Smiley Burnette - Rotten Tomatoes

Smiley Burnette

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Smiley Burnette, said his longtime partner and boss Gene Autry, "couldn't read a note of music but wrote 350 songs and I never saw him take longer than an hour to compose one." Arguably the most beloved of all the B-Western sidekicks and certainly one of the more prolific and enduring, Burnette had been a disc jockey at a small radio station in Tuscola, IL, when discovered by Autry. The crooner prominently featured him both on tour and on Chicago's National Barn Dance broadcasts, making certain that Burnette was included in the contract he signed in 1934 with Mascot Pictures. As Autry became a major name in Hollywood, almost single-handedly establishing the long-lasting Singing Cowboy vogue, Burnette was right there next to him, first with Mascot and then, through a merger, with the newly formed Republic Pictures, where he remained through June 1944. The culmination of Burnette's popularity came in 1940, when he ranked second only to Autry in a Boxoffice Magazine popularity poll of Western stars, the lone sidekick among the Top Ten. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea -- his style of cute novelty songs and tubby slapstick humor could, on occasion, become quite grating -- Burnette nevertheless put his very own spin on B-Westerns and became much imitated. In fact, by the 1940s, there were two major trends of sidekick comedy in B-Westerns: Burnette's style of slapstick prairie buffoonery, also practiced by the likes of Dub Taylor and Al St. John, and the more character-defined comedy of George "Gabby" Hayes, Andy Clyde, et al. Burnette, who would add such classic Western tunes as "Song of the Range" and "Call of the Canyon" to the Autry catalog, refined his naïve, but self-important, Frog Millhouse character through the years at Republic Pictures -- called "Frog," incidentally, from the way his vocals suddenly dropped into the lowest range possible. But the moniker belonged to the studio and he was plain Smiley Burnette thereafter. When Autry entered the service in 1942, Burnette supported Sunset Carson, Eddie Dew, and Robert Livingston before switching to Columbia Pictures' Durango Kid series starring Charles Starrett. But despite appearing in a total of 56 Durango Westerns, Burnette was never able to achieve the kind of chemistry he had enjoyed with Autry and it was only fitting that they should be reunited for the final six Western features Gene would make. Although his contribution to Autry's phenomenal success was sometimes questioned (minor cowboy star Jimmy Wakely opined that Autry had enough star power to have made it with any comic sidekick), Smiley Burnette remained extremely popular with young fans throughout his career, and although not universally beloved within the industry, he has gone down in history as the first truly popular B-Western comedy sidekick. Indeed, without his early success, there may never have been the demand for permanent sidekicks. When B-Westerns went out of style, Burnette spent most of his time in his backyard recording studio, returning for an appearance on television's Ranch Party (1958) and the recurring role of train engineer Charley Pratt on Petticoat Junction (1963-1967). He died of leukemia in 1967 at the age of 55.

