Valley Days is an anthology series, of true – albeit heavily dramatized – stories from the American Old West. Focusing primarily on those that took place around the Death Valley region of Southeastern California. It began as a radio program created by Ruth Woodman in 1930, which ran until 1945.
In 1952, Death Valley Days create the leap to television where it is broadcast in syndication in 1970. Giving consideration to the incarnation of the series, Death Valley Days is one of the longest-running Westerns in broadcast history.
Death Valley Days host by several notable individuals, including Dale Robertson and then-future President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. With the death of Robertson in 2013, every former host of the program had sadly passed away. Join us as we take a look back on this influential show. The individuals helm it while taking the time to pay our respects to these late stars. Keep watching to learn how each Death Valley Days host passed away.
Born on the 28th of August, 1891, in the Windy City, Chicago, Illinois. Andrews is familiar with voicing the character Daddy Warbucks on the popular early 20th-century radio program Little Orphan Annie.
He is in the Midwest and when he is a young adult, he develops a love for theater. In his acting career, he works in stock theater, which pushes him to pursue his path in show business.
In 1921, he fell in love with and eventually married his wife, Peg. He and his little lady buy a ranch in Northridge, California, their home for the remainder of their lives.
Stanley landed the role of Daddy Warbucks in 1931 and stuck with it until 1936.
Andrews would next appear in Escape from Devil’s Island in 1935, followed by an appearance in Beau Geste in 1939. He would go on to appear in over 250 feature films, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, State of the Union, It’s a Great Life, and Cry, Terror!
In 1952, Andrews is cast as ‘The Old Ranger’, the host of Death Valley Days. He lands that role, he put his movie and theater acting career on hold to give the show his focus. Of all the individuals to host Death Valley Days, Stanley was arguably the most memorable.
The series would air a total of 452 episodes from 1952 to 1970. Of those, Andrews features in 296. Eventually, however, the sponsor of the program, U.S. Borax, decided that they wanted a younger man to be its host. Andrews replaces by Ronald Reagan in 1963.
Andrews died of natural causes in Los Angeles at the age of 77 on June 23, 1969.
While many people simply think of him as the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan was also a fairly successful Hollywood actor in the mid-20th century. He was born on February 6. 1911, to an impoverished family in Tampico, Illinois. After graduating from Eureka College Reagan started working as a radio sports com mentor in Iowa.
After moving to California in 1937, he found work as an actor and began making appearances in feature films. In 1947, he became the President of the Screen Actors Guild. For the next five years, he used his position of power to root out alleged communists and communist sympathizers in the film industry.
In the 60s, Reagan moved on to a career in TV and became a spokesman for GE. In 1964, he calls in to replace Stanley Andrews as host of Death Valley Days, but he ended up leaving the show to focus on his campaign to become Governor of California.
Rumor has it, starring on the show actually helped Reagan win that election. Regardless of whether that’s true, Death Valley Days would be the last bit of acting work that Reagan would ever do. After serving as California’s governor from 1967 to 1975, Reagan announced in 1979 that he was going to seek the Republican nomination for the 1980 presidential election.
He ended up winning both the nomination and election and proceeded to stay in office for two terms. When he finally left office in 1989, he held an approval rating of 68% – one of the highest ratings for a departing president in modern times.
In 1994, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Even though he had planned to be quite active post-presidency, unfortunately, the debilitating effects of that disease made that goal impractical. His public appearances became rarer and rarer as the disease progressed.
At 93, Reagan died at his home in LA on June 5, 2004. Since his passing, Reagan has been revered as a conservative political icon.
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And don’t go anywhere just yet. Stay put to learn all about the hosts of Death Valley Days that came after Ronald Reagan.
Of all of the people that hosted Death Valley Days, Rosemary’s time presenting the program was the shortest. She took over after Reagan left the series to focus on his political aspirations but was quickly replaced by Robert Taylor in 1966.
DeCamp was born on November 14, 1910, in Prescott, Arizona. At the age of 27, DeCamp took the role of Judy Price on the Dr. Christian radio program. In 1939, she was cast in the syndicated soap opera The Career of Alice Blair.
