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Daniel L. Haynes,
Nina Mae McKinney,
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
Lots of great elements a little mishmashed up, not bad, not terrific
The Texas Rangers (1936)
Routine. There are elements here of Westerns earlier (there were hundreds of obscure ones) and Westerns later (including some well known ones), with stagecoach holdups and cowboy and Indian battles (the Indians lose again) and with pioneer justice. All of the above, plus a man reluctant to see the love of a lonely and lovely woman out on the edge of nowhere.
In a sense, it isn't worth watching if you have other Westerns up your sleeve. But--there has to be a but--the plot is interesting because it turns upside down more times than a tumbleweed, the filming (with Cronjager behind the camera) is straight up and strong, and we get an early look at unlikely Wild West hero, Fred MacMurray. For those who like Westerns, this is a decent mid-30s example, before the explosion of greater examples in 1939.
The title is exactly what the movie is about on the surface--the ragtag but well supported Texas lawmen known as the Texas Rangers (legendary enough to not only have a more recent widely panned movie about them made starring Ashton Kushner but also a Baseball Team). It almost is a promo piece for the group, with a voice-over in the beginning like those FBI films of the 1950s. MacMurray is actually a bandit, teamed up with a kind of goofy second lead, Jack Oakey. In fact, it seems like a comedy at first, and the lightweight air never quite lets up.
It does get more serious, though, not only about love (briefly) but about the honor and ability of the Rangers to fight not only Indians but outlaws. MacMurray gets in the middle of a major mess because he plays both sides of the game, as outlaw and newbie Texas Ranger. Lloyd Nolan enters the plot after awhile and is a great outlaw of his own. It's hard to take MacMurray seriously in this rough rough world, but the music pumps it up and the scenery is dramatic and he holds his own well enough for a middling movie.
And it's a bit long. Even if the plot seems to demand two hours with more and more twists, it loses something of velocity as it goes. King Vidor directed a number of notable silents in the 20s, and a few great 30s films (including the black and white parts of the Wizard of Oz). This one shows the solidity of a great director, and the wobbly backbone of a so-so script.
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