Bob Nolan Movies
Many of the Republic films were cut for TV and the music ended up on the cutting room floor. Visual quality is uniformly poor, sound quality varies. All old movies view better on your computer screen than on your TV. There are photographs in the Filmography section and from collectors, Bruce Hickey. Jan Scott, Ed Phillips, John Fullerton or Fred Sopher. If you wish to purchase movies, contact Jimmie Willhelm or Boyd Magers for more information.
• Title and alternate title when there is one, courtesy of Ed Phillips and Larry Hopper.
• Credits from the film itself or from IMDb.
• Cast: Major cast members will be listed, courtesy of Les Adams' press kits.
• Song lists are from the viewed film
• mp3 files of each song, cleaned and refreshed by Roberto Costa or OJ Sikes.
• Release dates according to Ken Griffis
• Running time according to Bob Carman & Dan Scapperotti
• Key book (production) numbers from Ed Phillips.
• Posters, lobby cards, scene cards from the Calin Coburn Collection, Les Adams, Bruce Hickey, Buddy Bryant and Ed Phillips.
• Locations according to David Rothel, Tinsley Yarbrough, Boyd Magers and Dave Holland. (Filming may have taken place at several different locations.)
• Plot summary by Elizabeth Drake McDonald, Les Adams or others, illustrated with stills captured from the film.
IN OLD SANTA FE (Mascot / Maynard – 1934) Bob's voice dubbed over Maynard's. Bob did not have any other part in the film.
RADIO SCOUT (Warner Bros. / Brendel - 1935 05 06)
BRONCO BUSTER (Universal cartoon - 1935 08 05)
THE OLD HOMESTEAD (Liberty / Carlisle - 1935 08 10)
SLIGHTLY STATIC (MGM / Todd - 1935 09 07)
ROMANCE OF THE WEST (Warner Bros. short - 1935 11)
WAY UP THAR (Mack Sennett short - 1935 11 08)
GALLANT DEFENDER (Columbia / Starrett - 1935 11 30)
THE MYSTERIOUS AVENGER (Columbia / Starrett - 1936 02 01)
SONG OF THE SADDLE (Warner Bros / Foran - 1936 02 01)
RHYTHM ON THE RANGE (Paramount / Crosby - 1936 07 31)
THE CALIFORNIA MAIL (Warner Bros / Foran - 1936 11 14)
THE BIG SHOW (Republic / Autry - 1936 11 16)
THE OLD CORRAL (Republic / Autry - 1936 12 21)
THE OLD WYOMING TRAIL (Columbia / Starrett - 1937 11 08)
OUTLAWS OF THE PRAIRIE (Columbia / Starrett - 1937 12 31)
CATTLE RAIDERS (Columbia / Starrett - 1938 02 12)
COMMUNITY SING (Columbia - 1938 02 08)
CALL OF THE ROCKIES (Columbia / Starrett - 1938 04 30)
LAW OF THE PLAINS (Columbia / Starrett - 1938 05 12)
WEST OF CHEYENNE (Columbia / Starrett - 1938 06 30)
SOUTH OF ARIZONA (Columbia / Starrett - 1938 07 28)
THE COLORADO TRAIL (Columbia / Starrett - 1938 09 08)
WEST OF THE SANTA FE (Columbia / Starrett - 1938 10 03)
RIO GRANDE (Columbia / Starrett - 1938 12 08)
THE THUNDERING WEST (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 01 12)
TEXAS STAMPEDE (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 02 09)
NORTH OF THE YUKON (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 03 30)
SPOILERS OF THE RANGE (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 04 27)
WESTERN CARAVANS (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 06 15) .
