Compiled by Robyn Cutter
Archivist, Park County Historical Archives
The Rider of the Painted Horse
By Carl H. Theobald, New York
Filmed in Cody, Wyoming
April 22, 1925 – It was announced in the Cody Enterprise that Carl H. Theobald, movie director from New York, was here to make a seven-reel picture. He was here visiting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Tobe Borner located at the Hargreaves Ranch on Cottonwood Creek. The name of the film would be The Rider of the Painted Horse. The production will use 200 characters of all ages and types in which the cast would consist of local talent.
Mr. Theobald formed a new club in Cody called “The Cody Players” on May 6, 1925. Thirty-two initial members signed up, President of the club was Cody’s taxidermist, Will Richard and secretary/treasurer was Mrs. Tobe Borner. The money taken in as membership was put in escrow at the First National Bank for the purpose of filming the picture.
Mr. Theobald was preparing the Hargreaves Ranch to be used as a moving picture park, where he will film a number of western scenes in the surrounding hills. About 150 people were present at the first rehearsal and the shooting of some screen tests and a number of local people were used in the scenes.
Mr. Theobald is currently working on the story which will deal with this country in the early 1870s. The picture is being filmed under the direction of Mr. Theobald with F.J. Hiscock of Cody as cameraman.
More than 75 cars and several hundred people assembled at the Hargreaves Ranch and watched with great interest the first steps which were being taken in the filming of The Rider of the Painted Horse.
Mr. Theobald has had many years of experience in motion picture development, and his wife, who plays under the name of Jane Tudor, is a very pleasing young lady, who also has had considerable motion picture experience, and will assist in the filming of the picture. Mr. Theobald is enlisting the cooperation and aid of the business people of Cody for the development of the first picture, and should the venture prove what he hopes it will be, it will mean much to Cody in the future.
In the filming of the first picture, Mr. Theobald expects to use only such talent as volunteer their services. He feels that there is an abundance of natural talent here for the staging of the picture and is already making selections for the casting, which are as follows:
- Jane Harlow, the girl of the story is June Tudor
- Silent Jack, a Texas Ranger is Tex Thomas
- The Scout, a typical character is George Inman
- A bad type is Jim Inman
- The Villian is Will Richard
- Father of the girl is Dan Stall
- Leader of wagon train is A.C. Newton
- A bad man is Tobe Borner
- His pal is Loren Schwoob
- The sheriff is C.A. Williams
- His deputy is Vern Stall
- An Indian Maid is Mrs. Oscar Noble
To complete the cast, 150 men, women and children will be used for the wagon train, 25 riders for the posse, 30 men for Indians, 100 men, women and children as settlers; and many other players who will bring out the story to the director’s satisfaction.
The Movie’s Plot
The following story is only one of the many tales of romance that occurred while traveling over the plains in the early 1870s.
The sun was setting in the west as the wagon train reached the eastern boundary of Wyoming. The leader called a halt. Seated on the second wagon is June Harlow (Jane Tudor), bound westward to visit her father, a trader, whom she had not seen since childhood. June is accompanied by her wind-jamming uncle, an easterner, who has only come west for the love of his niece. As the party prepares to camp June is approached by Jim LaRue (Will Richard), a wolf in sheep’s clothes. Jim, a dark, good looking fellow, altho having only recently joined the train, has already made himself acquainted with June, who he admires and secretly desires.
The next morning June and her uncle leave the train to take the northern trail, accompanied by Jim. Before leaving they are warned of the redskins on the northern trail, for they are led by an unknown white man riding a painted horse.
The party reaches a thickly wooded forest when suddenly they see smoke ahead curling above the tree. They stop in alarm, then proceed cautiously and discover a middle-aged white man and friendly Indian. The white man approaches, calls June by name, which surprises her. He is John Marshall, a famous scout (George Inman), beloved by the whites and feared by the red men.
