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When John Mason's father is killed, John is wounded. Attracted to his nurse Alice, a conflict arises between him and his friend Ben who plans to marry Alice. John later finds the killer of his father but goes to face him not knowing Ben has removed the bullets from his gun. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
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About the only reason to see most of John Wayne's Lone Star Westerns is because Wayne is in them. That's certainly true here, as Wayne's character seeks out the man who killed his father and gets caught up in a love triangle.
Typically, Wayne's character here, John Mason, doesn't waste time. No sooner does he arrive in town than he gets into an argument with Ben McClure (Reed Howes). The two soon trade blows, followed by friendly drinks at the nearby saloon. Witnessing his father's murder changes the happy situation for Mason, though he still is in the mood for love when a woman McClure is sweet on nurses him back from a gunshot wound.
This all happens in the first 15 minutes. Lone Star westerns were typically short, though this is a bit longer than most I've seen at 55 minutes. You have to allow for a rushed narrative, but this one really starves for oxygen, relying on clichés to get across story points.
An opening scene features a hombre who is made to "dance" when another fellow shoots at his feet. Mason is warned to get out of town by four o'clock, or be shot on sight. Near the end of the movie, an out-of-luck cowpoke tells Mason that "it's getting' dark...Ain't sundown, is it? You oughta tell Alice I won't be home for dinner..."
The dialogue here is quite goofy, and made worse by the strange voices of Wayne's supporting cast. Yakima Canutt's high, sneering register didn't get in the way of his Hollywood career as a premier stuntman, but it makes his villainous barkeep character here tough to take. Dennis Moore as chief baddie Rudd employs a basso profondo baritone, while Marion Burns as love interest Alice (Rudd's sister) uses a tremulous soprano. It's like a real horse opera when one of these two are on stage.
Wayne is solid in the main role. Like other commenters here have noted, he had that short-stride, pigeon-toed walk working for him already here, and it's something to see from the opening moments when he strides into town. He demonstrates fine chemistry with the other actors, especially Howes, looking amiable and at ease (even if he should seem a bit edgier after seeing his father murdered in front of him.)
There is one good bit in this film, when Mason and an associate (Lone Star regular Earl Dwire, a good player) set a trap for the bad guys and find themselves in a gun battle on a runaway wagon. It looks to be authentic; no back projection anyway, and for a few minutes the film kicks into a higher gear.
But then the wagon crashes, Dwire's character is apparently dead and forgotten about, and Mason goes on with the increasingly pointless business of chasing down his father's killer. Soon we are back to Burns caterwauling about her brother's innocence, even if we know better. Why would Mason want such a woman? Why doesn't he confront her brother, instead of banter with him about his neckerchief? "The Dawn Rider" doesn't expect you to care any more than they did, and it shows.
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