Herbert J. Yates

Herbert John Yates (August 24, 1880 – February 3, 1966) was the founder and president of Republic Pictures, who had western stars John Wayne, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers under contract. Between the years 1935 and 1959, Republic, under Yates' leadership, made 956 feature films and 849 movie serial chapters, some of which are considered classics screened on television and later released on home video.

Herbert J. Yates
Herbert John Yates

(1880-08-24)August 24, 1880
DiedFebruary 3, 1966(1966-02-03) (aged 85)

Early years

Yates was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1880. He started his business career at an early age, building a newspaper sales business on the streets of Brooklyn. Later, he ascended rapidly through the ranks of the American Tobacco Company, retiring from that company with a sizable fortune before the age of 30.


Focusing on the movie and recording business, he built a small empire, acquiring record companies and film laboratories. In the 1920s he provided financing for Mack Sennett and Fatty Arbuckle.

In October 1929 his Consolidated Film Industries took control of ARC, the American Record Corporation, a company created as a result of a merger between a number of small dime store record labels. In the following years, the company was heavily involved in a depressed market for phonograph records, buying up failing labels at bargain prices to exploit their catalogues. In December 1931 Warner Bros. leased Brunswick Records, Vocalion Records, and associated companies to ARC. By 1932 ARC was king of the 3-records-for-a-dollar market, selling 6 million units, twice as much as competitor RCA Victor. In an effort to get back on top RCA launched the low-priced Bluebird Records label. ARC bought out the Columbia Records catalogue in 1934. During the 1930s, ARC produced the Brunswick and Columbia labels at 75c each and the Oriole (for McCrory), Romeo (for Kress), Melotone, Vocalion, Banner, Conqueror (for Sears), and Perfect labels at 35c each, or 3 records for $1.00.

In December 1938 the entire ARC complex was purchased from Consolidated Film for $700,000 by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). After CBS brought back Columbia as their flagship label, they brought back the inactive OKeh Records label to replace Vocalion, which allowed the rights to the Brunswick and Vocalion labels to return to Warner Bros. They sold the rights to those labels to Decca Records in the early 1940s. In a complicated move CBS managed to keep the rights to the ARC material from 1931 through 1938.

Yates formed Republic Pictures in 1935 by arranging for the merger of several smaller production companies with his Consolidated Film Industries, which was providing film processing and financing for many Hollywood studios. Among the merged companies were Mascot Pictures, which brought the serial to Republic, and also purchased the Mack Sennett lot in Studio City and Monogram Pictures. Under Yates' leadership, Republic first leased then purchased the lot, expanding it from six stages to nineteen and adding state-of-the-art production facilities.

In 1934 Gene Autry had his first film role in the Mascot production of In Old Santa Fe. Autry had been a recording artist under contract to Yates' American Record Corporation. He would go on to star in 56 feature films for Republic between 1935 and 1947. In 1938 Yates created a second American icon by giving Roy Rogers his first starring role in Under Western Stars. Rogers filled in for Autry during World War II and ended up making more than 80 films under the Republic banner.

Republic's most acclaimed feature film was The Quiet Man (1952), directed by John Ford, and starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Ford had tried to make the Irish love story for years, but none of the studio heads would take a chance on it. Yates risked a budget of more than a million dollars, making possible the use of Technicolor (in lieu of Republic's own Trucolor process) and location filming in Ireland. It earned triple its cost, and earned Republic its only Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Johnny Guitar (1954), directed by Nicholas Ray, starring Joan Crawford, became another well regarded Republic picture.

Personal life

In 1948 Yates left his wife Petra for the Czech figure skater Vera Hruba Ralston, the couple marrying in 1952. He employed Vera's brother Rudy Ralston as a producer at Republic.

In 1958 Yates was accused of exploiting Republic for his own gain, in particular his promotion of his wife's career. It was alleged that 18 of her 20 films had been flops.[1]

He and Vera's relatives were pushed out of Republic and the film business in 1959, the same year Republic's board decided to switch emphasis from production to distribution,[2] selling their controlling interest to Victor M. Carter for nearly $6 million.[3] Yates became chairman of the board.[3]

Yates died at his residence in Sherman Oaks in 1966.[4][5]


The Republic lot survives today as CBS Studio Center. Notable among Yates' contributions to the lot are the Mabel Normand sound stage, built during World War II and later home to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and an award-winning music scoring auditorium that has hosted such famous names as Aaron Copland and Artur Rubinstein.


  1. Yates Flayed as Head of Republic Pictures: Starred Wife, Vera Ralston, in 18 Flops, Runs Firm for Own Gain, Stockholder Says Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 20 Aug 1958: A10.
  2. Republic Pictures Holders Urge President Resign or Take Pay Cut By a WALL STREET JOURNAL Staff Reporter. Wall Street Journal (1923 - Current file) [New York, N.Y] 08 Apr 1959: 3.
  3. "Fading, Fading - One-Man Rule; Yates' Republic Exit Latest Instance". Variety. July 8, 1959. p. 4. Retrieved May 20, 2019 via Archive.org.
  4. Retired Film Executive Herbert J. Yates Dies: Former President of Republic Pictures Succumbs at 85 in Sherman Oaks Home Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 Feb 1966: 3.
  5. HERBERT J. YATES, 85 MOVIEMAKER, IS DEAD New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 Feb 1966: 31
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