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Buck Randall, a happy-go-lucky cowhand on the ranch owned by Tom Wilson, is in town and heads for the Red Front Saloon where, in compliance with a town ordinance, he is ordered to give up his gun but refuses. Escaping the altercation with Marshal Joseph Slyde and his chief deputy, Alex Frame, Buck seeks shelter in the Marshal's house at the edge of town. He meets Mary Slyde, the Marshal's young, pretty, charming and unhappy wife and they are attracted to each other. While Slyde and a posse are combing the countryside for Buck, Frame is left behind to protect Mary and, the posse is barely out of sight, before Frames is forcing his unwanted attention upon her. He is shot and Mary, in shock, thinks she did it as does Buck who has returned to the house. When the Marshal and his men arrive, Buck takes the blame for Frame's death and is held for murder. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I find it hard to believe that I am the first person to comment upon this extraordinary film. I do hope that someone more able will add more, as my "review" will savour of that which most impressed me.
I should have known from the lovely introductory credit music that this was a special film. Music continued as the first shot was of a lovely valley. I got chills when I saw that majestic steed, Silver standing by a hitching rail with other horses as the lush music continued. Then, as if perhaps to gently mock that which had come before, the silence was literally shattered, and the fun began. It consisted of a tremendous row concerning a rather silly joke that will continue throughout the rest of the film. It concerns snails, France and "buttercup." By Jones' remark that he was in France, I was confused. Was he referring to AEF service? I never heard another cowboy in a B-western mention France, so this was rather puzzling, and equally silly.
This film sets up Jones' character as a happy-go-lucky fellow that rouses himself up fearfully when crossed. A sequence in a saloon with six or seven beautiful dancing girls, all his friends, only adds to the whimsy of the opening fifteen minutes. To see him him walking arm in arm with five of them would be to open up any man's secret desires. Lucky fellow! I wish that more of the girls' names were on the cast list. Perhaps some searching will help solve this problem.
The main plot is rather ahead of its time, and certainly very rare for a B-western: a sympathetic look at a wife (Mary Doran) in a loveless marriage with the town sheriff (Russell Simpson). Doran is made to feel her subordination constantly, and yet expected to be grateful for all that her wonderful husband does for her. I absolutely loathed Simpson's character, which is proof that the actor did a tremendous job!
Jones learns of Doran's plight while hiding in her house, on the lam from Simpson's posse that is tracking him down for violating a firearm ordinance. Doran's delivery is excellent, a nod to her role in A pictures of only a few years before. Jones is better with the comedy, his dramatic acting sounds a bit forced and clipped. Then again, real people in such situations are not idealized actors, so this is not necessarily a drawback. I was expecting another devious-type performance from Walter Miller, but he was strangely heroic-sounding in his delivery. Perhaps he had not yet fully shed the skin of hero before becoming a villain.
There is a beautifully tender scene on a terrace in which Jones and Doran, masked and somewhat in shadow discuss the agony of not being able to move forward with their feelings. The photography in this scene and subject matter are far above what is usually found in a B-western--I cannot emphasize that enough.
Following the killing of Miller, suspicion falls on Jones, and the usual peril threatens him. The question of the saving of his life occupies the rest of the film. I will only say that the denouement does not disappoint, and that the joke about France continues to the end. There are few scenes of Jones riding Silver, but the mature plot more than makes up for this, if you crave lots of riding.
Enjoy this 1931 film. I can honestly rank it right up with Rider of Death Valley(1932) as my favorite B-western.
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