He has been sent out by June’s father to escort her to the fort, and the old man has also another object in view, that this splendid character, the scout, shall later become the husband of his child.
They proceed on their journey, but Jim leaves the party with the excuse that he wishes to take the shorter route. The scout is not too well pleased with the presence of Jim.
The scout calls a halt and they prepare for the night. As the old man desires, the scout falls in love with June, but is a little timid in declaring his love. The sun is setting, all is peaceful and happy when suddenly redskins burst forth from the hills and attack the party. For the next hour they are busy keeping the Indians off, but at the end of that time they are almost defeated when there is firing from the rear. Help has arrived! The red men, thinking large reinforcements have arrived, beat a hasty retreat.
The party wait about the wagon and soon a lone rider appears from behind the rocks. It is Silent Jack (Tex Thomas), of whom little is known, but upon whom rest suspicion because of the fact that he rides a painted horse. Jack meets the old scout, for between the two a strong friendship has sprung. He is then introduced to Jane and there is love at first sight.
The following morning they proceed on their journey to the post. Jim LaRue, also riding to the post, stops and hides in the brush as the schooner passes. He recognized the newcomer riding with the train as Silent Jack, whom he bitterly despises. After the wagon passes Jim hits upon a scheme and rides hurriedly away.
At the Post
Up in the northwestern part of Wyoming is located the post owned by George Harlow (Dan Stall). Settlers and trappers lounge about the cabin; some are coming and going. Suddenly the loungers look up as a lone rider appears. George Harlow comes out of the cabin to greet the rider. It is Jim. After dismounting Jim turns and addresses the crowd: “I met Harlow’s daughter and accompanied them some distance after the scout joined them. I left the party thinking I could be of more service riding alone, so while coming down Rock Hill I was surprised by hearing voices. I then proceeded carefully until I could hear what was said. The voices were those of Silent Jack and Black Eagle, and this is what took place: Silent Jack: “You attack the wagon, then I will come to the rescue, That will put me in heavy with the girl’s father and then the rest is easy.” Jim stops talking, the crowd becomes angry and one fellow suggests that Jack sure is the rider of the painted horse and should be hung. They all agree to hanging, much to the satisfaction of Jim. Then George Harlow speaks up: “Not so fast, boys, because anybody that’s a friend of the scout is a friend of mine, too. The crowd unwillingly dispenses. Jim shows dissatisfaction and slinks away as the wagon appears with the two riders. Old George greets his daughter with affection, then heartily shakes first the old scout’s and then Jack’s hands. They all enter the cabin.
The next day there is a big celebration at the post in honor of June. The scout and Jack are to participate in a shooting contest. The reward is a kiss from June. The Scout, realizing that Jack is rather anxious to win the reward, shoots high and misses the target. Jack shoots and hits the mark every time. Later he realizes that the old scout, who is a crack shot, missed on purpose, and so, appreciating this wonderful friendship, decides from then on not to show his love for June. The celebration continues. Jack suddenly spies an Indian and his sister who, carrying a baby, pleads with Jim at his cabin. Jim becomes angry, knocks the Indian down. He gets up and shakes his fist at Jim, slams the door shut and departs. Jack follows the Indian some distance and engages him in conversation. The Indian tells Jack that Jim, the father of his sister’s child, is to meet their chief the following day to plan a robbery. Jack asks the Indian to get all the information that he can and to meet him the following afternoon at Big Rock. This conversation is overheard by one of the men who believe Jack is the rider of the painted horse. The man rushes to the sheriff’s office and gives him the information, so they decide to trap Jack the following afternoon.
The following afternoon the wagon is loaded with supplies in front of the cabin. George Harlow is going to an outlying post to gather in some furs. June has persuaded him to take her along. He consents on condition that the Scout accompany them. The party prepares to leave when June asks Silent Jack, who is preparing to go away, to go along. He refuses and states that he has other business to attend to. He then rides away. The man who overheard Silent Jack make an appointment with the Indian, steps up to June and whispering says: “That’s the rider of the painted horse and he’s got business today with a murderous redskin. June is puzzled and becomes half inclined to believe the man. As she continues on her journey this suspicion increases.
