America's Favorite Singing Cowboy Gene Autry
Rides the Video Range Once More
Posted July 2001
Seven of the beloved entertainer's classic western films are available for the first time in fully restored, uncut versions.
LOS ANGELES, Calif., December 15, 2001 – The Autry Museum of Western Heritage and Gene Autry Entertainment have joined forces to release the movies of Gene Autry, "America's Favorite Singing Cowboy," on home video. This historic video line features the first-ever, fully restored and uncut versions of the famed entertainer's classic movies presented in their original theatrical splendor. The debut series is made up of seven Autry favorites, including HEART OF THE RIO GRANDE, HOME ON THE PRAIRIE, ROBIN HOOD OF TEXAS, ROVIN' TUMBLEWEEDS, SHOOTING HIGH, SOUTH OF THE BORDER, and UNDER FIESTA STARS. Each video is sold separately or in a specially priced seven-title set priced at $9.95 and $59.95, respectively (S.R.P.). Proceeds from the sales of videos will go to further the educational and cultural mission of the renowned Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles (323.667.2000).
The restoration of Gene Autry's classic movies, originally released between 1934 and 1953, is made possible by the partnership of Gene Autry Entertainment and Starz Encore's Westerns Channel. The two previously teamed up to restore Autry's landmark Flying A Pictures television series The Gene Autry Show. They meet again this time to fully restore 89 of Gene Autry's feature films. The first of the restored films will be added to the Westerns Channel lineup beginning January 2002.
It will take approximately five years to restore all the films to their uncut, original theatrical length. RPG Productions in Burbank has been given the monumental task of restoring the works of Gene Autry, and they are ready for the challenge. The film elements are from Gene Autry's personal film collection of original 35mm and 16mm material housed at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage and nitrate film materials stored at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Each movie's production files, scripts, stills, and other items, as well as the knowledge and expertise from film historians such as Republic Pictures author Jack Mathis, provide the extensive combined research needed to return such films as Rovin' Tumbleweeds and South of the Border to their original cinematic glory.
Gene Autry, who passed away October 2, 1998, at the age of 91, is the only entertainer to be honored with five stars on Hollywood's prestigious Walk of Fame—for radio, records, movies, television, and live theatrical performances including rodeo. Autry's spectacular 60-year entertainment career encompassed more than 90 cherished, classic Western films. He began his radio career in 1928 and made his first recordings a year later. By 1937, Autry had become "America's Favorite Singing Cowboy" and was voted the number one Western star by the theatre exhibitors of America. As the silver screen's first singing cowboy, Autry created the format of the "musical Western," which combined traditional action with comedy, music, and songs to further the story line. Many of his best-loved films were based on—and feature—his most famous hit songs, including "Back in the Saddle," "South of the Border," and "Mexicali Rose."
Also an Academy Award(TM)-nominated singer/songwriter (for "Be Honest With Me" for Best Song from RIDIN' ON A RAINBOW, 1941), Autry made more than 600 recordings including over 300 that he wrote or co-wrote, generating sales exceeding 100 million copies. Some of Autry's celebrated works include such all-time standards as "Here Comes Santa Claus" and the second best-selling Christmas single of all time, his classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," with over 30 million in sales. Autry was the recipient of more than a dozen gold and platinum records, including the first-ever gold record for "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine."
Autry's career encompassed every facet of the entertainment industry, from radio and recording artist to motion picture and television star, broadcast executive, and owner of the Anaheim (formerly California) Angels major league baseball team. One of Autry's most cherished dreams came true in November 1988 with the opening of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage (previously the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum) in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.