"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Come On, Rangers! (Republic, 1938)


Not quite so light-hearted






The third Western that Republic had Roy Rogers star in, after Under Western Stars and Billy the Kid Returns, was, despite the rather cheery title, slightly less comic than the preceding two.
 
Hi yo, Trigger!
(It's a publicity still; he doesn't do this in the movie)

OK, yes, the mixture was much as before, a one-hour black & white oater with songs, a sidekick (this time, our old pal Raymond Hatton, more leathery and cantankerous than comic) and a resourceful Trigger. And a gal to be chastely romanced, of course. But there were fewer jokes, and they tried for a more serious, even somber approach.

It’s a Texas Rangers tale, beloved of Hollywood. It seems to be notionally set in 1870 because in the story the (unnamed) Governor (Burr Caruth) dissolves the Rangers, and Captain Roy Rogers (Roy Rogers) finds himself out of a job and having to let his men go. An unscrupulous politician, Senator Harvey (Purnell Pratt) tries to set up an alternative force, headed up by his chief henchman (Harry Woods), but it’s just a protection racket with gun-thugs. Eventually the Rangers are vindicated and Capt. Roy gets his job back. Historically, in 1870, during Reconstruction, the Rangers were replaced by a Union-controlled version called the Texas State Police, disbanded only three years later. The state election of 1873 saw newly elected Governor Richard Coke and the state legislature recommission the Rangers. But of course historical accuracy was not these Westerns’ forte and indeed, that was not the point.

Ray sidekicks Roy

Captain Roy’s men include his brother Len, played by former star of the screen now reduced to bit parts Lane Chandler, but Len is soon slaughtered on his ranch by the thugs and thus written out in the first reel. Luckily though, Roy, now a sergeant in the US Cavalry (he enlisted after he lost his Rangers job because he was enamored of the colonel’s daughter) is on hand to rescue Trigger from Len’s burning barn.

The glam daughter, Janice, is played again by Lynne Roberts, billed as Mary Hart, so that Republic could have posters that appeared to be headed ROGERS AND HART. Her dad, the crusty old colonel, is Western vet J Farrell MacDonald. In the ‘rest of the cast’ list figure both George Montgomery, as Ranger in black hat, uncredited, and Robert J Wilke as Henchman, uncredited, but I didn’t spot either. A pity because it was the great Bob Wilke’s very first Western. I’ve always been a serious Wilke fan. Montgomery was already a hardened trail hand, having had ride-on bit parts in half a dozen Westerns, including the previous Roy Rogers outing, Billy the Kid Returns. He would not lead in a Western until 1941 so sagebrush fame was some way away yet.

Mary/Lynne is Roy's love interest again

Joe Kane directed once more, with Jack Marta at the camera, reliable hands both.

Joe Kane and Jack Marta

There are four songs, quite a limited number for these pictures, and only one is a light-hearted jokey one, I Learned a Lot About Women, while the others go for a plaintive home-on-the-range timbre. These include the Civil War ballad Tenting Tonight. Backing is provided by all the Rangers; there’s no named singing group to accompany Roy.

Roy’s rig is rather fancier than previously and he is now decked out in two-gun holster with pearl-handled pieces, checked Western shirt, and pants tucked into tooled boots. Except when he’s wearing his sergeant’s uniform, of course.

Roy gets the drop on the bad guys

There’s a bank robbery, some smoke signals, several chases, a court martial (naturally Roy is exonerated) and a kiss at the end, though as a map of Texas is drawn down over the scene, like a blind, we are not allowed to witness this; Ray describes it for us.

 

 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Billy the Kid Returns (Republic, 1938)


Roy is Billy




 
 
Roy Rogers’s first Western as lead, Under Western Stars, released in April 1938, was followed up with a Billy the Kid yarn, released in September. It’s one of those movies in which the star plays two roles, Billy the Kid and his lookalike, the hero. Rogers would pull the same stunt in Jesse James at Bay, in 1941.
 
On his way to fame

Of course even the ‘bad’ Billy is a goody. He stands up for the sturdy homesteaders against the ruthless ranchers, a Western plot considerably older than the hills. But Pat Garrett shoots him, and Billy's double, Roy, takes over, pretending to be Billy, in order to continue defending the farmers from the big cattlemen. The plot thus flirts with absurdity, but these oaters were never meant to be taken seriously.

