular, the film company demanded rhinoplasty for him, too, and his fine aquiline nose was conformed to the shorter straighter "star" variety.
The studio also decided that his voice was less than star quality and a trained baritone was dubbed in for Bob's solo parts for several movies. It is amusing now to watch these films and hear Bob ‘singing’ in an unremarkable baritone while his own distinctive voice is clearly heard in the Pioneer backup. It amused Bob, too. He could not resist hamming it up a little while he mimed his part and, at times, the Sons of the Pioneers could barely restrain their laughter.
According to Dale Evans, Roy Rogers’ wife and co-star, film songs were pre-recorded in the studio. Each company had slightly different methods but all sound effects were added later. During the actual filming, the recording was replayed and the singers accompanied it, attempting to match mime to sound. This was very difficult and required a lot of practice, she said.
Some amusing incidents happened and mistakes were made eg: in the last reel of Sunset Serenade when Bob was preparing the wiring for a cherry bomb hidden in a pie, Gabby Hayes was eyeing hungrily. Bob and the Pioneers were singing A Cowboy Has to Sing but Bob became so intrigued with what was happening to Gabby that, as he detonated the little bomb, he forgot to lip-sync his part. Instead, he was caught on film laughing helplessly while his voice in the recording sang on without him.
Thank you, Karl Farr, Wayne Perryman, Martha Retsch, Terry Sevigny Scott, the late Ed Phillips, Les Adams, Fred Sopher, Michelle Sundin, Kathy Kirchner, John Fullerton, Jan Scott, Bruce Hickey and Jimmie Willhelm for the use of your photos.