At Big Rock
Jack meets the Indian who tells him that Jim has planned with the tribe to capture the wagon train, kill George Harlow and steal both the girl and wagon. This is to take place at the water hole while the Scout is out getting buffalo.
The men are in conversation when suddenly the sheriff and posse rise from behind ricks, level their guns at Jack and order ‘hands up.’ He and the Indian do so and the sheriff then advances and says, “I reckon we got you, rider of the painted horse, red-handed.” Jack merely smiles and asks the sheriff to look under the lapel of his coat. The sheriff does so and is surprised as he turns to the posse. He speaks, “Fellows, we’ve made a mistake, this fellow is a Texas ranger.” They all show surprise as Jack speaks. “Yes, I’m a ranger up north to capture the Rider of the Painted Horse,” wanted down on the border for murder. Boys, we must hurry and rescue Harlow and his party, before it is too late.” They all ride toward the water hole.
At the Water Hole
The schooner comes to the water hole. The Scout and Uncle leave to kill buffalo for fresh meat. George Harlow is unhitching the team and June is preparing supper. This business is watched by a masked white man and a half dozen Indians. Some time elapses before they attack, so as to be sure the Scout is far enough away. Then they open fire. Old George returns fire, but is mortally wounded by the masked white man. The attacking party rushes to the wagon. The Indians grab June, put her in and drive hurriedly away, followed by the white man. They are out of sight only a few minutes when Jack and party appear, coming over the hill and riding down to where the camp had been. Jack dismounts and they begin to study the Indian tracks. Suddenly they hear horses approaching. The Scout and Uncle appear and the entire party hold a consultation. They again study the tracks. A weak voice calls to them from the spring. They rush over to find George Harlow lying at the water’s edge. The old scout holds George’s head as the old man speaks: “Boys, I’m soon going across the Great Divide, but before I go I want to ask the old scout that he will promise me that he will rescue my little girl and make her his wife. The Scout, his eyes filled with tears, looks up at Silent Jack, whom he knows is in love with June, but Jack nods that the scout should promise, thereby giving up the woman he loved for his best friend. The Scout promises and old George, with a smile on his face, passes to the land from where one never returns. The party then rides away, leaving two of the boys to guard old George. They follow the tracks of the marauders for some miles until they lose it at the creek bottom. The Scout and Jack decide to go one way, while the party goes the other, thinking that by travelling in a circle they would eventually come on to the Indian village.
At the Indian Village
The Indians all turn out as the masked rider appears, followed by the wagon. The chief greets him and the rider gives to the old chief the wagon as a present, but has several Indians drag the girl to his own tepee.
June, with her hands tied behind her, is laid on the floor of the tepee and the masked rider enters and taunts her. This action has been watched by the Indian who informed Silent Jack about Jim. He hurriedly rides away to bring the white men to June’s aid.
During this time the Scout and silent Jack discover the village and crawl up to it to rescue June, but are discovered by several Indian guards. A fight takes place in which the whole camp soon joins. Jack and the Scout are made prisoners and brought before the chief and the masked rider. The latter taunts him.
The friendly Indian meets the posse and guides them to the camp. They arrive just in time to save Silent Jack and the Scout from death. The Indians are routed, but not before the masked rider makes off with June. The party rides into camp, releases Jack and the Scout. Jack, finding June is gone, jumps on the horse and follows the masked rider. The Scout and party soon follow.
The Rider of the Painted Horse
At an isolated cabin, the masked rider dismounts, takes June off the horse, and is about to take her into the cabin when he suddenly hears footsteps. He lays June on the ground and rushes behind the cabin. Jack appears, advances, gun drawn, the rider fires, Jack drops wounded. He is about to shoot when the Scout appears, shoots and wounds the rider in the wrist, his gun drops and he is made prisoner. The Scout takes his mask off—it is Jim LaRue.