Unsmiling Roy as Billy

Garrett (Wade Boteler, the Green Hornet’s bodyguard Mike Axford) wants to give Billy “one last chance” but the boy draws on him and so Pat is obliged to shoot him. This happens, oddly, before the Kid is taken as prisoner to Lincoln, so the writers played fast and loose with history in more ways than one. Boteler joins the long list of screen Garretts, and, as was traditional, is shown as a friend of the Kid who wants to help him but is forced to kill him.

Boteler is Garrett

Like most of these pictures, it was a 53-minute black & white job directed in workmanlike fashion by Joseph Kane.

Uncle Joe Kane

In the first Western Roy rode the palomino Trigger but it was just a horse like any other, if rather fancy. In this one, though, Trigger is already beginning his advance to stardom. He gets a line (Roy asks him a question and he neighs in reply) and we can see it won’t be long before he will be the smartest horse in the movies. Still no sign of Dale or Bullet, though. They’ll come later.

With co-stars Hart and Trigger

Naturally there are songs galore. Roy’s comic sidekick is Smiley Burnette again and he gets two chansons, and also duets on one of Roy’s (which Burnette co-wrote), and Roy himself croons some catchy ditties such as Born to the Saddle, Sing a Little Song About Anything, When the Sun is Settin’ on the Prairie (also reprised at the end) and so on. The plot contrivances to get these songs in are remarkable. For one, he has to sing to prove he’s not Billy the Kid because it is well known that Billy couldn’t sing a note. Naturally he passes the test with flying colors.

They duet

The swell dame he romances this time is Ellen Moore (Lynne Roberts, who was Roy’s love interest in three Westerns in 1938 alone, billed as Mary Hart so that the studio could put Rogers and Hart on the posters). She is a storekeeper’s daughter and her dad (Edwin Stanley) opens up a rival emporium to that of crooked and ruthless ‘Morganson’ (there is no LG Murphy), so conflict looms. Luckily Mr. and Ms. Moore have Roy/Billy to defend them.

Fred Kohler is lead thug-henchman. George Montgomery was also credited as a henchperson but I didn't spot him.

There’s a horrid bit where a double for Trigger is spurred off a bluff into a lake below. It always makes me cringe.

An LA Times ad of 1938 shows that this film had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Orpheum Theater with a personal appearance by Roy Rogers, "Acclaimed the Screen's Greatest Find of the Year, Singing the Songs of the West ... The Songs You Love Best!" He wasn’t yet ‘King of the Cowboys’ but he was on the trail.

It’s one of those movies whose copyright was not renewed so is now in the public domain. Happily, though, the print on YouTube isn’t bad – often these public-domain films are copies of copies and pretty poor quality.

It’s harmless enough, and no worse than all those Buster Crabbe or Bob Steele Billy the Kid flicks, though maybe it’s not quite as good as Under Western Stars, or Shine On Harvest Moon released in December.

 
 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Under Western Stars (Republic, 1938)


Roy's first big break




 
 
Leonard Franklin Slye (1911 to 1998), much better known to us all as Roy Rogers, though a denizen of Cincinnati, Ohio, came to be known to millions as the archetypal Hollywood Westerner, the “King of the Cowboys”. His radio and TV shows and his feature films made him one of the brightest stars of the ersatz West and a singing cowboy to rank with the most famous.
 

Roy unmistakable in early photos

At age 19, wearing a Western shirt that his sister Mary had made for him, he overcame his shyness and appeared on radio playing guitar, singing, and yodeling. His musical career was launched. He was invited to join a country music group, the Rocky Mountaineers, which, though, was only moderately successful. Other groups followed, such as the International Cowboys and the O-Bar-O Cowboys, but then came the Pioneers, and by 1934 he was a lead figure in the Sons of the Pioneers (a radio station announcer changed their name because he felt they were too young to be pioneers themselves). The group signed with Decca and soon were popular nationwide. Their classic Cool Water was a huge hit.

Roy in 1938

From 1935 Slye worked steadily in Western movies, writing and singing, including landing a large supporting role as a singing cowboy (still billed as Leonard Slye) in a Gene Autry picture. In 1938 Republic wanted a less demanding (and less expensive) singing cowboy than Autry and auditioned for a new one. Slye won, and the studio rechristened him Roy Rogers, a snappier name which kind of hinted at relationship to Will Rogers. In the Motion Picture Herald Top Ten Money-Making Western Stars poll, Rogers would be listed for 16 consecutive years, from 1939 to 1954, holding first place from 1943 to 1954, when the poll ceased. But his first lead role in a Western, a milestone on the trail to fame, was the one we’ll look at today, Under Western Stars, released in April 1938, a picture that had been destined for Gene but now went to Roy.

