- (1905–1974)Born Woodward Maurice Ritter near Murvaul, Texas, Ritter sang the Academy Award–winning theme song for High Noon (1952). Ritter also performed it live at the 1993 Academy of Motion Picture’s presentation, where it won best song. More important than the Oscar, however, was the innovative use to which composer Dimitri Tiomkin put the song within the soundtrack of the film. Instead of using conventional music background for the lengthy nondialogue passages, Tiomkin repeated the rhythms and lyrics from the song to heighten the tension as Sheriff Kane walked the streets searching desperately for someone to help him save the town. As a result of Ritter’s success with this theme song, he was called upon for more theme songs in The Marshal’s Daughter(1953), Wichita (1955), and Trooper Hook (1957).Prior to his success with the High Noon theme song, from 1936 to 1945 Tex Ritter developed a career as singing cowboy in a string of low-budget Westerns for Grand National, Monogram, Universal, and PRC. He differed from other singing cowboys, especially Gene Autry, due to his slow Texas drawl and the fact that his songs were traditional folk songs, or were written by himself in the folk style, as opposed to the smooth modern Western style favored by Autry. As with other singing cowboy stars, though, Ritter received the most critical acclaim for a film with very little music, The Man from Texas(1939). And while throughout the late 1930s Ritter ranked high in Motion Picture Herald’s poll of top box-office draws for some of his singing cowboy movies, the films that still matter are a series of Columbia pictures in which he costarred with Wild Bill Elliott, films such as King of Dodge City (1941). In these pictures, Ritter played a variety of roles instead of merely playing the role of cowboy singer who happens to be involved in a plot.For the last 30 years of his life, Ritter devoted himself entirely to a career as a country western singer.
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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