June is released, rushes to Jack who, eyes are close and weeping, says, “Don’t leave me dear, for I love you.” Jack opens his eyes and smiles. It dawns on the old scout that youth attracts, so he goes over and puts June’s hand in Jack’s.
Peace and happiness at the post. There is a wedding. June and Jack come out, cheered by the settlers. The old Scout is best man. The young couple board the wagon and drive off, followed by the old Scout.
Out on the plains the Scout shakes hands with June, who with a tear in her eye, kisses the old scout. He turns to the north to return to his duties as scout in the silent forest, giving up the only girl he ever loved, while the schooner turns south to the Rio Grande, home of the rangers.
Creating the silent film, The Rider of the Painted Horse
May 13, 1925 – Rehearsals continue for Moving Pictures. Carl Theobald, director of the screen production, is steadily strengthening his cast and plans to start the actual filming soon.
A very pleasing old time dance was given by the Borners at their ranch Friday evening, attended by a great many people from Cody. A fine lunch was served over a huge bonfire after the dancing ceased.
The Cody Players will give another dance at the Hargreaves Ranch Saturday evening to which the people of Cody are invited.
June 10, 1925 – Local Movie is Sent East for Completion
The Rider of the Painted Horse, the picture being filmed by the Cody Players on and near the Hargreaves Ranch, four miles northwest of town, has been completed and the negatives have been sent east to be developed and printed on positive film.
Upon their return to Cody they will be shown at the Temple theatre for the approval of the home people, and then an effort will be made to place them with some distributing house.
It is understood that George Inman, who plays the role of “Cody Bill,” and about whom a number of the future pictures will be enacted, is to make a trip to the East in a short time to work in the interests, of the Cody Players. Inman, who resembles the late Col. W.F. Cody in features, dress and carriage, will no doubt make a striking impression on the easterners, as he goes about the streets of the large cities in his buck-skin clothing and big hat.
June 24, 1925 – Local Movie Film is Ready for Showing. The finished films for The Rider of the Painted Horse has returned from the east where they developed and printed it. The photoplay, the work of F.J. Hiscock, is excellent and there is no doubt that the pictures will show up fine on the screen when projected. The picture will take up about seven thousand feet of film and will make a show of about two hours. [The film was later shortened to one hour; a copy of this version is in the McCracken Research Library’s collection].
July 8, 1925 – Local Movie Reel Taken to New York. Carl Theobald and Frank Kurtz left for New York with the locally produced picture film. They will endeavor to put on the market. It has been revised and improved considerably since the first showing. Some of the scenes have been retaken, and new scenes have been retaken, and new scenes added and some cut down. Mr. Theobald is confident that the picture will sell, in which case he will return to Cody and commence immediately upon another production.
July 22, 1925 – Local Movie Fails to Get Buyer in East. The Cody Players of the local Hollywood were given a decided jolt last week when F.W. Kurtz returned from the east with the news that the motion picture film could not be placed upon the market in the east, due to the fact that no actor or actress of note took part in the picture, a sale could not be made. The fact that this picture could not be marketed is regretted very much by those who gave so generously of their time and money to make it a success.
On a final note
A letter was found by Robyn Cutter in the Bob Richard personal collection written by his uncle Will Richard (the villain in the movie) to painter W.R. Leigh stating, “We had a lively director’s meeting last Sunday in which we found our movie director (Theobald) sort of misrepresenting things, he got hostile, and is nursing a fine pair of black eyes today, he blames me! Huh, I’ll bet he’ll shy all around the next time he thinks of lying to a westerner, they say he is in a critical condition, maybe just gossip, broken jaw, etc., ribs torn loose, going to sue me, Oh well, such is life.”