Buck Jones was one of the greatest B-western motion picture stars of the 1920s, '30s and '40s. He was known for his daring feats, on screen and off — he was a cowboy and solider in his youth, an early-day aviator with the U.S. government, a test driver for race cars, as well as one of the most popular stars of film’s wide-open spaces.
Jones was born Charles Frederick Gebhart in Vincennes, Ind. He grew up on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch in Oklahoma and served with the U.S. Army on the Mexican border and in the Philippines.
Before he entered the movies, Jones was with the Miller 101 Wild West Show. He met Odelle Osborne, a Philadelphia equestrian, while appearing at Madison Square Garden and they later married. They made various tours, including one with the Ringling Bros. Circus, which brought them to California in 1917.
Jones was picked for the movies by an assistant director outside Universal Studios, and began as a $5-a-day extra in western pictures.
He doubled originally for stars William S. Hart, Tom Mix and William Farnum and later became the runner-up for Mix as a luminary at the old Fox studio. He was known as Charles Jones before they settled on the more colloquial handle, Buck, which would last through his career in film.
For 20 years he averaged eight pictures annually, and his white horse Silver was a partner in his success. In the 1930s he was under contract with Columbia Pictures, and he dominated the list of 10-besters among moneymaking western stars for a long period, only to be replaced when Gene Autry as a singing cowboy came to the fore.
Members of the Buck Jones Rangers Club, made up of young male fans, were estimated to total 5,000,000.
He died in the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in Boston on Nov. 28, 1942, which killed almost 500 people and was one of the deadliest single-building fires in American history.