Monte Hale, a singing cowboy whose tall frame, strong voice and handsome looks led to dozens of film roles in Westerns during the 1940s, died Sunday after a lengthy illness in Studio City, Calif. He was 89.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Hale picked up the guitar as a teen and was discovered as a player at a war bond rally during World War II, according to a press release from the Gene Autry National Center of the American West.
Recommended for a screen test in Hollywood for Republic Pictures, he hitchhiked from Texas to California. He ended up snagging a part in 1944’s “The Big Bonanza,” then signed onto a seven-year contract with Republic.
Hale starred in almost 20 of his own films, including 1946’s “Home On the Range” with Robert Blake and “Out California Way.”
After departing the studio, he appeared in other movies, including 1956’s “Giant” with James Dean and 1966’s “The Chase” with Marlon Brando. He also guest starred on television shows such as “Gunsmoke,” ”Honey West” and “Tales of Wells Fargo.”
Hale and his wife, Joanne, co-founded the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, later renamed the Autry Museum of Western Heritage and now part of the Autry National Center, with the late singing cowboy Gene Autry and his widow, Jackie.
“My husband was the most wonderful, generous, giving, and loving man I have ever known,” Joanne Hale said in a statement. “He was a gentleman to all. He brought laughter, adventure and joy into my life and into everyone’s life that he touched.”
Hale is also survived by a brother, Dick Hale.