They crossed out Gene and put Roy

It’s a contemporary story, based around the dustbowl and water rights for farmers. Roy runs for Congress against some Eastern crooks, politicians and directors of the water company. The picture was to have been called Washington Cowboy. It inhabits that twilight world so popular in 1930s Westerns in which there are automobiles and many of the men (mostly the Easterner bad guys) wear modern suits and yet cowboys ride around with sixguns on their hips and much shootin’ (not to mention rootin’ and tootin’) occurs. These oaters had no complexes about historical period or authenticity; that was not their thing.

Of course there are wagonloads of songs, sung at every opportunity in the plot (or even if there isn’t one). Roy croons away, backed by the Maple City Four (not the Pioneers). Some of them are quite catchy, in fact. One, Listen to the Rhythm of the Range, had been written by Autry, and is credited to him, but Roy sang it. Gene didn’t like that, and sued. Johnny Marvin was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for another, the ditty Dust.

Naturally Roy has a comic sidekick; they were de rigueur. Later he would go for Gabby Hayes a lot but in these early pictures Smiley Burnette did the honors (apart from the lead the cast was basically continued from Autry pictures). Equally naturally there is a swell dame for our hero to romance (chastely, of course) and in this first ‘big’ Roy Western it’s Carol Hughes, later to find ‘fame’ in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. She was a regular on Autry oaters, happy also to work with Roy. Also in the cast we have Earl Dwire, my hero, and Slim Whitaker, and I would have sworn that henchman shooting from the dam (a five-second appearance) was Glenn Strange the Great, though he is disgracefully uncredited.

They go foxhunting in Washington. Smiley doesn't forget to pack his six-shooter.

Roy rides Trigger, of course, in that style he had with high hands, but the nag is not name-checked, he’s just a horse, and there is as yet no sign of Dale or Bullet.

Although many of Roy’s later movies were in Republic’s Trucolor process, these early ones, shot by studio hack Jack Marta, were in black & white. That’s OK. This one was directed by Republic stalwart Joseph Kane. “Uncle Joe” was a solid workman who never pretended to be John Ford but churned out theater fodder on time and on budget for years and years with a minimum of fuss.

Uncle Joe

It was a 65-minute film, later cut down to 57’ for TV.

I really like a Roy Rogers sagebrush saga every now and then. Yes, they were formulaic to a degree and hardly great art but they were very satisfying to the largely juvenile audiences, and they still are to those of us who haven’t quite grown up yet.

Of course it's not really worth a three-revolver rating but it was bumped up for the nostalgia factor.

 

 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company, by Harry Carey, Jr.

 
Howdy, e-pards. Sorry I’ve been offline longer than planned but after my vacation I had some medical issues. However, I’m back now and ready to hit the trail once more.

 
Dobe tells his story
 

Movie titles with live links take you to this blog’s full reviews of those pictures, while names with livelinks will give you this blog's essays on those figures.


Company of Heroes: My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company, published by Scarecrow Press in 1994 and now also available on Kindle, gives an account by Harry Carey Jr. (1921 to 2012) of the pictures he made with the renowned director John Ford. It provides a valuable insight into those movies for those who are interested in such things.

Worth a read

It starts with Dobe’s first Ford Western, 3 Godfathers, when he was 27, and goes on to discuss She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Wagonmaster, Rio Grande, The Searchers, Two Rode Together and Cheyenne Autumn, as well as some non-Westerns (obviously beneath our notice). The list does, you could say, embrace some of the very best and very worst Westerns Ford made, though Carey is not especially critical of the poor ones.

Carey was clearly a huge admirer of Ford, passionately so, and the young man’s acting career was to be shaped greatly by the famed director. Of course there was a family connection: Dobe’s father, Harry Carey, had been a close collaborator of Jack Ford (as he was then) on the early silent Westerns at Universal and although the two fell out (it has never been entirely clear as to why, though many have speculated) in the year of Dobe’s birth, and Harry Carey Sr. never made a Western with Ford again, the bond remained strong. Ford was close to Carey Sr.’s wife, Dobe’s mother, the actress Olive Golden, and always insisted that the young Carey scion call him “Uncle Jack”, which Harry Jr. does throughout the book.

