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Not long after the Civil War, Texas cattle ranchers realize they have a problem--the Union Pacific railroad is bypassing their state and make it near impossible to get their cattle to market. Many ranchers are being forced to sell their land, and crooked state treasure Marvin Fletcher buys up the land at pennies on the dollar. However, Laguna del Sol Ranch owner Taisie Lockhart and her ranch hands are holding out. Cowboy Dan McMasters returns to the ranch and tries to rekindle his romance with Taisie, but she rejects him because he fought for the North during the war. But what she doesn't know is that Dan is on an undercover mission from the President to investigate Fletcher, and in order to do that he has to pretend to be sympathetic to Fletcher and goes to work for him, angering Taisie even more. Complications ensue. Written by
One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
The title of this film is never explained; possibly 'The Conquering Horde' refers to a cattle stampede. Certainly the stampede sequence in this movie is one of its (few) highlights.
Taisie Lockhart (Fay Wray) and Dan McMasters (Richard Arlen) were chaste lovers up until 1861, when the American Civil War broke out and Dan upped sticks to join the Union side. This caused Taisie to fall out of love with him, as she's a loyal Texan. (I well and truly dislike Civil War movies that sympathise with the Confederacy. News flash: the Confederates owned slaves, and the ones who didn't own slaves were still dedicated to preserving the slaveholder system. The Union were the good guys, got it?)
Anyroad, Appomattox has come and gone, and Dan has returned to Texas, where Taisie is now the owner of the Del Sol cattle ranch. The state treasurer is Marvin Fletcher, and with a name like Marvin Fletcher you just know he can't be trusted ... especially as the actor who portrays him (Ian Maclaren) makes only a token attempt to conceal his stage-trained English accent. Sure enough, Fletcher has designs on both the fair young Taisie and her spread ... her ranch, I mean. If only the ranch would fail, he could seize it at poverty prices. And maybe Marvin can force Taisie to give him her head of cattle. Nyah-ah-ah! Pause here for moustache twirling.
Taisie does have one loyal ranch hand, whose name is Jim Nabors. (Gaw-lee, Sergeant Carter!) Nabors is played by Claude Gillingwater, who usually played ill-tempered misers ... either completely unsympathetic, or else becoming charmed by Shirley Temple in the last reel. It's deeply intriguing to see Gillingwater cast here so far outside his usual type: in a role that's entirely sympathetic, and actually more appropriate for a younger actor. (Gillingwater was past 60 at this point; a bit old to be playing a ranch hand.) Jim Nabors -- Gillingwater's character -- gets shot in one scene; I don't recall Gillingwater getting into many shoot-outs in his long movie career.
Taisie is doomed to default on her mortgage, unless she can get her cattle to Abilene. This is Richard Arlen's cue to arrive and save the day. Of course, we know that Marvin Fletcher will make trouble.
Much of this oater is purely by the numbers. However, along the cattle drive we get some fine photography by Archie Stout. There are several impressive desert vistas, as well as scenes depicting a sandstorm, a rainstorm and the aforementioned stampede. These scenes must have been difficult to film, if only for the large number of cattle involved.
The underrated Arlen is quietly impressive here, in a role very typical for him. Gillingwater is likewise impressive here, in the least typical portrayal I've ever seen for him. The biggest flaw in this film is Fay Wray's performance as the rancher. I found her entirely unbelievable as someone dedicated to the hard life and steady routine of a livestock rancher. With her makeup perfectly in place, Wray sulks her way through her scenes, creating the impression she'd rather be swanking in some nightclub. Cowboy movies are not one of my favoured genres, and I'll rate 'The Conquering Horde' only 5 out of 10.
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