THE MAN FROM SUNDOWN (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 07 15)
RIDERS OF BLACK RIVER (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 08 23)
OUTPOST OF THE MOUNTIES (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 09 14)
STRANGER FROM TEXAS (Columbia / Starrett - 1939 12 18)
TWO-FISTED RANGERS (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 01 04)
BULLETS FOR RUSTLERS (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 03 05)
BLAZING SIX SHOOTERS (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 04 04)
TEXAS STAGECOACH (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 05 23)
THE DURANGO KID (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 08 23)
WEST OF ABILENE (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 10 21)
THE THUNDERING FRONTIER (Columbia / Starrett - 1940 12 05)
THE PINTO KID (Columbia / Starrett - 1941 02 05)
OUTLAWS OF THE PANHANDLE (Columbia / Starrett - 1941 02 27)
RED RIVER VALLEY (Republic / Rogers - 1941 12 12)
MAN FROM CHEYENNE (Republic / Rogers - 1942 01 16)
SOUTH OF SANTA FE (Republic / Rogers - 1942 02 17)
SUNSET ON THE DESERT (Republic / Rogers - 1942 04 01)
ROMANCE ON THE RANGE (Republic / Rogers - 1942 05 18)
SONS OF THE PIONEERS (Republic / Rogers - 1942 07 02)
CALL OF THE CANYON (Republic / Autry - 1942 08 10)
SUNSET SERENADE (Republic / Rogers - 1942 09 14)
HEART OF THE GOLDEN WEST (Republic / Rogers - 1942 12 11)
RIDIN’ DOWN THE CANYON (Republic / Rogers - 1942 12 30)
IDAHO (Republic / Rogers - 1943 03 10)
KING OF THE COWBOYS (Republic / Rogers - 1943 04 09)
SONG OF TEXAS (Republic / Rogers - 1943 06 14)
SILVER SPURS (Republic / Rogers - 1943 08 12)
MAN FROM MUSIC MOUNTAIN (Republic / Rogers - 1943 09 22C, 1943 10 30R)
HANDS ACROSS THE BORDER (Republic / Rogers - 1944 01 05)
COWBOY AND THE SENORITA (Republic / Rogers - 1944 05 12)
YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS (Republic / Rogers - 1944 06 24)
SONG OF NEVADA (Republic / Rogers - 1944 08 05)
SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (Republic / Rogers - 1944 09 15)
LIGHTS OF OLD SANTA FE (Republic / Rogers - 1944 11 06)
HOLLYWOOD CANTEEN (Republic / Rogers - 1944 12 30)
UTAH (Republic / Rogers - 1945 03 21)
BELLS OF ROSARITA (Republic / Rogers - 1945 06 19)
MAN FROM OKLAHOMA (Republic / Rogers - 1945 08 01)
SUNSET IN EL DORADO (Republic / Rogers - 1945 09 24)
DON’T FENCE ME IN (Republic / Rogers - 1945 10 20)
ALONG THE NAVAJO TRAIL (Republic / Rogers - 1945 12 15)
SONG OF ARIZONA (Republic / Rogers - 1946 03 09)
HOME ON THE RANGE (Republic / Rogers - 1946 04 18)
DING DONG WILLIAMS (RKO - 1946 04 15)
RAINBOW OVER TEXAS (Republic / Rogers - 1946 05 09)
MY PAL TRIGGER (Republic / Rogers - 1946 07 10)
UNDER NEVADA SKIES (Republic / Rogers - 1946 08 26)
ROLL ON TEXAS MOON (Republic / Rogers - 1946 09 12)
HOME IN OKLAHOMA (Republic / Rogers - 1946 11 08)
HELDORADO (Republic / Rogers - 1946 12 15)
APACHE ROSE (Republic / Rogers - 1947 02 15)
HIT PARADE OF 1947 (Republic / Albert - 1947 03 22)
BELLS OF SAN ANGELO (Republic / Rogers - 1947 05 15)
SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS (Republic / Rogers - 1947 07 15)
ON THE OLD SPANISH TRAIL (Republic / Rogers - 1947 10 15)
THE GAY RANCHERO (Republic / Rogers - 1948 01 03)
UNDER CALIFORNIA STARS (Republic / Rogers - 1948 07 15)
EYES OF TEXAS (Republic / Rogers - 1948 07 15)
MELODY TIME (Walt Disney - 1948 07 31)
NIGHT TIME IN NEVADA (Republic / Rogers - 1948 09 05)
BOB NOLAN, ACTOR by Elizabeth Drake McDonald
from "Bob Nolan 1908 - 1980" © 2004
The Sons of the Pioneers were usually hired by film studios as a group. Therefore, as long as the requisite number of men appeared, members could be absent from filming for various reasons. Tim Spencer left the Pioneers for over a year and Lloyd Perryman filled his place. He filled it so well that he became a permanent member of the group. Because of health or business, Karl Farr and Tim were often missing and Doye O’Dell was a familiar stand-in for an absentee member. Scotty Harrell also filled in when necessary. Bob Nolan alone appeared in every film - and there were at least 90 of them.