Great artist, petty man

Though Carey’s respect and even love for Ford shines through the pages, it is also true to say that Ford often comes across in the book as, despite his huge talent, a deeply insecure, coarse, vindictive and petty bully. We knew much of this already, of course – see, for example, Scott Eyman’s 1999 biography Print the Legend: The Life and Times of John Ford, reviewed on this blog separately – but Carey’s book gives us chapter and verse from one who suffered on Ford sets. The curious thing is that Carey recounts the director’s often disgraceful antics with an amused and tolerant affection, and, though I’m sorry to say it, Dobe does sometimes tend to come across rather like a fawning hound which wags its tail feebly when it sees its master even though it knows that the master will beat him. Reading it, you sometimes find yourself telling Dobe to man up and give the obnoxious bully a black eye, or at the very least a mouthful of plain words. But it was a time when film directors were gods, and Ford was not the only tyrant on a movie set. I suppose we shouldn’t judge by our modern standards of acceptable behavior. Still, even at the time Ford did stand out as especially nasty. One example will do here:
 

Between one of the takes, Uncle Jack came over to the three of us [Carey, Ken Curtis and Richard Widmark, filming a fight on the set of Two Rode Together] while we were lying on the ground. I was lying on my stomach, head-to-toe beside Dick, trying to catch my breath. Uncle Jack made out he wanted to adjust Dick’s neckerchief. He came up beside me and fell to his knees. One knee buried itself in my back between my ribs. He leaned as hard as he could on that knee while he reached over and fiddled with Dick’s neckerchief. Then I heard a sound like a dry stick of wood breaking in half.
Andy Devine, who was a considerable distance away, said, “There goes Dobe’s ribs!”

 
Carey is also interesting when he recounts how other actors were treated. Some were belittled and demeaned while others seemed curiously immune, perhaps because they stood up to Ford (a bully does not cope well with resistance). Widmark was one of those who would stand no nonsense and gave as good as he got, but most of the others, even John Wayne, had to put up with a great deal.

Duke and 'Pappy' or 'Coach'

The director ruled on every aspect of his cast’s life while filming, dictating their down-time activities as well as their moves on the set. He forbade alcohol for the duration of the shoot (though would sometimes himself get drunk). Ford would choose the actors’ costumes and there is almost a creepy vibe as Carey describes him fitting his cast with hats and even shirts.

With Duke and Pedro Armendariz in 3 Godfathers

It wasn’t only the cast: woe betide a cinematographer, no matter how talented, if he dared to propose a camera placement. Ford, and only Ford, would do that and no suggestion, no matter how diffidently or obsequiously offered, was greeted with anything but scorn and contempt.

Carey’s horsemanship comes through strongly and he is especially interesting on how he, Ben Johnson and young Claude Jarman learned Roman riding for Rio Grande. Carey was close to the wranglers and stuntmen and gives us insights into the filming of a Western in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Carey with his great friend Ben Johnson in Wagonmaster

It’s an enjoyable book, though, full of anecdotes and illuminating about Ford Westerns. While Carey is diplomatic about bad films such as Two Rode Together and Cheyenne Autumn, he is fulsome in his praise of The Searchers. I myself share his admiration of that picture (though not everyone does). It’s not a great long read, thank goodness (as so many books these days are) and I recommend it to Western fans.

Ford (far left) with Carey (far right)
 


 

 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

In Old Mexico (Paramount, 1938)


Hoppy goes South of the border




 
 
You can’t go wrong with a Hopalong Cassidy Western every now and then.

William Boyd had started them in 1935. He was offered the part of Red Connors in Harry Sherman’s production of Hop-a-Long Cassidy that year, released by Paramount, but asked for the title role instead and was given it (Frank McGlynn took the part of Red). From then on he made Hopalong oaters (he was first Hop-Along, then Hopalong) at a prolific rate: four in 1935, eight in ’36, six in ’37, and eight in 1938 of which In Old Mexico was one. The series went right on until 1948 and then in the 50s we had the TV show.


Of course any self-respecting Western hero in them thar days required at least one sidekick and more usually two, a cranky-comic old-timer and a handsome young fellow to romance the ladies (for Hoppy himself was too austere to do that). The old-timer part went to good old Gabby Hayes, as Windy Haliday, and Boyd tried out various ingénus before settling on Russell Hayden as Lucky Jenkins (he went on till 1941).


