His most enduring image is that of the tall-in-the-saddle Western hero. Out of his more than 100 film appearances over 60 were in Westerns.
The Far Call
The Black Watch
Women Men Marry
A Successful Calamity
Heritage of the Desert
Wild Horse Mesa
The Thundering Herd
Murders in the Zoo
Man of the Forest
To the Last Man
The Last Round-Up
Home on the Range
Rocky Mountain Mystery
So Red the Rose
Follow the Fleet
And Sudden Death
The Last of the Mohicans
Go West, Young Man
High, Wide, and Handsome
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
The Road to Reno
Susannah of the Mounties
20,000 Men a Year
When the Daltons Rode
To the Shores of Tripoli
Follow the Boys
Belle of the Yukon
Home, Sweet Homicide
Return of the Bad Men
The Walking Hills
The Doolins of Oklahoma
Fighting Man of the Plains
The Cariboo Trail
Man in the Saddle
The Man Behind the Gun
The Stranger Wore a Gun
Thunder Over the Plains
The Bounty Hunter
Ten Wanted Men
Rage at Dawn
Tall Man Riding
A Lawless Street
Seven Men from Now
The Tall T
Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend
Decision at Sundown
Buchanan Rides Alone
Randolph Scott was never nominated for an Academy Award.
[about Westerns] They have been the mainstay of the industry ever since its beginning. And they have been good to me. Westerns are a type of picture which everybody can see and enjoy. Westerns always make money. And they always increase a star’s fan following. ~ Randolph Scott
George Randolph Scott was born on January 23, 1898 in Orange County, Virginia, but raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, the second of six children. His father was George Grant Scott, born in Franklin, Virginia, an administrative engineer in a textile firm. His mother was Lucille Crane Scott, born in Luray, Virginia, a member of a wealthy North Carolina family.
Because of his family’s financial status, young Randolph was able to attend private schools. From an early age, Scott developed and displayed an athletic trait, excelling in football, baseball, horse racing, and swimming.
In April 1917, the United States entered World War I and shortly afterwards, Scott, then 19 years old, joined the United States Army. He served in France as an artillery observer with the 2nd Trench Mortar Battalion, 19th Field Artillery Regiment. His wartime experience gave him training that was put to use in his later film career, including horsemanship and the use of firearms
After the Armistice brought World War I to an end, Scott stayed in France and enrolled in an artillery officers’ school. Although he eventually received a commission, Scott decided to return to America in 1919.
With his military career over, Scott continued his education at Georgia Tech where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order and set his sights on becoming an all-American football player. However, a back injury prevented him from achieving this goal. Scott then transferred to the University of North Carolina, where he majored in textile engineering and manufacturing. As with his military career, however, he eventually dropped out of college and went to work as an accountant in the textile firm where his father was employed
In 1927, Scott developed an interest in acting and decided to make his way to Los Angeles and seek a career in the motion picture industry. Fortunately, Scott’s father had become acquainted with Howard Hughes and provided a letter of introduction for his son to present to the eccentric millionaire filmmaker. Hughes responded by getting Scott a small part in a George O’Brien film called Sharp Shooters (1928). Despite its title and the presence of O’Brien, Sharp Shooters is not a western, as some film historians claimed. Rather, it’s a romantic comedy. A print of the film survives in the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
For the next few years, Scott continued working as an extra and bit player in several films, including Weary River (1929) with Richard Barthelmess, The Far Call (1929), The Black Watch (1929) (directed by John Ford with John Wayne also uncredited) and The Virginian (1929) with Gary Cooper.
Scott was also uncredited on Dynamite (1929) directed by Cecil B. De Mille and Born Reckless (1930).
On the advice of director Cecil B. DeMille, Scott gained much-needed acting experience by performing in stage plays with the Pasadena Playhouse.
In 1931 Scott played his first leading role (with Sally Blane) in Women Men Marry (1931), a film, now apparently lost, that was made by a Poverty Row studio called Headline Pictures.
He followed that movie with a supporting part in a Warner Bros. production starring George Arliss, A Successful Calamity (1932).
In 1932 Scott appeared in a play at the Vine Street Theatre in Hollywood entitled Under a Virginia Moon. His performance in this play resulted in several offers for screen tests by the major movie studios. Scott eventually signed a seven-year contract with Paramount Pictures at a salary of US$400 per week.
Scott’s first role under his new Paramount contract was a small supporting part in a comedy called Sky Bride (1932) starring Richard Arlen and Jack Oakie.
Following that, however, Paramount cast him as the lead in Heritage of the Desert (1932), his first significant starring role and also the one that established him as a Western hero. As with Women Men Marry, Sally Blane was his leading lady. The film was popular, and Scott would go on to make ten “B” Western films loosely based on the novels of Zane Grey.
The Zane Grey series were a boon for Scott, as they provided him with an excellent training ground for both action and acting.
In between his work in the Zane Grey Western series, Paramount cast Scott in several non-Western roles, such as “the other man” in Hot Saturday (1932), with Nancy Carroll and Cary Grant.
Scott returned to Zane Grey Westerns with Wild Horse Mesa (1932), then was the romantic male lead in Hello, Everybody! (1933), an odd one-shot attempt to make a film star out of the popular but heavy-set radio singer Kate Smith.
The Thundering Herd (1933) was another Zane Grey Western. Then he was in two horror movies, Murders in the Zoo (1933) with Lionel Atwill and Supernatural (1933) with Carole Lombard.
After the Western Sunset Pass (1933), Paramount loaned Scott to Columbia, to play Bebe Daniels’ love interest in a minor romantic comedy called Cocktail Hour (1933).
Back at Paramount Scott did the Westerns Man of the Forest (1933) and To the Last Man (1933), both with Hathaway from Grey novels. He was loaned to Monogram Pictures for Broken Dreams (1933) then was back with Hathaway for The Last Round-Up (1934).
Scott did three more Zane Grey Westerns, Wagon Wheels (1934) directed by Charles Barton, Home on the Range (1935) from Arthur Jacobson, and Rocky Mountain Mystery (1935) with Barton.
RKO liked Scott and kept him on for Village Tale (1935), directed by John Cromwell, and She (1935), an adaptation of the classic novel by H. Rider Haggard from the makers of King Kong.