With the exception of "In Old Santa Fe", a Ken Maynard vehicle, Bob Nolan appeared with the Sons of the Pioneers in all of the movies listed below. However, the Sons of the Pioneers did not sing every song in every movie. In the films we viewed, the group usually accompanied a Singing Cowboy hero - Roy Rogers, Dick Foran, Gene Autry and, once, Bing Crosby. Only in Columbia's Charles Starrett films did Bob Nolan and other members of the Sons of the Pioneers write and perform the majority of the songs themselves. The Starrett pictures were the best film showcase for the group 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 the 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 artistically fruitful and heady years.
Bob also proved to be a competent actor in the B-Western style and soon moved into the second lead position next to 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 to be a better-than-average rider and he mastered the requisite Film Cowboy Hero Quick-Draw-and-Twirl with his revolver. Being young and athletic, he did many of his own stunts. His fight scenes were believable. For all this he received only a weekly salary of $33 but the films made his face and voice familiar nationwide. A Sons of the Pioneers fan club was formed and grew rapidly. The public bought more of their records. Eventually, Columbia paid Bob an extra $10 for each song but being a movie star certainly did not make him wealthy.
Columbia Pictures had plans for Bob. The studio moved him into the second lead position vacated by Donald Grayson when botched cosmetic surgery on his nose spoiled Don’s looks and his value to the company. Although Bob was already handsome, well built and popular, the film company demanded rhinoplasty and his fine aquiline nose was surgically conformed to the shorter, straighter “star” variety. No one said "No" to Columbia's Harry Cohn and kept his job.
Bob actually enjoyed his role of second lead to the hero and he did his best to improve his acting. But he definitely avoided starring in a series of his own. Being a star would mean the end of privacy and privacy was vital to him. He told Bill Bowen and Douglas B. Green -
“I never wanted the responsibility. In fact, at the time when Harry Cohn - we were working at Columbia - was going out to lunch and we were just coming back, he stopped his whole entourage and pointed a finger at me and said, ‘There’s my Golden Boy!’ It scared me, so I went out and got drunk and stayed drunk for a week until he gave up on me."
The "Golden Boy" role of a boxer launched William Holden's career but it never did become a series. Ironically, at the same time that Bob was considered for the role, his brother Earl Nolan was holding the real Golden Gloves championship in Arizona.
Columbia also decided that Bob’s voice, like his nose, was less than star quality so a trained baritone was initially dubbed in for his solo parts. It is amusing now to watch the films and listen to Bob "singing" in a smooth but unremarkable baritone while his own distinctive voice is clearly heard in the Pioneer backup. It amused him, too. Bob 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.
By now familiar with his radio voice, the public was not fooled and demanded they hear Bob singing his own songs and so, early in 1939, his voice was accepted by the studio. Ironically, Bob’s voice was considered quite suitable by other film companies. For example, in the movie "In Old Santa Fe" (1934) his voice was dubbed in for Ken Maynard (As Long as I’ve Got My Dog). In the Dick Foran film "Song of the Saddle" (1936) Bob’s voice was heard singing a song called Vengeance although he did not have a credited part in either film.
Bob began recording his own solos for Columbia for "Western Caravans" (June, 1939) and continued through his last Starrett film, "Outlaws of the Panhandle" (1940.)
Did you ever wonder how a cowboy could sing so smoothly while riding at a bone-shaking trot? Film songs were pre-recorded in the studio. Each company had slightly different methods and sound effects were added later. Dale Evans explained in her foreword to It Was Always the Music by Eric van Hamersveld, “To produce quality sound for the music and songs, the music track was recorded first in Republic’s recording studio…. Then, some days later, [we] would film the scene – sometimes on a sound stage along with dancers and visible musicians, or sometimes outdoors, riding on our horses accompanied by an invisible orchestra. In between the recording of the sound and the filming of the scene were hours of practicing our lip movements to a record of the song so that, when we were filming, it would look like we were actually singing live on the film. This is called lip-syncing and is VERY difficult.”
