Classic Video Showplace

CLASSIC VIDEO SHOWPLACE: “Robert Livingston & The Three Mesquiteers”

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 For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

 Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.

Robert Livingston (born Robert Edward Randall) may not be a household name today when you think of classic motion pictures but he carved out a star-studded career for himself in some of cinemas’ most iconic roles and popular film series in the 1930s and 1940s.

Billed in these films as Bob Livingston, he was one of the original members of “The Three Mesquiteers” and starred in a whopping 27 movies as “Stony Brook,” starting with the first movie in 1936.

The films would focus on a trio of friends/cowboys–true to each other a la Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers.” They would participate in various “western-themed” adventures–always triumphant in the end. Their name was a combination of the “musketeers” and mesquite, a popular plant found in the western part of the United States.

In 1938’s “Outlaws of Sonora,” the trio’s loyalty is put to the test as a villain, who looks similar to one of the heroes, goes on a crime wave and it’s up to the Mesquiteers to discover the truth, vindicate their friend and stop the bad guys.

In “Hit The Saddle” (which featured a very young Rita Hayworth, nine years before her turn as “Gilda”), the protagonists seek vengeance for the wrongful death of a young boy’s father but a love interest adds complexity to their battle for justice. 

Most of their movies followed similar plot lines, with the cowboys pitted against criminals and outlaws from the old west.  However, after the United States entered World War II, the Mesquiteers would also fight Nazis in a few of their adventures.

The films were very popular throughout the series’ run that lasted until 1943.  The Motion Picture Herald records that these films were consistently ranked in the top 10 westerns of each year, even after Livingston left the franchise.

Livingston’s last role as Stony Brook was in the 1941 movie “Saddlemates,” but he also starred as the titular character in other famous western characters like Don Diego / Zorro and “The Lone Ranger,” before, during and after his run with “The Three Mesquite” film series.

In all, the Quincy, Illinois native would appear in 136 total movies in a career that began as a silent film actor in 1921. Livingston would end up appearing in over half of the 51 “Mesquiteers” films.

His final acting role was in the 1975 comedy “Blazing Stewardesses” — a film that made references to and tried to build on the success of Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” that came out the year prior.  The original intent of the “Stewardesses” picture was to pay homage to the “B Film Westerns” that Livingston had made so popular in the 1930s and ’40s.

You can see a marathon of films (including all the ones listed in today’s blog) starring Livingston’s Stony Brooks character, starting with 1938’s “The Purple Vigilantes” on Monday, August 3rd starting at 9 a.m. on RCN TV.

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.