Born in Athol, Massachusetts, on March 28 1903 (some sources cite 1904 as his year of birth), western actor Charles Starrett hailed from a well-to-do family. Tall and athletic, as a star football player for Dartmouth he got his first taste of acting when he appeared as an extra in the Paramount silent The Quarterback (1926; with Richard Dix), which was partially shot at Dartmouth. Bitten by the acting bug, Starrett did stage work and made his was to Broadway before going to Hollywood in either 1929 or 1930. Put under contract with Paramount, he was cast in a supporting role in Fast and Loose (1930; Miriam Hopkins and Carole Lombard) and followed up in another comedy, The Royal Family of Broadway (1930; with Fredric March and Ina Claire). Paramount put the handsome Starrett in several dramas also, including Silence (1931; with Marjorie Rambeau), Sky Bride (1932; with Richard Arlen), and Lady and Gent (1932; with Wynne Gibson) before the studio dropped his option in 1932. He then drifted from studio to studio for a few years, acting in the MGM horror film The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932; with Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy) and the RKO comedy Our Betters (1933; with Constance Bennett and Gilbert Roland) before sliding into poverty-row productions such as the Monogram adventure Jungle Bride (1933; with Anita Page), Chesterfield's mystery Murder on the Campus (1933; with Edward Van Sloan), and the Canadian-produced western Undercover Men (1934; with Kenne Duncan). Nevertheless, in these low-budget productions Starrett moved from supporting player to star.

Iris Meredith and Charles StarrettCharles Starrett

LEFT: Starrett with his frequent Columbia co-star, Iris Meredith. RIGHT: Columbia promotional photo

Keeping busy as a freelance actor, his fortunes rose with the RKO actioner The Silver Streak (1934; with Sally Blane) and Paramount's drama So Red the Rose (1935; with Margaret Sullavan and Robert Cummings). In 1935, Starrett signed with Columbia, then a small, struggling studio, to supplant Tim McCoy as Columbia's top western star. His first film for the studio was the quickie Gallant Defender (1935). Of course, western fans know Starrett best in the role of the Durango Kid first featured in Columbia's The Durango Kid (1940), Starrett's debut as the masked Robin Hood of the west. In 1945, the studio finally kicked off a series of 'Durango Kid' westerns which proved highly popular, as did Starrett's new comic sidekick, Smiley Burnette, who came onboard in 1946. As Starrett moved into middle age, the studio also picked up Jock Mahoney as a stuntman and supporting player. Fantastically popular with audiences, Columbia kept Starrett under contract until 1952, starring in more than 130 pictures in all and sometimes acting in ten films a year.

the films of charles starrett

The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)

Boris Karloff and Charles Starrett

Boris Karloff begins to torture Charles Starrett in MGM's horror flick The Mask of Fu Manchu

Murder on the Campus (1933)

Charles Starrett, Shirley Grey, and J. Farrell MacDonald

Starrett tries to clear girlfriend Shirley Grey's name in a series of murders in Chesterfield's entertaining back-lot mystery Murder on the Campus. Also pictured is J. Farrell MacDonald

Westbound Mail (1937)

Charles Starrett and Edward KeaneCharles Starrett and Arthur Stone

From Columbia's short feature Westbound Mail. LEFT: Starrett roughs up Edward Keane. RIGHT: With Arthur Stone

Outlaws of the Panhandle (1941)

Charles StarrettCharles Starrett

Charles Starrett takes matters into his own hands to defeat cattle rustlers in Outlaws of the Panhandle

Riding Through Nevada (1942)

Shirley Patterson and Charles Starrett

With Shirley Patterson in Riding Through Nevada

The Fighting Buckaroo (1943)

Kay Harris, Stanley Brown, and Charles Starrett

ALong with Kay Harris, Charles Starrett helps Stanley Brown defeat cattle rustlers in The Fighting Buckaroos

Cowboy from Lonesome River (1944)

Kenneth MacDonald, Frank LaRue, Charles Starrett, and Vi Athens

With Kenneth MacDonald, Frank LaRue, and Vi Athens in Columbia's Cowboy from Lonesome River

Blazing the Western Trail (1945)

Tex Harding, Charles Starrett, and Carole Mathews

Lobby card from the Columbia western Blazing the Western Trail, an early entry in the Durango Kid series. Pictured along with Starrett are Tex Harding and Carole Mathews

Landrush (1946)

