Western pardners Jeff and Cash find a baby boy in an otherwise deserted emigrants' camp, and clash over which is to be "father." They are still bitterly feuding years later when they own adjacent ranches. Bill, the foundling whom Cash has raised to young manhood, wants to end the feud and extends an olive branch toward Jeff, who now has a lovely daughter. But during a mining venture, the bitterness escalates. Is Bill to be set against his own adoptive father? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The Painted Desert is a less than average western in which Clark Gable made his first film with any billing. Previously he had been a bit player in several silent features, but this his first role of any substance. It's the only reason The Painted Desert has any significance in Hollywood history.
Made for Pathe Pictures just before they merged with RKO, The Painted Desert is the story of two old desert rats, William Farnum and J. Farrell MacDonald who find an infant alive in a covered wagon on the desert.
For reasons I don't understand, a disagreement about whether to lay claim to a waterhole or to push on further and find enough land for a cattle ranch turns these friends into blood enemies. Farnum takes the infant and raises him as his own.
The infant grows up to be William Boyd in his pre-Hopalong Cassidy days and he becomes a mining engineer and discovers tungsten ore on the MacDonald property. He also takes a shine to MacDonald's daughter Helen Twelvetrees. Also in the race for her hand is Clark Gable.
Gable's performance as the roughneck rival to Boyd caught some attention at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and he became within a year, the studio's biggest star ever in its existence.
Possibly due to bad editing, possibly to bad writing, but The Painted Desert is far from the greatest western I've ever seen. But it yielded something far more valuable than tungsten.
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