George Houston

Active - 1931 - 1942  |   Born - Jan 11, 1896 in Hampton, NJ  |   Died - Nov 14, 1944 in Glendale, CA  |   Genres - Western, Drama

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One of the more surprising entries in the "Singing Cowboy" sweepstakes, heavyset George Houston came from the world of Grand Opera. Having made his professional debut in 1927 as a member of the Rochester American Opera Company, Houston later enjoyed some success with New York's Theatre Guild and as Mephisto in Max Rheinhardt's production of Faust at Hollywood's Pilgrimage Theatre. He began appearing in Hollywood musicals in 1935, but when out of work signed with poverty row newcomer Grand National to play Wild Bill Hickock in Frontier Scout (1938). The little company, alas, already had a singing cowboy with rather more popular appeal in Tex Ritter and Houston was let go. He re-emerged three years later at PRC, Grand National's successor, where producer Sigmund Neufeld cast him opposite popular comedian Al St. John in the Lone Rider series of music Westerns. Houston's rather hefty physique proved somewhat at odds with the material, however, and from the sixth entry on, the studio added a younger co-star in Dennis Moore to handle the more vigorous action and romance. His less-than-heroic appearance notwithstanding, Houston actually proved a fine actor and his powerful operatic bass made the series signature tune, "I'm the Lone Rider" popular with even the small fry. In the long run, Houston's unhappiness with the low wages so typical of PRC caused a rift with the studio and he found himself summarily replaced with the younger Robert Livingston after 11 entries. Returning to the theater, Houston was touring with Oklahoma when he succumbed to a fatal heart attack at the age of 47.

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