Gene Autry's first feature for Republic Pictures Corp. was "Tumbling Tumbleweeds,"
filmed in 1935 at Trem Carr's Western movie town in Placerita Canyon (later part of Disney's Golden Oak Ranch). Autry is seen here
in this lobby card in front of some of the wooden buildings, which Hickson would move a year later to the corner of
Oak Springs and Placerita Canyon Road. Hickson would lease the town to Republic's rival,
Monogram Pictures, and the town came to be known as the Monogram Ranch. In 1952, following
Hickson's death, Autry purchased the movie set and renamed it "Melody Ranch." In 1962
the buildings burned down as a wildfire consumed the canyons surrounding the Santa Clarita Valley.
Autry sold off the property in pieces; Paul, Renaud and Andre Valuzat picked up the 10-acre area
where the buildings were located and rebuilt them off of old photographs.
It was Autry's first starring role in a full-lenth feature film. He had a small part in a
1934 Ken Maynard vehicle ("In Old Santa Fe") and then starred in
Republic's 12-chapter serial, "The Phantom Empire," which initial release
was in February 1935. "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" filmed in July
and was released September 5, 1935.
"Tumbling Tumbleweeds," 61 minutes, stars Autry and his sidekick Smiley Burnette as themselves;
Lucille Browne as Jerry; George "Gabby" Hayes as Dr. Parker; Norma Taylor as Janet;
Edward Hearn as gang leader Barney Craven; Eugene Jackson as Eightball; Jack Rockwell as
McQuade; George Chesebro as Connors; Frankie Marvin as Shorty; and Slim Whitaker as Higgins. Also
appearing are George Burton as the Sheriff; Horace B. Carpenter; Tommy Coats; Oscar Gahan;
Joseph W. Girard; Henry Hall; Cornelius Keefe; Charles King; Tracy Layne; Tom London; Cliff
Lyons; Bud McClure; George Morrell; and Bud Pope. Directed by Joseph Kane; written by Ford
Beebe and Alan Ludwig; produced by Nat Levine. Additional filming locations include Bakersfield, Victorville and Barstow.
Memories of the Place I Called Melody Ranch by Gene Autry, Old Town Newhall Gazette, 1995.
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