The plots were formulaic second-feature Western with Hoppy saving the day and besting the bad guy, aided (or sometimes hindered) by his loyal sidekicks. This time the trio are down in Old Mehico visiting the rancho of Don Carlos Gonzalez (Al Ernest Garcia). Hoppy thinks he has been invited there by the Don’s son, Colonel Gonzalez of the Rurales (our old pal Trevor Bardette), but the colonel also thinks he has been asked to his daddy’s rancho by Hoppy. In reality, both invites were sent by the fiendish Fox (Paul Sutton), whom Hoppy and the colonel once sent to prison. Now he wants revenge.

The rather well-spoken Fox

Some good news: the Fox’s chief henchman is Glenn Strange the Great.

Naturally there is a glam dame on the rancho, the Don’s daughter Anita (Jan Clayton) and there is also a, ahem, imposing cook/housekeeper, Elena (Anna Demetrio) who will fall hook, line and sinker for Gabby and plan to make the old-timer her fifth husband. And there’s another woman too, Janet Lees (Betty Amman), who is actually The Fox’s sis, and a fifth-columnist spy in the household. So you can see it’s set up for a lot of plot. It’s amazing how much story they managed to cram into 67 minutes (54’ when edited down later to fit into a one-hour TV schedule). The writer was experienced Harrison Jacobs, though any relation between his character and the original Clarence Mulford Cassidy is tenuous at best. The picture was directed by Edward D Venturini, not a regular (this was his only Hoppy oater).

He doesn't romance her, obviously. He's Hoppy after all.

The acting is pretty wooden, with the actors dutifully reciting the lines they have learned (or are reading).

It was shot by Russell Harlan so it's pretty good visually and there are some decent Joshua Tree locations.


The Fox murders the colonel in cold blood (he’s a real swine) but before expiring the policeman scrawls ZOR in the sand. It doesn’t take Hop a long time (well, it does actually, doh) to work out that these were the first three letters of the Spanish for fox.

In the end the evil Janet gets the drop on Hoppy with – yes! – a derringer! It’s one of those seven-shot pea-shooters that Louis L’Amour featured in Showdown at Yellow Butte and which Mark Twain sported on his stagecoach trip West as recounted in Roughing It. So that improved the movie.

Not that it needed improving.

Gabby is shot, twice, by the bad guys, and is in bed (nursed by fat Elena) and like to die but when the pipsqueak galoot Lucky tells him not to worry, he will look after him, he is so cross that he refuses to expire, saying, “I wouldn’t die now if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

Too ornery to die
 
 
 
I'm off on vacation now so won't be posting for a bit but please do check back in towards the end of September for more in-depth insights (hem, hem) into the world of the Western.
 
Jeff
 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Hell Bent (Universal, 1918)


Harry Carey and John Ford





 
 
As I have said in my articles on John Ford and Harry Carey (click the links for those), the early Western movies produced by the director and star at Universal Studios were pioneering and influential examples of the genre. One of those motion pictures to survive (for, sad to relate, many have not) is Hell Bent, a six-reeler of 1918, which was for a long time thought to be lost but a copy of which surfaced in the Czech national archives, and can be watched today. It makes rewarding viewing for a Western buff.
 
Harry Carey and Jack Ford

The title seems to be a nod to Hell’s Hinges (1916) and indeed there are distinct similarities between the two films. Carey’s character of Cheyenne Harry in Hell Bent is close to William S Hart’s Blaze Tracy in Hell’s Hinges, and in fact it was a standard Hart role – the good badman, or fellow who has erred and strayed but who is redeemed by the love of a good woman. Carey and Hart shared a sober and restrained acting style which was at variance with much of the over-the-top antics of many silent movie actors, especially the early screen cowboys who went for gaudy costumes and spectacular stunts. Even the locations: Ford made use of Newhall Cut for his outlaws’ lair, a favorite locale of Hart (whose ranch home was nearby).

Newhall a classic Western location

But in other ways the pictures are distinct. Jack Ford (as he was then) was already developing a personal visual style. As Bob Lipton writes in a review of the movie on IMDb, Ford “uses objects to frame his performers, changing the size of his canvas to focus the audience's attention. When people stumble in the empty desert, somehow it's by a random pile of brush; people stand in narrow doorways (a shot he would use to bookend THE SEARCHERS forty years later). Ford spent his early years building up a lexicon of shots and his later westerns make use of them.” There is also a (rather unFordian) use of the iris shot, perhaps to highlight the slightly comic subject (iris shots were a standard of the silent-movie comedy), or perhaps it was just the young Ford experimenting. Certainly the location shooting, and there is a fair amount of it, is pretty good.