DeCamp made her film debut in the 1941 drama film Cheers for Miss Bishop. With Warner Brothers she would go on to appear in films like Eyes of Night, Rhapsody in Blue, Nora Prentiss and Jungle Book.
In the early 50s, she would make appearances in musicals like On Moonlight Bay and By The Light of The Silvery Moon.
On television, DeCamp appeared in popular 1950s shows like The Life of Riley, Lux Radio Theater, The Bob Cummings Show and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. In 1961, she guest-starred on an episode of Rawhide. A year later she played the character Gertrude Komack on the ABC medical drama Breaking Point.
In 1965, she hosted Death Valley Days briefly before doing a series of commercials for the laundry product 20 Mule Team Borax.
From 1966 to 1970, DeCamp played the mother of Marlo Thomas’s character on the sitcom That Girl. During that time, she also appeared in a handful of episodes of Petticoat Junction playing Kate Bredley’s sister, Helen.
From 1970 to 1973, DeCamp played Shirley Partridge’s mother on The Partridge Family, and in the 80s, she played the Fairy Godmother on the television series Memoirs of a Fairy Godmother.
DeCamp ended up dying of pneumonia at 90 on February 20, 2001.
Born Spangler Arlington Brugh on the 5th of August, 1911, in the small town of Filley, Nebraska, Taylor joined his campus’ theater after he enrolled in Pomona College in Claremont, California. In 1932, he was noticed by an MGM talent scout and was signed to seven-year contract. The studio then gave him his new stage name. Taylor made his movie debut in the 1934 comedy film Handy Andy.
The following year he was given his first leading role in the film Magnificent Obsession. Throughout the ’30s and ’40s, Taylor’s popularity continued to increase as he enjoyed roles in films like Camille, A Yank At Oxford, Waterloo Bridge, and Bataan.
After serving as a flight instructor in the US Naval Air Forces during World War II, Taylor transitioned to television work. From 1959 to 1962, Taylor starred in the television series The Detectives. In 1966, he was tasked with hosting Death Valley Days after Ronald Reagan had left the program and Rosemary DeCamp briefly filled-in in the interim.
Taylor would remain the series’ host until his death.
In 1968, Taylor had to have a portion of his right lung surgically removed. His doctors assumed that he had contracted a disease known as valley fever, but during the surgery, they discovered that he had lung cancer.
Taylor was a lifelong smoker who reportedly smoked three packs a day since he was a child. He ended up dying of lung cancer on June 8, 1969, at the age of 57 in Santa Monica, California.
Born Dayle Lemoine Robertson on July 14, 1923, and best known for his work on television, this actor ended up being the fourth and final host of Death Valley Days from 1968 to 1970.
Before he became an actor, Robertson fought as a pro boxer. While he was enrolled at the Oklahoma Military Academy, Columbia Pictures offered him a screen test for the lead role in their upcoming film adaptation of Golden Boy. He ended up declining the offer, but after World War II, Robertson went out to Hollywood, where he appeared in an uncredited role in the 1948 film The Boy with Green Hair.
Appears in several films, including feature roles in 1949s Fighting Man of the Plains and 1959s The Cariboo Trail, before landing a seven-year contract with 20th Century Fox.
Later achieve stardom playing Jim Hardie in the TV series Tales of Wells Fargo and Ben Calhoun in Iron Horse.
After hosting Death Valley Days, Robertson would remain active in Hollywood, mostly making guest appearances on TV shows up until the late 80s. In the last several years before his death, Robertson Hosted a radio show called Little Known Facts which was broadcast across the nation on over 400 channels.
Robertson died of lung cancer on February 27, 2013 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California. He was 89.
After Death Valley Days wrapped up in 1970, the series continued to air re-runs with updated narration by country legend Merle Haggard until 1975. While Haggard was never officially a host of the series, his contribution definitely still deserves a mention.
Which host of Death Valley Days do you remember most fondly? And do you think Western anthology series would fair well on television today? Let us know in the comments down below.
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