Okay, gang, it’s Saturday again, and time for another installment of Saturday Breakfast Serial and our ongoing chapter play, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc. And, for those of you who may be just joining us, here are the previous posts for this serial: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, 6.
Last week I wrote about the creation of Republic Pictures, and how it was actually formed from the consolidation of six “poverty row” studios (Mascot, Monogram, Liberty, Majestic, Chesterfield, and Invincible) under the leadership of the president of Consolidated Film Industries, Herbert J. Yates. This week, I thought we’d take a look at some of the output of the studio when it was at its height.
Obviously, one of the major types of output for Republic was movie serials. That is why we’re talking about them in the first place. Republic’s first official serial was 1936’s Darkest Africa, a 15 chapter jungle serial which was ostensibly a follow-up to Mascot’s The Lost Jungle which had premiered the previous year. That same year, Republic also released three other serials, Undersea Kingdom, The Vigilantes Are Coming, and Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island. Relevant to the serial we’re watching now, the next year, 1937, saw the release of Dick Tracy, the first of Republic’s four serials to feature the character. Republic continued releasing serials, until 1955, with that year’s King of the Carnival, their 66th official serial, being the last.
Serials, however, were far from the only output of the studio. They were also extremely well known for their Westerns. At its height, Republic was home to such great Western stars as John Wayne, Gene Autry, Rex Allen and Roy Rogers. As a matter of fact, one of Republic’s first feature film releases was Westward Ho, which debuted on August 19, 1935, and starred John Wayne. Other Republic westerns through the years included titles such as Tumbling Tumbleweeds, The Oregon Trail, Red River Valley, Oklahoma Renegades, Melody Ranch, Rio Grande, and many, many others.
Republic also made a number of other B-pictures in various genres, along with a number of higher budgeted films such as The Quiet Man (one of my all-time personal favorites, even though it does kind of fall into that “guilty pleasure” category nowadays), Sands of Iwo Jima, and Johnny Guitar. As a matter of fact, at one point, as Wikipedia notes, Yates organized Republic’s output into four types of films: “Jubilee”, usually a western shot in seven days for about $50,000; “Anniversary”, filmed in 14 to 15 days for $175,000 to $200,000; “Deluxe”, major productions made with a budget of around $500,000; and “Premiere”, which were usually made by top-rank directors who did not usually work for Republic, such as John Ford, Fritz Lang and Frank Borzage, and which could have a budget of $1,000,000 or more. Some of these “Deluxe” films were from independent production companies that were picked up for release by Republic.
Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, and that includes Republic Pictures, so next time around we’ll take a look at the downfall of the studio. In the meantime, here’s the next chapter of our ongoing serial, Dick Tracy vs Crime Inc.
Next time: Chapter 8: Train of Doom, and the end of the Republic.