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Edward G. Robinson
Jim Hawkins and Wahoo Jones are stagecoach robbers who head to Texas to find Sam McGee, their partner. Once there, low on funds, they join the Texas Rangers, come across Sam, and decide to run their game by sending Sam inside information. Meanwhile, though, in pacifying rebellious Indians, Jim and Wahoo start to take on the code of the Rangers, and the daughter of the Ranger's major sets her sights on Jim. Can there be honor among thieves, or are Jim, Wahoo, and Sam on a collision course? As a lawless frontier becomes a civilized land, which side will the boys chose? Written by
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. Its earliest documented telecasts took place in Pittsburgh Wednesday 8 July 1959 on KDKA (Channel 2), followed by Omaha 23 July 1959 on KETV (Channel 7), by Phoenix 16 August 1959 on WLOS (Channel 12), by Milwaukee 16 October 1959 on WITI (Channel 6), by Toledo 29 October 1959 on WTOL (Channel 11), by Seattle 27 November 1959 on KIRO (Channel 7), and, finally, by New York City 25 December 1959 on WCBS (Channel 2). It was released on DVD 8 May 2007 as one of 4 titles in Universal's Classic Western Roundup Volume 1, and, since that time has also enjoyed several airings on cable TV on the Western Channel. See more »
Hawkins and the other Rangers are surrounded by Indians. He kills the 2 Indians rolling rocks, throwing his empty pistol at one. As he descends the other side, he mounts a bareback horse, riding off shooting a pistol that shouldn't be there as he rides away. See more »
[to Sam McGee during the climatic gunfight]
Sam, either you come out with your hands up, or I'm comin' in there after ya!
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In the mid-thirties the Western genre was very much in decline. After the introduction of sound in the movies the big studios and the stars of Hollywood almost showed no interest in the genre leaving it up to the independent companies and the B-stars. In 1939 this would change dramatically with the release of Stagecoach and a handful other classics and for many years the Western would feature the big stars of the screen and all the great directors of Hollywood. The Texas Rangers is shot a couple of years before the revival of the genre. King Vidor decided it was a good idea to make a movie to celebrate the centennial of the state of Texas. And what other way to celebrate this fact than to concentrate on the Texas Rangers, the mix of army and police force that became legendary during the formation years of the state.
The movie shows Texas as a modern Garden of Eden where hard working people tried to build up an ideal society and are impeded by the original residents (the Injuns) and villains. The solution is very simple: the Indians are tucked away in reservations (the least habitable regions) and the villains have the choice to became good citizens or been wiped out by the force of law. Sounds this a bit familiar? Wipe out all the undesirable elements in the society to create the ideal situation? Well it happened in a lot more countries in the period this movie was made. It wasn't till the seventies that another opinion on the treatment of the Indians penetrated Hollywood.
The story concentrates around three outlaws. Two of them, Jim and Wahoo, are looking for the third one (Sam) in Texas. They have difficulties finding him and because they are hungry and without any money sign in with the Texas Rangers. There is also the thought to make profit of their assignment to acquire information which can be used for their criminal efforts. But before any of that plans can be worked out they have to face an Indian revolt. Jim and Wahoo play a vital role in defeating the Indians and Wahoo plans to settle with the Rangers. Jim is less sure and when he gets the order to bring back Sam (who has become a notorious villain in the meantime) dead or alive he resigns only to be jailed immediately. In his place Wahoo gets after Sam and he is murdered brutally. Jim finally convinces the mayor that he is the right man to catch Sam.
The first half hour of the movie I found it very hard to enjoy it. There are a lot of scenes with studio backgrounds and a lot of wisecracks that belongs more in film noirs or screwball comedies. And there is Wahoo who rather plays a clown than an outlaw and is a very irritating character. Later there is the problem that the Indians are portrayed not as humans but as savage barbarians rather than as human beings. Their struggle for their rights and their suffering isn't mentioned and the only place they belong according to the heroic rangers is in their reservations. Also the struggle of Jim to become a good citizen isn't worked out well. He isn't a very believable outlaw in the first place. Furthermore he is put in jail because of his history after he played a heroic role in the battle with the Indians. And how are the "good citizens" beside the Rangers portrayed? As chicken-hearted cowards who don't dare to revolt against a villain who terrorize a county. So what's the reason for Jim to leave his past behind him? Love? Well, there is love story, but that is only a thin sideline in this movie.
There are some pluses to this movie. Sam is a convincing outlaw who with his good looks and smile is still believable in his role as villain. He is even more sympathetic than Jim. He only murders Wahoo after he is betrayed by him and he gives Jim the chance to reunite with him. Also the scenery is beautiful. Besides some studio shots the movie was made on location (although it was New Mexico instead of Texas). The murder of Wahoo is very brutal and unexpected (I thought the sympathetic clown would survive) and filmed in the later tradition of Hawks, Aldrich and Fuller.
So in the end I gave the film a meager six out of then because of the craftsmanship of King Vidor, the acting by Lloyd Nolan who plays Sam "Polka Dot' McGee and the scenery. Otherwise this movie is anything but a timeless masterpiece because of the one dimensional portrait of Indians, Rangers and most other roles.
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