The Three Mesquiteers is the umbrella title for a series of 51 Western B-movies released between 1936 and 1943, including 8 films starring John Wayne. The name was a play on mesquite and The Three Musketeers, and each film featured a trio of stars.
The series blended the traditional Western period with more modern elements, which was not unknown with other B-Western films and serials. Towards the end of the series, during World War II, the trio of cowboys were opposing Nazis.
The cast list varied but always focused on a trio of cowboys. The members of this trio over the entire series were:
- Ralph Byrd as Larry Smith (1 film, replacing an injured Bob Livingston during shooting)
- Ray "Crash" Corrigan as Tucson Smith (24 films)
- Rufe Davis as Lullaby Joslin (14 films)
- Jimmie Dodd as Lullaby Joslin (6 films)
- Bob Livingston as Stony Brooke (29 films)
- Raymond Hatton as Rusty Joslin (9 films)
- Duncan Renaldo as Rico Rinaldo (7 films)
- Syd Saylor as Lullaby Joslin (1 film)
- Bob Steele as Tucson Smith (20 films)
- Max Terhune as Lullaby Joslin (21 films)
- Tom Tyler as Stony Brooke (13 films)
- John Wayne as Stony Brooke (8 films)
Stars in supporting roles at various times included:
The Three Mesquiteers series was extremely popular at the time of its release. The series was the only one of its kind to be specifically named and ranked in contemporary polls of the top western film stars. For example, from 1937 to the end of the series in 1943, The Motion Picture Herald consistently ranked the series in its top ten, reaching a peak of 5th place in 1938, when a pre-Stagecoach John Wayne was the series lead.
The success of the series led to many imitators at other studios. The first was The Range Busters (1940–43) from Monogram Pictures which starred original Mesquiteer Ray "Crash" Corrigan as the character "Crash" Corrigan. Monogram also released The Rough Riders (1941–42), again poaching a Mesquiteer in the form of Raymond Hatton, and The Trail Blazers (1943–44). Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) produced two similar series, The Texas Rangers (1942–45) and The Frontier Marshals (1942).
Republic Pictures produced 51 films in the Three Mesquiteers series between 1936 and 1943: