A young frontier scout helps guide a freight wagon train across the country, fighting off Indians and evil traders, while his two crusty companions try and save him from falling in love. Written by
Rick Johnson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Fighting Caravans", while an "A" picture in presentation, is a "B" picture in spirit. Even allowing for the fact that talkies had only been around for a few years when this film came out in 1931, it's still very much rooted in silent-era melodrama, even though some comedy scenes between veterans Ernest Torrance and Tully Marshall are injected in an attempt to lighten things up. Gary Cooper is effective, if still a bit hesitant in delivering his lines, and his love interest Lili Damita is pretty and sexy but wildly miscast and not up to the job. The film had two directors, and it's painfully obvious which one did what--David Burton, a Russian émigré brought out from the Broadway stage, directed the non-action scenes and his background shows in the unimaginative staging (this was only his third film as a director) and overexaggerated acting. Co-director Otto Brower was an action specialist and second-unit director, and while he did some excellent work later in his career (he worked on 1946's "Duel in the Sun", 1944's "Buffalo Bill" and 1939's "Jesse James", among dozens of others), the climactic Indian attack in this film is actually pretty ineptly staged; although there are a lot of Indians riding around, whooping and getting shot off their horses, it's not particularly exciting or even involving and, in addition, is very poorly edited.
If Paramount meant this picture to be its answer to "The Big Trail", "The Iron Horse" or "The Covered Wagon", it fails badly. It has its moments (there's a good bar brawl about halfway through the picture) and Torrance and Marshall work well together, but all in all, it's just a "B" picture in everything but budget, and not as good as many others that cost far less. Worth a watch once, maybe, but not more than that.
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