Most western action film heroes begin and end their career in the saddle. Not so for cowboy idol Allan “Rocky” Lane, who started as a leading man in major studio dramas, only to segue into “B” serials and sagebrush sagas in later life. The Indiana native was born in 1909 (some sources claim 1904). His attentions, however, veered toward the theater and he left school to join a Cincinnati stock company. He toured with “Hit the Deck” to New York City and continued there in various other theater projects. A Fox talent scout discovered Lane in 1929 and he left New York for Hollywood. Making his debut with “Not Quite Decent” (1929), he had trouble rising in stature, however, and left Hollywood in 1932, giving it a second try a few years later. His second attempt saw him enjoying second lead roles in good quality “B” films, throughout the late 30s, including “Stowaway”(1936), with little Shirley Temple, “Maid’s Night Out”(1938) with Joan Fontaine, and “Twelve Crowded Hours” (1939), co-starring Lucille Ball. Searching for better roles, he signed with Republic in 1940 and, after struggling a bit in his initial films, he hit pay dirt after teaming with Linda Stirling, in the popular serial “The Tiger Woman”(1944). His own serials as steadfast Mountie Dave King, proved popular and, around this time, he started gaining added attention as a photogenic and very personable cowboy star. With his trusty steed “Blackjack,” Lane managed to churn out a bucketful of oaters every year (beginning with “Silver City Kid”(1944), for nearly a decade, trading blows with the bad guys and seeing justice prevail. Following this chapter of his career, he left films and toured with circuses and rodeo shows until the TV series “Red Ryder” (1956), came his way. He may be better remembered these days not for his dashing good looks and saddle appeal on film, but, to ongoing generations, as the off-camera voice for the talking horse “Mister Ed” (1961-1966) in the classic 60s sitcom of the same name. Lane retired shortly thereafter and died on October 27, 1973 after a six-week bout with cancer.
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