Born John Nicholas Foran and the son of a U.S. senator, Foran began his career as Nick Foran, a radio and big band singer. He was Warner Brothers’only singing cowboy and a response to the immediate popularity of Gene Autry; Foran’s Moonlight on the Prairie (1935) was released just two months after Autry’s Tumbling Tumbleweeds. Foran’s films were more directly aimed at the youth audience than the early Autry films, and his image tended to be that of a sentimental and loveable older brother. While Foran’s films, mercifully, were free of the low comedy common to B Westerns; nevertheless, they used the unfortunate and distracting gimmick of puppets to make a point for children. The action in his films came from stock footagefrom old Ken Maynard silents. Foran was probably a better singer and actor than Autry, and the songs in his films were more organic to the plot than Autry’s production numbers tended to be. What is widely considered his best Western came after his days as a singing cowboy—Heart of the North(1938), a fullbudget, near epic feature film. Long after his singing cowboy days, Dick Foran did well-regarded character acting well into the 1960s.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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