Friday, May 31, 2019

The Adventures of Bill and Bob

Before he was known as Bob Steele the prolific Western cowboy star had his first screen experience at the age of 14 in the Pathe production of The Adventures of Bill and Bob, a series of film shorts. In these mini-adventures the young brothers, joined by their loyal dog Rags, explore and enjoy the wilderness, tracking and trapping animals. Each short was directed by their father Robert North Bradbury.

There was a series of 16 film shorts featuring Bill and Bob and while they are certainly not on the level of the Our Gang comedies, their shorts are brief in length and somewhat addicting the more you watch them. Having reviewed half of the shorts the other day I found Capturing a Canadian Lynx addicting in that the brothers convince a local zoo keeper that they could capture one for the zoo in return for a small fee. In the process, the boys impressed their neighbor, Ina May.

Sadly, these film shorts fell into obscurity but Bob Bradbury Jr. certainly did not. He continued to play juvenile roles in silent films until 1927 when he changed his name to Bob Steele for The Mojave Kid. From there he appeared in scores of films during the thirties, rising to B-western stardom at Supreme Pictures, later a solid position at Republic before the popularity of Roy Rogers. 

Bob Steele played supporting roles after his career as a screen cowboy and film buffs often spot him playing small roles (sometimes as a barfly on TV westerns such as Maverick and Cheyenne), and in such classics as The Big Sleep (1946) and Shenandoah (1965). Desperate for money he accepted the role of Trooper Duffy in F-Troop in 1965, but it is his westerns at Supreme Pictures that have popped up on numerous public domain labels that have created a minor resurgence among cinephiles.

With years of product releases behind them, Jack Hardy of Grapevine Video acquired the material from seven whole film shorts (ranging from 12 to 15 minutes each) and one fragment (about four minutes), providing us with an opportunity to once again enjoy watching these rare films. The primary transfers were completed before they launched a Kickstarter early in the year. While the fundraiser never truly met the $2,000 they hoped for (which would have given them the extra funds to pay a musician to create a special music score for these), the company did raise enough to produce a finished product on both DVD and Blu-Ray. 

The films are now available on their website, www.grapevinevideo.com so if you are inclined to help support the company and their continued endeavors, check out their site and consider purchasing The Adventures of Bill and Bob.

A direct link to the DVD to purchase can be found here: https://www.grapevinevideo.com/bill-and-bob-shorts.html

This September three of the shorts will be screened at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, with permission from the good folks at Grapevine, so you can preview a sampling on the big screen in the movie room should you be tempted to buy the DVD later this year.

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