Roland Charles Meyers
June 16, 1911
Granite City, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||October 22, 1964 (aged 53)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Sunset Hill Cemetery, Glen Carbon, Illinois|
|Spouse(s)||Monica H. Heberlie Meyers (m. 1938–1964) (his death)|
He was one of eight children. Wilson had been a moderately successful singer before coming to Hollywood. Following Buck Jones's death in the famous Cocoanut Grove fire of 1942, which claimed the lives of 492 people, Monogram Pictures had been searching for someone to replace him. Producer Scott R. Dunlap saw Meyers, and thought he looked similar to Jones. This, apparently, was enough to build him into a cowboy star. Because of the fame being generated by Lash LaRue, who used a bullwhip in his movies, Monogram decided to make Meyers a similar whip-wielding character, renaming him Whip Wilson.
Wilson was a goodlooking man. When he first moved to Hollywood to pursue an acting career, producers built him up with a lot of press, but it would not be enough to take him to the height of major stardom. He did star in 22 B-westerns, more than Lash LaRue, Sunset Carson, Monte Hale, Rex Allen, or Eddie Dean.
Monogram Pictures introduced Wilson to the public this way: "He was born on a fabulous ranch in Pecos, Texas, was a rodeo champion, has an engineering degree, is a direct descendant of General Custer, and he was a World War II Marine hero, and he does his own movie stunts." None of these claims was true. In fact, he had not even one shred of experience that could possibly resemble the fictional persona that Monogram created for him. He was one of the very few western film heroes of the day who was not a "cowboy" in real life. Most had at least some experience as genuine cowboys or cowgirls, and fit the part. Many had also actually served during World War II.
His first film was alongside Monogram's singing cowboy Jimmy Wakely in the 1948 film Silver Trails, to give him experience in front of the camera. The next year Wilson starred in his own series films, the first being Crashin Thru, followed by Haunted Trails, Range Land and Riders of the Dusk. He first was given a horse named "Silver Bullet", later shortened to "Bullet", then changed to "Rocket" due to Roy Rogers having a dog in his films named "Bullet."
Wilson may have come along too late to establish himself as a major star; studios were already phasing out low-budget westerns. Veteran comedian Andy Clyde was a valuable asset as co-star, but the series got little attention. After 12 films, Clyde left the cast, replaced by Fuzzy Knight and later by Jim Bannon. In 1950 Wilson starred in Gunslingers, Arizona Territory, Cherokee Uprising, Fence Riders, and Outlaws of Texas. In 1951 his character continued in Lawless Cowboys, Stage to Blue River, Canyon Raiders, and Abilene Trail.
There was nothing novel or original about Wilson to distinguish himself from other cowboy stars. The name of his horse, the bullwhip gimmick, and the false past created by the producers were all derivative. Wilson's career never really took off, and by 1952 his Hollywood career was all but over, with him starring in Night Raiders, with his last film being that same year, titled Wyoming Roundup. He was hired to do the whip scenes in the Burt Lancaster film The Kentuckian. It would be the last film he would work on. He did appear as a guest on TV's You Asked for It, giving a bullwhip demonstration.
He married three times, and lived his last years with his third wife managing an apartment complex in Hollywood. On October 22, 1964, Wilson suffered a heart attack, and died at the age of 53.
Wilson made little impact on the western film industry, although three issues of a Whip Wilson comic book series were published. Many of his co-stars, in later years, indicated they never really appreciated his work, but they did appreciate his kind demeanor and his character.
Years after his death, his widow, Monica Wilson, stated; "He was handsome, intelligent, had a beautiful personality, a sense of humor, a good lover and a wonderful husband. Our love was proven love. We were asked many times in Hollywood how we stayed together. Our answer was true love will survive."
Sixteen of his films are available on DVD today.