George Hoey, Charles Starrett, and Smiley Burnette

With George Hoey and comic relief Smiley Burnette in the Durango Kid entry Landrush

Blazing Across the Pecos (1948)

Thomas Jackson and Charles Starrett

With Thomas Jackson in Columbia's Blazing Across the Pecos

Pecos River (1951)

Delores Sidener, Jock Mahoney, and Charles Starrett

With Delores Sidener and Jock Mahoney in Pecos River

Snake River Desperadoes (1951)

Charles Starrett

Starrett dons his Durango Kid mask in Snake River Desperadoes

The Rough, Tough West (1952)

Jock Mahoney and Charles StarrettCharles Starrett, Carolina Cotton, and Jock MahoneyTommy Ivo, Smiley Burnette, and Charles Starrett

From Columbia's Durango Kid western The Rough, Tough West. LEFT: With Jock Mahoney. CENTER: With Carolina Cotton and Jock Mahoney. RIGHT: With Tommy Ivo and Smiley Burnette

Smoky Canyon (1952)

Charles Starrett and Danny Sue Nolan

Danny Sue Nolan pulls a gun on Charles Starrett in Smoky Canyon

later years

With television horning in on B movie western audiences, Columbia finally pulled the plug on the 'Durango Kid' film series with the lensing of The Kid From Broken Gun (1952; with Smiley Burnette and Jock Mahoney). Nearly 50 years old, Starrett retired from the screen to tend to his business interests. He passed away on March 22, 1986, just a few days before his 83rd birthday. He was survived by his wife and two children.

