Ken Maynard

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Ken Maynard
Cropped screenshot of Ken Maynard in In Old Santa Fe film, 1934.png
Ken Maynard in In Old Santa Fe (1934)
Born (1895-07-21)July 21, 1895
Vevay, Indiana
Died March 23, 1973(1973-03-23) (aged 77)
Woodland Hills, California, U.S.

Kenneth Olin Maynard (July 21, 1895 – March 23, 1973) was an American motion picture stuntman and actor. He appeared in more than 90 films over 20 years with his white cowboy hat, fancy shirt, and a pair of six-shooters.


Maynard was born in Vevay, Indiana, one of five children, another of whom, his lookalike younger brother, Kermit, would also become an actor; most audience members assumed that Kermit was his brother's identical twin. Ken Maynard began working at carnivals and circuses, where he became an accomplished horseman. As a young man, he performed in rodeos and was a trick rider with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

Maynard served in the United States Army during World War I. After the war, Maynard returned to show business as a circus rider with Ringling Brothers. When the circus was playing in Los Angeles, California, actor Buck Jones encouraged Maynard to try working in the movies. Maynard soon had a contract with Fox Studios.[1]

He first appeared in silent motion pictures in 1923 as a stuntman or supporting actor. In 1924 he began working in western features, where his horsemanship and rugged good looks made him a cowboy star. Maynard's silent features showcased his daredevil riding, photographed fairly close so audiences could see that Maynard was doing his own stunts with his white stallion "Tarzan." The action scenes were so spectacular that they were often reused in films of the 1930s, starring either Maynard himself or John Wayne, or Dick Foran. (Wayne, and later Foran, starred in westerns for Warner Bros. and were costumed like Maynard to match the old footage.)

Maynard made a successful transition to talking pictures and became the movies' first singing cowboy (a 1929 "Voice of Hollywood" short has Maynard singing "Drunken Hiccoughs" in a wailing tenor). He recorded two songs for Columbia Records, "The Lone Star Trail" and "The Cowboy's Lament."[1]

Maynard and Tarzan in The Fiddlin' Buckaroo, 1933

Maynard's first talkies were made for Universal Pictures. His reckless screen personality spilled over into his private life, with alcoholism and high living resulting in production delays and temper tantrums on the set. This made Maynard a problem employee, and he was released from Universal after one year. Other independent producers took a chance on the hotheaded star -- among them Tiffany Productions and Sono Art-World Wide Pictures -- before he returned to Universal in 1933. Maynard played several musical instruments, and was featured that year on the violin in The Fiddlin' Buckaroo, and on the banjo in The Trail Drive. Author James Horwitz has recounted the end of Maynard's tenure at Universal: when studio head Carl Laemmle asked Maynard why his latest production was such a very bad picture, the frustrated Maynard retorted, "Mr. Laemmle, I have made you eight very bad pictures," and walked out on Laemmle and Universal.[2]

In 1934 producer Nat Levine hired Ken Maynard for a serial, Mystery Mountain, and planned to make a series of western features with Maynard, beginning with In Old Santa Fe. Maynard's unprofessionalism cost him the job; after In Old Santa Fe Levine replaced Maynard with a singer in his supporting cast, Gene Autry. Maynard kept working in Hollywood, but in smaller productions, until 1940.

He returned to the screen in 1943 for low-budget Monogram Pictures in a new series called "The Trail Blazers." He was teamed with fellow veteran stars Hoot Gibson and Bob Steele, and the trio offered action for the kids and nostalgia for their elders. It wasn't long before Maynard's raging temperament again cost him the job; he liked Gibson but didn't like Steele, and left the series after seven films. One final film, Harmony Trail, was made by independent producer Walt Mattox in 1944; just as one of Maynard's films had introduced cowboy star Gene Autry, this final Maynard film introduced the new singing cowboy Eddie Dean.

Maynard turned his back on the movies and made appearances at state fairs and rodeos. He owned a small circus operation featuring rodeo riders but eventually lost it to creditors. His substantial wealth had vanished, and he lived a desolate life as an alcoholic in a rundown trailer . During these years, Maynard was supported by an unknown benefactor, long thought to be Gene Autry.[3] More than 25 years after his last starring role, Maynard returned to the screen in two small roles in Bigfoot (1970) and The Marshal of Windy Hollow (filmed in 1972 but never released).


Maynard died of stomach cancer in 1973 at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, California. He was interred at Forest Lawn Cypress Cemetery [1] in Cypress, California. Maynard's funeral is described in detail in James Horwitz's book They Went Thataway.[4]

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Ken Maynard has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6751 Hollywood Blvd.

