born December 1892, New York
died September 1956, L.A. (age 63)
One of Republic’s best and most prolific B-Western and serial shooters, John MacBurnie spent his relatively brief but productive film career (1940-1953) with the company before making a successful transition to television.
After polishing his skills on Republic’s low-profile Don “Red” Barry movies in the early 1940s, he moved on to the company’s serials and a wide variety of features. He eventually became a go-to shooter for higher-profile B-Westerns, making his mark in particular with the Allan “Rocky” Lane series. By the late 1940s he was shooting about 20 movies a year and working with Republic’s top Western stars, including Roy Rogers and Monte Hale as well as Rocky Lane, whom he continued to shoot from 1947 through the end of MacBurnie’s tenure at Republic — coinciding with the end of the Rocky Lane series — in 1953.
In Marshal of Amarillo, filmed by John MacBurnie, Allan "Rocky" Lane keeps an eye on the bad guys from an unusual vantage point — behind the rock known as World of Outlaws, in the North Rim. While most Upper Iverson filming was focused on the South Rim, Republic's Rocky Lane series shot extensively along the ranch's northern boundary.
Like Ernest Miller, his Republic stablemate for much of their careers, MacBurnie’s camera work displayed the Iverson rocks in ways that reveal he had a fondness for them. His thoughtful showcasing of the movie ranch’s many dramatic rock features can be seen in Iverson masterpieces such as Call of the Rockies (1944), starring Sunset Carson, and Rocky Lane features Renegades of Sonora (1948), Marshal of Amarillo (1948) and Desperadoes’ Outpost (1952) as well as landmark Iverson serials Adventures of Frank and Jesse James (1948), Jesse James Rides Again (1947) and Desperadoes of the West (1950).
Even in El Paso Stampede (1953), the last movie in the Rocky Lane series, it appears that MacBurnie continued to work to set up interesting angles for whatever original footage was still being shot at Iverson. For one sequence in the film he went to the trouble to set up his camera in a rarely used elevated area on the backside of Water Tank Hill, above the Cliff on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson — and this was at a time when the filmmakers were relying heavily on recycled footage, shooting at the studio whenever possible and writing scripts based mainly on continuity while making the most of existing material.
During the early 1950s MacBurnie focused his lens on the company’s new star, popular singing cowboy Rex Allen. With Republic scaling back its operations at this time and opportunities opening up in television, MacBurnie made the leap to the new medium and worked steadily for the next few years. He died in 1956 at age 63.