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The Kid From Broken Gun (1952) with Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney, Angela Stevens, and Myron Healey
Junction City (1952) with Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney, Kathleen Case, and John Dehner
The Rough, Tough West (1952) with Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney, Carolina Cotton, and Pee Wee King
Laramie Mountains (1952) with Smiley Burnette and Jock Mahoney
The Hawk of Wild River (1952) with Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney, and Clayton Moore
Smoky Canyon (1952) with Smiley Burnette and Jock Mahoney
Pecos River (1951) with Smiley Burnette and Jock Mahoney
The Kid from Amarillo (1951) with Smiley Burnette, Harry Lauter, and Don Megowan
Cyclone Fury (1951) with Clayton Moore and Smiley Burnette
Bonanza Town (1951) with Myron Healey and Smiley Burnette
Snake River Desperadoes (1951) with Tommy Ivo, Monte Blue, and Smiley Burnette
Fort Savage Raiders (1951) with Smiley Burnette, John Dehner, and Frank Griffin
Ridin' the Outlaw Trail (1951) with Smiley Burnette and Pee Wee King
Prairie Roundup (1951) with Smiley Burnette
Lightning Guns (1950) with Smiley Burnette, Gloria Henry, Jock Mahoney, and Frank Griffin
Frontier Outpost (1950) with Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney, and Bud Osborne
Raiders of Tomahawk Creek (1950) with Smiley Burnette
Across the Badlands (1950) with Smiley Burnette
Streets of Ghost Town (1950) with Smiley Burnette
Texas Dynamo (1950) with Smiley Burnette, Lois Hall, Jock Mahoney, John Dehner, and Emil Sitka
Outcasts of Black Mesa (1950) with Smiley Burnette and Martha Hyer
Trail of the Rustlers (1950) with Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis, and Tommy Ivo
Renegades of the Sage (1949) with Smiley Burnette and Jock Mahoney
Horsemen of the Sierras (1949) with Smiley Burnette, Lois Hall, Tommy Ivo, John Dehner, Jason Robards Sr., and Jock Mahoney
Bandits of El Dorado (1949) with John Dehner, Clayton Moore, and Smiley Burnette
South of Death Valley (1949) with Gail Davis, Clayton Moore, and Smiley Burnette
The Blazing Trail (1949) with Smiley Burnette and Jock Mahoney
Laramie (1949) with Tommy Ivo and Smiley Burnette
Desert Vigilante (1949) with Peggy Stewart and Smiley Burnette
Challenge of the Range (1949) with Smiley Burnette, Paula Raymond, and Billy Halop
Quick on the Trigger (1948) with Smiley Burnette, Lyle Talbot, and Helen Parrish
El Dorado Pass (1948) with Smiley Burnette and Elena Verdugo
Trail to Laredo (1948) with Tommy Ivo and Smiley Burnette
Blazing Across the Pecos (1948) with Patricia Barry and Smiley Burnette
Whirlwind Raiders (1948) with Smiley Burnette
West of Sonora (1948) with Smiley Burnette
Phantom Valley (1948) with Smiley Burnette
Six-Gun Law (1948) with Smiley Burnette
Last Days of Boot Hill (1947) with Smiley Burnette
Buckaroo from Powder River (1947) with Smiley Burnette
Riders of the Lone Star (1947) with Smiley Burnette
The Stranger from Ponca City (1947) with Smiley Burnette and Jock Mahoney
Prairie Raiders (1947) with Smiley Burnette
Law of the Canyon (1947) with Smiley Burnette
West of Dodge City (1947) with Smiley Burnette
The Lone Hand Texan (1947) with Smiley Burnette
South of the Chisholm Trail (1947) with Smiley Burnette
The Fighting Frontiersman (1946) with Smiley Burnette
Terror Trail (1946) with Smiley Burnette and Barbara Pepper
Landrush (1946) with Smiley Burnette
Heading West (1946) with Smiley Burnette
The Desert Horseman (1946) with Smiley Burnette
Two-Fisted Stranger (1946) with Smiley Burnette
Galloping Thunder (1946) with Smiley Burnette
Gunning for Vengeance (1946) with Smiley Burnette
Roaring Rangers (1946) with Smiley Burnette
Frontier Gunlaw (1946) with Dub Taylor
Texas Panhandle (1945) with Dub Taylor and Carolina Cotton
Lawless Empire (1945) with Dub Taylor
Outlaws of the Rockies (1945) with Dub Taylor, Carole Mathews, and Carolina Cotton
Blazing the Western Trail (1945) with Dub Taylor and Carole Mathews
Rustlers of the Badlands (1945) with Dub Taylor
Both Barrels Blazing (1945) with Dub Taylor
The Return of the Durango Kid (1945)
Rough Ridin' Justice (1945) with Dub Taylor
Sagebrush Heroes (1945) with Dub Taylor
Saddle Leather Law (1944) with Dub Taylor and Lloyd Bridges
Cyclone Prairie Rangers (1944) with Dub Taylor
Cowboy from Lonesome River (1944) with Dub Taylor
Riding West (1944) with Shirley Patterson, Arthur Hunnicutt, and Ernest Tubb
Sundown Valley (1944) with Dub Taylor and Jeanne Bates
Cowboy Canteen (1944) with Jane Frazee, Vera Vague, Tex Ritter, Max Terhune, Dub Taylor, and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
Cowboy in the Clouds (1943) with Dub Taylor
Hail to the Rangers (1943) with Arthur Hunnicutt and Lloyd Bridges
Robin Hood of the Range (1943) with Arthur Hunnicutt and Bud Osborne
Frontier Fury (1943) with Arthur Hunnicutt
Law of the Northwest (1943) with Shirley Patterson and Arthur Hunnicutt
The Fighting Buckaroo (1943) with Arthur Hunnicutt and Ernest Tubb