Selected filmography[edit]

  • Cameo Kirby (1923) (uncredited)
  • The Gunfighter (1923) (uncredited)
  • The Man Who Won (1923) as Conroy
  • Brass Commandments (1923) (uncredited)
  • $50,000 Reward (1924) as Tex Sherwood
  • Jamie Meredith (1924) as Paul Revere
  • North Star (1925) as Noel Blake
  • Fighting Courage (1925) as Richard Kingsley
  • The Demon Rider (1925) as Billy Dennis
  • The Unknown Cavalier(1926) as Tom Drury
  • Senor Daredevil (1926) as Don Luis O'Flaherty
  • Haunted Range (1926) as Terry Bladwin
  • The Grey Vulture (1926) as Bart Miller/Sir Arthur
  • Gun Gospel (1927) as Granger Hume
  • The Red Raiders (1927) as Lt. John Scott
  • The Devil's Saddle (1927) as Harry Morrel
  • The Land Beyond the Law (1927) as Jerry Steele
  • Somewhere in Sonora (1927) as Bob Bishop
  • The Overland Stage (1927) as Jack Jessop
  • The Phantom City (1928) as Tim Kelly
  • The Glorious Trail (1928) as Pat O'Leary
  • The Code of Scarlet (1928) as Bruce Kenton
  • The Upland Rider (1928) as Dan Dailey
  • The Canyon of Adventure (1928) as Steven Bancroft
  • The Wagon Show (1928) as Bob Mason
  • Senor Americano (1929) as Lieutenant Michael Banning
  • The Wagon Master (1929) as The Rambler
  • The California Legion (1929) as Bob Scott
  • The Lawless Legion (1929) as Cal Stanley
  • The Royal Rider (1929) as Dick Scott
  • Cheyenne (1929) as Cal Roberts
  • Fighting Thru aka California in 1878 (1930) as Dan Barton
  • Song of the Caballero (1930) as Juan posing as El Lobo
  • Parade of the West (1930) as Bud Rand
  • Lucky Larkin (1930) as 'Lucky' Larkin
  • The Fighting Legion (1930 as Dave Hayes
  • Mountain Justice (1930) as Ken McTavish
  • Sons of the Saddle (1930) as Jim Brandon
  • Two Gun Man (1931) as Blackie Weld
  • Alias – the Bad Man (1931) as Ranger Ken Neville
  • Arizona Terror (1931) as The Arizonian
  • Branded Men (1931) as Rod Whitaker
  • Range Law (1931) as Hap Conners
  • The Pocatello Kid (1931) as Sheriff Jim Bledsoe
  • The Sunset Trail (1932) as Jim Brandon
  • Hell Fire Austin (1932) as Ken 'Hell Fire' Austin
  • Whistlin' Dan (1932) as Whistlin' Dan Savage
  • Dynamite Ranch (1932) as Blaze Howell
  • Come On, Tarzan (1932) as Ken Benson
  • Between Fighting Men (1932) as Ken
  • Texas Gun Fighter (1932) as Bill Dame
  • False Faces (1932) (uncredited)
  • Drum Taps (1933) as Ken Cartwright
  • Phantom Thunderbolt (1933) as Thunderbolt Kid
  • The Lone Avenger (1933) as Cal Weston
  • King of the Arena (1933) as Captain Ken Keaton
  • The Fiddlin' Buckaroo (1933) as Fiddlin'
  • The Trail Drive (1933) as Ken Benton
  • Strawberry Roan (1933) as Ken Masters
  • Fargo Express (1933) as Ken Benton
  • Gun Justice (1933) as Ken Lance
  • Mystery Mountain (1934) as Ken Williams
  • In Old Santa Fe (1934) as Ken aka Kentucky
  • Honor of the Range (1934) as Sheriff Ken Bellany
  • Wheels of Destiny (1934) as Ken Manning
  • Smoking Guns (1934) as Ken Masters
  • Western Frontier (1935) as Ken Masters
  • Heir to Courage (1935) as Ken Armstrong
  • Western Courage (1935) as Ken Baxter
  • Lawless Riders (1935) as Ken Morley
  • Arizona Terror (1936)
  • Heroes of the Range (1936) as Ken Smith
  • Avenging Waters (1936) as Ken Morley
  • The Cattle Thief (1936)
  • The Fugitive Sheriff (1936)
  • Boots of Destiny (1937) as Ken Crawford
  • Trailin' Trouble (1937) as John Friendly Fields/Blackie Burke
  • Whirlwind Horseman (1938) as Ken Morton
  • Six Shootin' Sheriff (1938) as Jim 'Trigger' Morton)
  • Flaming Land (1939) as Ken Clark
  • Death Rides the Range (1939) as Ken Baxter
  • Phantom Rancher (1940) as Ken Mitchell
  • Lightning Strikes West (1940)
  • The Law Rides Again (1943) as U. S. Marshal Ken Maynard
  • Wild Horse Stampede (1943) as U. S. Marshal Ken Maynard
  • Blazing Guns (1943)
  • Death Valley Rangers (1943)
  • Arizona Whirlwind (1944)
  • Westward Bound (1944)
  • Harmony Trail (1944)
  • Bigfoot (1970) as Mr. Bennett
  • The Marshal of Windy Hollow (1972) as Texas Ranger


  1. ^ a b Phillips, Robert W. Singing Cowboy Stars. Salt Lake City: Gibbs-Smith, 1994. pp 14-16.
  2. ^ Horwitz, James. They Went Thataway (1978). Ballantine Books; . ISBN 0-345-27126-2
  3. ^ Singing In The Saddle, by Ranger Douglas B. Green. ISBN 0-8265-1506-1
  4. ^ Horwitz, James. They Went Thataway (1978). Ballantine Books; . ISBN 0-345-27126-2

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