Steele-ing myself for another birthday

 

 

 

The Smith Clan at the AutryI celebrated a birthday on Labor Day and my family helped me celebrate by paying a visit to the Gene Autry Museum here in Los Angeles, across the street from the Los Angeles Zoo. The museum’s actual name is the Autry National Center , aka The Southwest Museum of the American Indian, aka The Museum of the American West, aka The Institute for the Study of the American West. If this weren’t confusing enough, the sign over the door says Autry Museum of Western Heritage. I’ve wanted to go since moving to Hollywood, as my heroes have always been cowboys.

Duke's dudsThe Autry National Center is a great place to set a spell or walk around for a few hours. 2007 marks Autry’s centennial year, so the hacienda is filled to the rafters with memorabilia from the life and films of Public Cowboy No. 1 (including a genuine robot head from The Phantom Empire!) as well as artifacts from many classic western movies in the form of original costumes, vintage western toys and collectibles, props, posters, the kind of stuff I could stare at for days no matter how hard the wife taps her toes. And then they have a fake horse you can sit on and have your picture taken – it’s like dying and going to cowboy heaven, I'll tell you what!

Moseying over to the gift shop, I agonized over what to get myself as a memento of my visit and a birthday present to myself… until I spied a series of limited edition belt buckles. Manufactured by Sharpeco Distributors, these pewter buckles commemorate the likes of Autry, Red Ryder, Johnny Mack Brown and other white hatters. I chose Bob Steele.

Genuine Bob Steele Belt Buckle

Bob Steele was born Robert Adrian Bradbury in Portland Oregon. He got his start in show business as a child performer in vaudeville with his twin brother Bill Bradbury. The team made their film debut in the Pathe short The Adventures of Bob and Bill (1920), directed by their father Robert N. Bradbury. He changed his name to Bob Steele for The Mojave Kid (1927) and he was off and riding.

Bob Steel rides againI knew Steele from his role as Duffy, only survivor of the Alamo, on the sitcom F Troop (1965-1967). Though the actor was not even 60, the show played his age for laughs, depicting Trooper Duffy as a fumbling old coot whose best intentions often led to big explosions. My Dad had grown up seeing Bob Steele as a cowboy hero in such films as A Demon for Trouble (1938), Smokey Smith (1935) and Lightnin’ Crandall (1937). Steele also played a cleaned up Billy the Kid in a number of oaters for the Poverty Row outfit Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC). Steele defied the convention of the white-hatted hero, often dressing himself entirely in black. After the sunset of his hero heyday, he turned up in Of Mice and Men (1939), The Big Sleep (1946), The Enforcer (1951) and Island in the Sky (1953), one of six films he made with his old Glendale High School classmate John Wayne. A memorable late life part for Steele was as a member of the lynching party in Hang ‘Em High (1968) with Clint Eastwood.

It also happens to be Bob Steele’s Centenary this year, although his January birthday has already passed. I like the fact that my new belt buckle is a reminder of both my childhood and my Dad's and I'll wear it proudly and woebetide the bushwhacker who tries to take it from me!

8 Responses Steele-ing myself for another birthday
Posted By Rick J : September 7, 2007 2:18 pm

Bob Steele was a favorite of my Dad.  Growing up in the forties and early fifties, I watched many if not all of his sound movies on TV on Saturday morning.  I always enjoyed watching him, he was so athletic. Another thing I liked about him was that he was on the short side, like me.  And all that curly hair. And I liked that he wore black, it set him apart, like Hopalong Cassidy and Lash Larue.

Posted By Rick J : September 7, 2007 2:18 pm

Bob Steele was a favorite of my Dad.  Growing up in the forties and early fifties, I watched many if not all of his sound movies on TV on Saturday morning.  I always enjoyed watching him, he was so athletic. Another thing I liked about him was that he was on the short side, like me.  And all that curly hair. And I liked that he wore black, it set him apart, like Hopalong Cassidy and Lash Larue.

Posted By Medusa : September 7, 2007 10:10 pm

Happy Belated Birthday, RHS!   You sure are some Morlocky danged varmint, but we love 'ya!

Posted By Medusa : September 7, 2007 10:10 pm

Happy Belated Birthday, RHS!   You sure are some Morlocky danged varmint, but we love 'ya!

Posted By Alan : September 8, 2007 12:34 am

Richard, Richard,  Good choice.  I always thought Steele, a diminutive 5'5",  acted big as the vicious killer "Canino", in The Big Sleep.  I read when he was really down on his uppers, Steele's old friend Forrest Tucker gave him a gig in F-Troop that lasted for a couple of years.  Steele's last picture was the bank guard who got overwhelmed during the boffo opening of Charley Varrick in 1973. Not a bad film to end with.  Nice buckle, too. AKR

Posted By Alan : September 8, 2007 12:34 am

Richard, Richard,  Good choice.  I always thought Steele, a diminutive 5'5",  acted big as the vicious killer "Canino", in The Big Sleep.  I read when he was really down on his uppers, Steele's old friend Forrest Tucker gave him a gig in F-Troop that lasted for a couple of years.  Steele's last picture was the bank guard who got overwhelmed during the boffo opening of Charley Varrick in 1973. Not a bad film to end with.  Nice buckle, too. AKR

Posted By Wayne Campbell : September 11, 2007 3:10 pm

I remember my mother constantly referring to Bob Steele's "Piercing Eyes". And he did have the  greyest set of baby blues….unless the black and white film exxageratted them.

Posted By Wayne Campbell : September 11, 2007 3:10 pm

I remember my mother constantly referring to Bob Steele's "Piercing Eyes". And he did have the  greyest set of baby blues….unless the black and white film exxageratted them.

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