The film has a creative and innovative start as a modern writer receives a letter describing his stories as unrealistic, and, pondering this criticism, he gazes at a print on his wall of The Misdeal, by Frederic Remington, showing the aftermath of a card game gone wrong, with bodies on a saloon floor. Gradually this picture ‘comes to life’ because it is a tableau vivant cleverly staged by Ford. Cheyenne Harry seems to have been involved in card sharping and narrowly gets away with his life. An angry posse has to stop its pursuit of him at the river which marks the border with 'Gil County' (I suppose it must be Gila County, AZ).

Remington's story picture

Harry is clearly intoxicated. Prohibition was still two years in the future when the movie was made but there was enough moral disapproval of alcohol about in 1918 to mark out Harry, a drinker, as a no-good. Later he will also make crude advances to a nice girl in town. So all in all, card sharp, boozer and lothario, he is definitely a character in need of reform and redemption, even if ‘good at heart’.

The outlaw Beau Ross (Joe Harris) is terrorizing the town of Rawhide and its environs. We see him and his gang as they hold up the stage. He’s credited as Beau and introduced as such but he becomes Bean Ross later, for some reason. Harris was a lifelong friend of Carey’s – in fact he lived with the family, dying only in 1953 – and he appeared in more than twenty Carey Westerns. He was one of the 'three godfathers', along with Carey and J Farrell MacDonald, in Ford's 1926 version, Marked Men. We know that Harry and Beau will cross swords – or firearms anyway – probably as rivals for the hand of a fair maiden, and so indeed it transpires.

MacDonald, Carey and Harris in Marked Men

We also meet the local Wells, Fargo agent, Thurston, who is a bit of a scoundrel, and in fact he will end up in league with outlaw Ross, the skunk. Thurston is played by Vester Pegg, the habitual baddie in these pictures. He somehow looked the part. He stayed with Ford for years, and was Hank Plummer in Stagecoach. Thurston has a sweet little sis, the rather demure Bess (Neva Gerber, a Universal regular), and she will of course fall for Harry - and, let it be said, vice versa. Beau Ross fancies her too but he, though outwardly gentlemanly and gallant, is in reality a bit of a swine, while Harry, though at first appearances a bit of a scruffy saddle tramp, actually, as we know, has a heart of gold. So we have a pretty shrewd idea which suitor will finally win her hand, for goodness will triumph over smarm every time. In silent movies anyway.

Vester Pegg, habitual badman

Another strong character is Cimmaron [sic] Bill, played by second-billed Duke Lee. Harry first meets the feared gunfighter Bill when, drunk again, he decides to evict Bill from the hotel so that he may take over his room. He rides his horse into Bill’s bedroom, where the nag starts chomping on the mattress straw, much to Bill’s annoyance. But Harry pulls a six-gun on Bill and obliges him to jump out of the window into a midden. Bill then grabs a gun in the Best Bet Saloon downstairs, returns to the room and returns the compliment. But after these defenestrations the two become best friends and spend the night drinking and singing together (the drinking is not shown but the hangovers are). Bill will save Harry in the last reel when he finally has his showdown with Beau in the desert. Duke Lee was the sheriff in another Ford picture, Just Pals, for Fox, with Buck Jones, and was also member of the Universal company much used by the director.

Duke and Harry sing (silently)

There are quite a few visual gags en passant such as when Harry sees a pair of identical twins and thinks he is seeing double. It’s only five seconds but it’s funny and sticks in the memory. At one point Harry drinks tea (he is disgusted) and at another he gives the girl a puppy. But when Ross and Thurston attempt to rob the Wells, Fargo office we see the tough side of Harry. He gets his Winchester from its saddle boot (he doesn’t wear a gunbelt) and foils the robbery.

There’s a climax out on the desert when Ross kidnaps Bess and makes a dash for it to the Rio Grande across the sand. There's quite an impressive sandstorm. Harry follows and they finally shoot it out, with both being wounded. Harry gives the girl the only horse (there are a couple of really brutal horse-fall scenes which made me quite unwell but that was common then) so that she may return to safety while he and Beau walk, then stagger, then crawl through the roasting desert. I wonder if Carey's son Harry Carey Jr. had seen this film when he did something similar for Ford in 3 Godfathers thirty years later. Dobe didn’t mention it in his detailed account of the filming of that picture in his book A Company of Heroes.

The final scene shows us Harry proposing to Bess, with Bill providing the musical accompaniment as he sings their song, Oh Genevieve.

Happy ending

It’s all highly entertaining, quite frankly, and very well done. Definitely recommended.