Photos

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT BOX OFFICE YEAR
No Score Yet The Last of the Pony Riders
  • Himself
1953
No Score Yet Saginaw Trail
  • Smiley
1953
No Score Yet Pack Train
  • Himself
1953
No Score Yet Goldtown Ghost Riders
  • Himself
1953
No Score Yet On Top of Old Smoky
  • Himself
1953
No Score Yet Winning of the West
  • Smiley
1953
No Score Yet The Kid from Broken Gun
  • Himself
1952
No Score Yet Bonanza Town
  • Himself
1951
No Score Yet Trail of the Rustlers
  • Actor
1950
No Score Yet Indian Territory
  • Actor
1950
No Score Yet The Big Sombrero
  • Actor
1949
No Score Yet Riders of the Whistling Pines
  • Actor
1949
No Score Yet Texans Never Cry
  • Actor
1949
No Score Yet Blazing Across the Pecos
  • Marshal Smiley Burnette
1948
No Score Yet Whirlwind Raiders
  • Himself
1948
No Score Yet Law of the Canyon
  • Actor
1947
No Score Yet Code of the Prairie
  • Frog Millhouse
1944
No Score Yet Call of the Rockies
  • Frog Millhouse
1944
No Score Yet Silver Spurs
  • Frog Millhouse
1943
No Score Yet King of the Cowboys
  • Frog Millhouse
1943
No Score Yet Idaho
  • Frog Millhouse
1943
No Score Yet Cowboy Serenade
  • Frog Millhouse
1942
No Score Yet Call of the Canyon
  • Frog
1942
No Score Yet Heart of the Rio Grande
  • Frog
1942
No Score Yet Heart of the Golden West
  • Smiley
1942
No Score Yet Bells of Capistrano
  • Frog
1942
No Score Yet Home in Wyomin'
  • Frog
1942
No Score Yet Stardust on the Sage
  • Frog
1942
No Score Yet Sierra Sue
  • Frog
1941
No Score Yet Sunset in Wyoming
  • Frog Millhouse
1941
No Score Yet Back in the Saddle
  • Frog
1941
No Score Yet Ridin' on a Rainbow
  • Frog
1941
No Score Yet Under Fiesta Stars
  • Frog Millhouse
1941
No Score Yet The Singing Hill
  • Frog
1941
No Score Yet Down Mexico Way
  • Frog
1941
No Score Yet Ride Tenderfoot Ride
  • Frog
1940
No Score Yet Carolina Moon
  • Frog
1940
No Score Yet Gaucho Serenade
  • Frog
1940
No Score Yet Rancho Grande
  • Frog
1940
No Score Yet Mountain Rhythm
  • Frog
1939
No Score Yet Blue Montana Skies
  • Frog Millhouse
1939
No Score Yet Colorado Sunset
  • Frog
1939
No Score Yet South of the Border
  • Frog
1939
No Score Yet Mexicali Rose
  • Frog
1939
No Score Yet Rovin' Tumbleweeds
  • Frog Milhouse
1939
No Score Yet Under Western Stars
  • Frog Millhouse
1938
No Score Yet Western Jamboree
  • Frog
1938
No Score Yet Rhythm of the Saddle
  • Frog
1938
No Score Yet Prairie Moon
  • Frog
1938
No Score Yet Man from Music Mountain
  • Frog
1938
No Score Yet Hollywood Stadium Mystery
  • Smiley
1938
No Score Yet The Old Barn Dance
  • Frog Milhouse
1938
No Score Yet Billy the Kid Returns
  • Frog Millhouse
1938
No Score Yet Gold Mine in the Sky
  • Frog
1938
No Score Yet Manhattan Merry-Go-Round
  • Frog
1937
No Score Yet Springtime in the Rockies
  • Frog Millhouse
1937
No Score Yet Boots and Saddles
  • Frog Millhouse
1937
No Score Yet Public Cowboy No. 1
  • Frog
1937
No Score Yet Yodelin' Kid from Pine Ridge
  • Colonel Millhouse
1937
No Score Yet Rootin' Tootin' Rhythm
  • Frog Milhouse
1937
No Score Yet Git Along Little Dogies
  • Frog Millhouse
1937
No Score Yet Round-Up Time in Texas
  • Frog
1937
No Score Yet Dick Tracy
  • Mike McGurk
1937
No Score Yet A Man Betrayed
  • Hillbilly
1937
No Score Yet Larceny on the Air
  • Jimmy
1937
No Score Yet Oh, Susanna!
  • Frog Millhouse
1937
No Score Yet The Old Corral
  • Deputy Frog
1936
No Score Yet The Big Show
  • Frog
1936
No Score Yet Ride, Ranger, Ride
  • Frog
1936
No Score Yet Undersea Kingdom
  • '''Briny Deep'''
1936
No Score Yet Comin' Round the Mountain
  • Frog
1936
No Score Yet Doughnuts and Society
  • Mover #2
1936
No Score Yet Man of the Frontier
  • Frog Millhouse
1936
No Score Yet The Cowboy Creed
  • Actor
1936
No Score Yet The Singing Cowboy
  • Frog
1936
No Score Yet Guns and Guitars
  • Frog
1936
No Score Yet Hearts in Bondage
  • Rammer
1936
No Score Yet Betrayed Man
  • Actor
1936
No Score Yet Melody Trail
  • Frog Millhouse
1935
No Score Yet The Phantom Empire
  • Oscar
1935
No Score Yet Sagebrush Troubadour
  • Frog Millhouse
1935
No Score Yet Harmony Lane
  • Singer
1935
No Score Yet Waterfront Lady
  • Musician
1935
No Score Yet The Singing Vagabond
  • Frog
1935
No Score Yet Tumbling Tumbleweeds
  • Smiley
1935
No Score Yet Mystery Mountain
  • mine guard
1934
No Score Yet In Old Santa Fe
  • Accordionist-Singer
1934
No Score Yet The Dude Ranger
  • Actor
1934

Quotes from Smiley Burnette's Characters

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