Some amusing incidents did happen and mistakes were made during this exercise. For example, in the last reel of "Sunset Serenade" (1942), Bob had hidden a cherry bomb in a pie Gabby Hayes planned to steal. The Sons of the Pioneers were lip-syncing A Cowboy Has to Sing but Bob became so intrigued with what was happening to Gabby in the scene that, as he detonated the little bomb, he forgot to mime his part. Instead, he was caught on film laughing helplessly while his voice in the recording sang on without him.
In 1976, looking back on his years as an actor, Bob told Lee Rector -
"For food, they sent catering companies out to wherever we were. Say we were working out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or just out of Las Vegas up here - why, they make all those arrangements before we go out on the location. The new location might be ten miles away from town and they send the trucks out there at a certain time and they allow us only half an hour to eat. What I’m trying to get across here is location work is not as nice and free as sitting around the set where you’re enclosed and you can only go so far and you just sit there and you read or knit. But on a location, time is so valuable that the picture is now costing ten times as much in time as it is if you’re on your own bluff over here, and every minute is just like thousands of dollars going down the drain. And you have to work. And tempers and temperaments are at their highest pitch. I could never see any reason to have anything musical happen out there. The director, the assistant director, the cameraman, everybody is just gritting their teeth all of the time because of the horrible cost of money to take a company out on location. And you’ve got to remember, we were making “B” pictures, see, and when you get out on location, the price was the same as if you were making an “A”. We tried to keep production time to nine days. A whole picture in nine days! That gives you a little picture of the pressure. We could only shoot until the sun went down. Then we went home and slept — believe me, we did! They just took you back to the motel and put you to bed."
Bob did most of his own riding, including the chase scenes. You can recognize him immediately in any group of riders because of the way he held the reins, elbows well out. He did draw the line at doing exceptional stunt work because, although he was a very good rider, he was a musician, not a stuntman. He learned the hard way -
"We were hired as singers and songwriters but not stuntmen. No, that’s once where we drew the line. I don’t think there was a horseman in the bunch to begin with and we had to learn the hard way. I reached into the stuntmen’s roster to get a guy to teach me how to handle a horse and it took a long time. And those guys don’t come cheap! Those stuntmen I paid out of my own pocket.
"I had one fall and it was my own fault because I shouldn’t have attempted to do the thing that they wanted me to do in "South of Santa Fe". The stunt was to rope Gabby Hayes’ tin lizzie which was stuck in a mud hole, see, take my dallies around and pull him out with my horse. My horse, when he turned to go away, stepped over that rope and that’s all she wrote. He broke in two and I went up and down and right under his feet. Now, this horse is tethered to this rope and he can’t get away from it and it’s all over. But he never touched me once and I could feel the air of his feet, his hooves, going past me. One of those, if it had caught me right in the head, I was through. That put the end of me trying to do any kind of a stunt. I called for a stuntman every time."
Because there are so many films still unavailable to the public, we have been unable to make a complete list of Bob’s songs in the Starretts. All of the Roy Rogers and Gene Autry films are now available. When the movies were cut for television, they were usually shortened by cutting a song or two. Wherever possible, we use the uncut films. An uncut version of the 1942 Republic Roy Rogers film, "Sons of the Pioneers", has been impossible to find and it contains a Nolan song, Things are Never What They Seem. Until the uncut film is found, we will never hear that melody.
The Republic / Roy Rogers era of Bob’s songwriting started hopefully. In the first few films, Bob was given the second lead role but before long he lost out to comedians George “Gabby” Hayes and Pat Brady. Aside from singing with the Pioneers, he was given poorer and poorer scripted parts. Fewer of his songs were used and finally Jack Elliott and other studio writers took over most of the songwriting while more of Tim Spencer’s catchy tunes were accepted
With the exception of the Columbia / Charles Starrett films, the singing cowboy movies showcased whatever songs were popular on radio at the time, often using them as titles for the films. The Starretts co-starred the Sons of the Pioneers in every sense of the word – they acted, wrote and sang as themselves. It is unfortunate that so many of them are still unavailable to the public.