Of all the seriously corny B programmer Westerns of the 1930s, and there were oh, so many, I must admit to having a soft spot for Rex Bell’s. They were hopelessly simple and straightforward but they were full of vim and gusto. Bell was in 28 Westerns from the earliest talkies (he made four Westerns in 1928 alone) until 1952. Probably his biggest picture was as Virgil Earp in Tombstone, the Town Too Tough To Die in 1942. His last picture was as ‘Old Cowboy (uncredited)’ in The Misfits in 1961. My favorite of all his old-style Westerns is Broadway to Cheyenne in 1932, a gangster-and-cowboy movie. But Idaho Kid (sometimes billed as The Idaho Kid but there is no ‘The’ on the title screen) is also huge fun.
Rex Bell (1903 - 1962)
Directed on a minimal budget by Robert F Hill, who did 63 Westerns, all B-er than B, and written by the great George H Plympton, 110 Westerns 1917 – 1956, Idaho Kid had no pretensions whatever. The writing is joyfully clichéd. The lead heavy warns the hero, “This country’s not big enough to hold both of us. Get outa town by sundown tonight or come shootin’.” Earlier one character says, “We can head them off at the pass.” Perfect.
Earl Dwire, chief heavy
The chief badman is the great Earl Dwire (1883 – 1940) who graced so many B Westerns in the 20s and 30s. It’s a range war story and he is the boss rancher who wants everything. Little does he know that ranch hand Rex, known only as Idaho, is his long-lost son. Rex has a big white horse and ten-gallon Stetson. They were de rigueur at the time. There’s the obligatory comic old-timer, Tumblebug Jones (Phil Dunham). They probably couldn’t afford Gabby Hayes.
Now don’t get me wrong. You will not be considered a Western ignoramus if you never see this movie, nor, if you skip it, will you have missed a great work of art or even a classic Western. But if you do watch it, you will have 59 minutes of fun.