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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 <email@example.com>
Interesting perceptions of an early Western period.
This film, Originally titled BLAZING ARROWS, is the first of several based upon a Zane Grey novel published only two years prior, and the version that is most faithful to the book, while being one of the largest budgeted Westerns of the early sound era, with the viewer advised to remember that the period of the narrative (1862) antedated its audience only to the extent that the Great Depression does to spectators today. The story tells of a caravan of freight wagons journeying from Independence, Missouri, to the West Coast during a pre-railroad time, with settlers accompanying, and the procession's four month struggle with hostile Indians, very harsh winter weather, forbidding terrain and renegade betrayal, and is particularly full of interesting detail as to the methods of the freightmen and their metier. Gary Cooper portrays Clint Belmet, a Missouri guide who has been reared and trained as a member of a successive generation of scouts and trappers by two veterans of the breed, Bill Jackson (Ernest Torrence) and Jim Bridger (Tully Marshall), who are unaware that their way of life is to be ended by an advancing intracontinental rail system, only temporarily slowed by the War Between the States. Because of plot circumstances, Belmet must pretend to be married to a lone traveller, Felice (Lily Damita), and their seesaw relationship provides one of the main themes of a wideranging scenario, with Belmet and his mentors trumpeting of the glories of their fading way of life while Felice seeks to inculcate within her swain a sense of domestic virtue. The cinematography of Lee Garmes is very effective with its images of the travails of the wagon train and his work is not compromised by the editing which is crisp and appropriate for a film as episodic as is this one. The work's most serious failing is a lack of a consistent point of view, as it is essentially a comedy, due largely to a highly effectual performance from Torrence, here permitted to utilize his native Scottish burr to its fullest, and is somewhat reduced in impact during scenes of action and romance as a result of only cursory emphasis upon each.
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