Alex Gordon tangled with a She-Creature, an Atomic Submarine, and, for over 50 years, served as a devoted sidekick to America's Favorite Singing Cowboy, Gene Autry.
Born in England on September 8, 1922, Alex grew up in Hampstead, London, with stars in his eyes. Along with his younger brother Richard and noted film historian Bill Everson, Alex went to all the film matinees, many of them westerns. Among the highlights was seeing his first Gene Autry movie in 1936, Guns and Guitars, which fired his imagination and served as the impetus for his lifelong friendship and association with the Cowboy.
It wasn't long before Alex established and ran the British Gene Autry Fan Club in England in 1938. Nor did too much time pass before war intervened. After serving in the Armed Forces (1942-1946) during World War II, Richard and Alex arrived in New York in November 1947 with the intention of pursuing careers in the film industry.
A recent picture of Alex in his office at Gene Autry Entertainment with Maxine Hansen, Jackie Autry's Executive Assistant (and so much more).
Richard established Gordon Films in New York. Alex ventured farther afield, moving to Hollywood in 1952. Armed with his dreams, a script for Atomic Monster (which eventually became Bride of the Monster), and an outline for what became Jail Bait, he contacted a low-budget producer named Johnny Carpenter and suggested they make a film together. Johnny agreed, Richard arranged the financing, and Ed Wood came aboard as assistant director. The film was made within the ten-day framework allotted, but the projected budget ballooned from $17,500 to $67,000. It was an eye-opener for Alex, but it didn't deter him in the least. With the help of a lawyer named Sam Arkoff, the movie paid off its investors within a period of two years.
As it turned out, the association proved a good one. Teaming with Sam Arkoff and James Nicholson of American International Pictures, Alex went on to produce a string of movies, including The Day the World Ended, The She-Creature, Atomic Submarine, Requiem for a Gunfighter, and Bounty Killer. Alex not only served as producer but also did everything else, from assembling casts to writing publicity.
In 1950, Gene was looking for a new publicity man for his personal-appearance tours. He spotted Alex in the audience at one of his Melody Ranch Radio Shows. By this time their paths had crossed on several occasions, and Gene knew Alex was the perfect candidate for the job. The Cowboy arranged for Alex to come backstage after the performance and hired him on the spot.
It was quite an adventure for the young man, allowing him to experience America and to realize the dream of working with his favorite cowboy hero. Alex's duties included criss-crossing back and forth across the country and beyond, arranging Gene's tours. He would ride in ahead of Gene, handle the publicity and press, make the necessary arrangements for Gene and his troupe, confirm the performance venue was set up correctly, and arrange for Gene to visit local hospitals and facilities to entertain children who were unable to come to his show. From 1950 through 1955, Alex traveled with Gene and his show to every state in the Union, to Canada, and then to England in 1953.
Alex caught the eye of a young woman, Ruth Succop, and the attraction was mutual. The coupled married in 1957. Their shared interest in writing won them the 1989 Excellence in Media Award for The Gene Autry Story in the category of best writing for a radio program.
When Gene hung up his traveling spurs to concentrate on his broadcasting and baseball business interests in the early 1960s, Alex went to work for 20th Century Fox as an assistant to Jack Haley, Jr. From 1968 to 1976, Alex instituted the restoration program at Fox and rediscovered and restored several of their movies that otherwise would have been lost. He continued to keep his hands in Gene Autry's business, as the Cowboy entrusted Alex with the preservation and early restoration of his films as well as their release in the up-and-coming home video market.
In the early 1980s Gene brought Alex aboard once again, in the capacity of Vice President of Flying A Pictures, to work on these projects full-time. In 1988 Alex traveled with Gene to Knoxville, Tennessee, where Gene and Pat Buttram taped 91 episodes of Melody Ranch Theater television show for the Nashville Network. Alex assisted Gene and Pat with facts and trivia for their conversations about Gene's movies that opened and closed each episode.
Alex remained with Gene's personal staff on a full-time basis until his passing on June 24, 2003.
Gene Autry considered Alex Gordon one of his dearest friends and associates. The fans felt the same way, many of them having known Alex since the early 1950s. To the "girls" at the Gene Autry Office, Alex Gordon was an endless source of entertainment and their own private sugar daddy. There was nothing that pleased Alex more than surprising his girls with a delicious treat of some sort, and he could often be found carrying in secret brown bags and boxes of treasures containing chocolate and bakery confections, which he placed with pride on their desks.
It was, perhaps, a game of one-upmanship, as the girls tried mightily to outdo him, laying their own offerings at his feet, most notably the favored Napoleons, Cadbury chocolate bars, and ice-cream sandwiches. Alex was a never-ending source of stories and juicy tidbits. Talking to him was like taking a stroll back in time to the golden age of the '40s and early '50s of Hollywood. Guests would often arrive in the office, ostensibly to conduct business with Karla or Maxine, and would then simply disappear. One would find them enthralled in Alex's office, listening to his stories with rapt attention.
On several occasions, Alex said:
Gene took his image as a hero and role model to the kids of three generations very seriously. He often referred to himself as "babysitter for the kids" – kids who sat through his movies several times, and whose parents always knew where they were and that they were in safe hands. No Gene Autry fans ever ran with street gangs or did drugs.
With the restoration of Gene Autry's television shows and movies, Alex was thrilled that new generations could watch his hero on the Westerns Channel and on DVDs. He imparted his love and knowledge through facts and trivia, allowing Gene Autry to be seen through the eyes of the fan. Alex regarded himself as Gene Autry's number-one fan, and so do we.
June 25, 2003
Maxine Hansen, Kim Mansfield, Karla Buhlman
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