Pardon My Gun (1942) with Arthur Hunnicutt
Riding Through Nevada (1942) with Shirley Patterson, Arthur Hunnicutt, and Minerva Urecal
Overland to Deadwood (1942) with Russell Hayden
Bad Men of the Hills (1942) with Russell Hayden
Riders of the Northland (1942) with Russell Hayden, Shirley Patterson, and Lloyd Bridges
Down Rio Grande Way (1942) with Russell Hayden
Lawless Plainsmen (1942) with Russell Hayden
West of Tombstone (1942) with Russell Hayden
Riders of the Badlands (1941) with Russell Hayden
The Royal Mounted Patrol (1941) with Russell Hayden, Wanda McKay, Donald Curtis, Lloyd Bridges, and Kermit Maynard
Prairie Stranger (1941) with Cliff Edwards
Thunder Over the Prairie (1941) with Cliff Edwards and Donald Curtis
The Medico of Painted Springs (1941) with Bud Osborne
Outlaws of the Panhandle (1941) with Bud Osborne
The Pinto Kid (1941)
Thundering Frontier (1940) with Iris Meredith
West of Abilene (1940) with Bruce Bennett, Don Beddoe, and Bud Osborne
The Durango Kid (1940)
Texas Stagecoach (1940) with Iris Meredith and Don Beddoe
Blazing Six Shooters (1940) with Iris Meredith and Bruce Bennett
Bullets for Rustlers (1940) with Lorna Gray
Two-Fisted Rangers (1939) with Iris Meredith
The Stranger from Texas (1939) with Lorna Gray
Outpost of the Mounties (1939) with Iris Meredith
Riders of Black River (1939) with Iris Meredith
The Man From Sundown (1939) with Iris Meredith
Western Caravans (1939) with Iris Meredith
Spoilers of the Range (1939) with Iris Meredith
North of the Yukon (1939) with Dorothy Comingore and Kenne Duncan
Texas Stampede (1939) with Iris Meredith
The Thundering West (1939) with Iris Meredith
Rio Grande (1938) with Ann Doran
West of the Santa Fe (1938) with Iris Meredith and Bud Osborne
The Colorado Trail (1938) with Iris Meredith
South of Arizona (1938) with Iris Meredith
West of Cheyenne (1938) with Iris Meredith
Law of the Plains (1938) with Iris Meredith
Call of the Rockies (1938) with Iris Meredith and Glenn Strange
Start Cheering (1938) with Jimmy Durante, The Three Stooges, and Broderick Crawford
Cattle Raiders (1938) with Iris Meredith
Outlaws of the Prairie (1937) with Iris Meredith
The Old Wyoming Trail (1937)
One Man Justice (1937)
Two Fisted Sheriff (1937)
Two Gun Law (1937) with Charles Middleton
Trapped (1937)
Westbound Mail (1937)
Dodge City Trail (1936)
Stampede (1936)
The Cowboy Star (1936) with Iris Meredith
Along Came Love (1936) with Irene Hervey, Doris Kenyon, and H.B. Warner
Code of the Range (1936)
Secret Patrol (1936) with J.P. McGowan
The Mysterious Avenger (1936) with Jon Hall and Roy Rogers
Gallant Defender (1935)
So Red the Rose (1935) with Margaret Sullavan, Robert Cummings, Johnny Downs, Randolph Scott, and Dickie Moore
Make a Million (1935)
What Price Crime? (1935) with Virginia Cherrill
One in a Million (1935) with Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
One New York Night (1935) with Franchot Tone, Una Merkel, and Conrad Nagel
A Shot in the Dark (1935) with Edward Van Sloan
Sons of Steel (1934) with Polly Ann Young and Aileen Pringle
Undercover Men (1934) with Kenne Duncan
The Silver Streak (1934) with Sally Blane, Arthur Lake, and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
Gentlemen Are Born (1934) with Franchot Tone, Jean Muir, Margaret Lindsay, Ann Dvorak, Ross Alexander, and Dick Foran
Desirable (1934) with Jean Muir and George Brent
Call It Luck (1934)
Green Eyes (1934)
Three on a Honeymoon (1934) with Sally Eilers, Zasu Pitts, Irene Hervey, and Johnny Mack Brown
Stolen Sweets (1934) with Sally Blane and Polly Ann Young
This Man Is Mine (1934) with Irene Dunne and Ralph Bellamy
Mr. Skitch (1933) with Will Rogers, Rochelle Hudson, Zasu Pitts, and Eugene Pallette
Murder on the Campus (1933) with Shirley Grey, Dewey Robinson, and Edward Van Sloan
Sweetheart of Sigma Chi (1933) with Buster Crabbe, Grady Sutton, and Leif Erickson
The Return of Casey Jones (1933) with Gabby Hayes
Our Betters (1933) with Constance Bennett, Anita Louise, Gilbert Roland, and Alan Mowbray
Jungle Bride (1933) with Anita Page
The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) with Boris Karloff, Lewis Stone, Myrna Loy, and Jean Hersholt
Lady and Gent (1932) with Wynne Gibson, James Gleason, John Wayne, and Joyce Compton
Sky Bride (1932) with Richard Arlen, Jack Oakie, and Virginia Bruce
Touchdown (1931) with Richard Arlen, Jack Oakie, and Regis Toomey
The Age for Love (1931) with Billie Dove and Edward Everett Horton
Silence (1931) with Clive Brook and Marjorie Rambeau
The Viking (1931)
Damaged Love (1931) with June Collyer
The Royal Family of Broadway (1930) with Ina Claire, Fredric March, and Frank Conroy
Fast and Loose (1930) with Miriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard, Frank Morgan, and Ilka Chase
The Quarterback (1926) with Richard Dix

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Watch Charles Starrett's 1933 mystery Murder on the Campus

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