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There is a special energy about this old oater that still works for
this cowpoke. It's success at the time of release can be measured by
the fact 'The 3 Ms' was the opening entry in a beloved series of 51
westerns made by Republic Pictures until 1943. It captures the
camaraderie of the trio western concept that was copied by not a few
Poverty Row producers over the next decade. Locations are the real and
expansive west, not the boulder-strewn hills of the San Fernando Valley
of Republic's later output. The landslide sequence is a true white
knuckler. The characters might be stale for today's youngsters but for
their time they were original, fresh and, above all, tightly drawn.
They were borrowed unabashedly by William Colt McDonald, creator of the
book Mesquiteers, from Alexandre Dumas's trio of King's Musketeers.
A B-western director like Mack Wright knew how to establish men of action and good humour in right quick fashion. The movie has the "all for one and one for all" dynamic down pat. The plot mixes the Mesquiteers, in from a long stretch of cattle punchin', with a group of First World War vets bent on homesteadin'. The Mesquiteers are vets, too, and the bond is instant, abetted by a vet's sister to draw Stony Brooke's eye. This device made B westerns magical, melding a mythical west of cowboys on horses with technology like automobiles and telephones. All done without a single note of self consciousness. As a kid I believed such a hybrid west really existed somewhere in the great undefined American southwest. The villains are cattle men not partial to squatters, even if the nesters have served their country. That makes the villains all the more heinous, which they prove in a scene guaranteed to boil your blood. That's followed by a funeral guaranteed to wet yur hankie. As an adult the Mesquiteers still resonate with this unrepentant rescue-ridin', maiden-savin' do gooder.
As an introduction to the Three Mesquiteers themselves (not that the
characters stayed consistent through the series) and to the eventual
series of that name, "The Three Mesquiteers" is a wonderful movie, with
clever dialogue and excellent story, very well acted at all levels.
Bob Livingston and Ray Corrigan played Stony and Tucson as a good team, obviously liking each other enough to tease each other and still work smoothly together, for fighting or cowboying.
Syd Saylor was probably a better all-around actor than Max Terhune, who replaced him in the next 3M movies, but he was a different character and must be considered in that light. Actually, he probably better fit the physical description by the original author, William Colt MacDonald.
Bad guys here were exceptional, including Al Bridge, who went on to an illustrious career, especially as a favorite of Preston Sturges. He even looked enough like J.P. McGowan that they were believably brothers.
McGowan was really good as the rotten leader of the bad guys, but in his character's one moment of near-humanity, he was even better.
John Merton was the brawn heavy and excellent, as always.
Gene Marvey was very likable as the leader of the injured veterans -- an unfortunately always relevant topic -- and even had a beautiful singing voice. It is shameful that even IMDb has no information on him.
As his character's sister, Kay Hughes was lovely and also likable. Her career lasted more than ten years, but apparently she gave it up before it gave her up.
Frank Yaconelli was, as always in such parts, outstanding, and other "injured vets" were sympathetic and earned our liking and admiration.
Look for a young and early Milburn Stone, who went on to great fame as "Doc" in the decades long TV series "Gunsmoke." Even this early, he stands out.
There is really so much to like in this "The Three Mesquiteers" it's hard to know what to say and what to leave out. For example, one must mention some excellent dialogue, especially the line about the French fight for glory, the English for land, and Americans for souvenirs.
All in all, a great movie, and my only serious complaint is about the jerky quality of the print I saw at YouTube. At least it was the right movie: One listed there under this title was another 3M entirely.
Finally, one other small complaint, a directorial (what I consider an) error: When the boys leave a dance to go after the villains, they do so bare-headed. Real cowboys would have grabbed their hats maybe even before their guns.
Still, this is a wonderful film, a wonderful introduction, and a wonderful experience, starring two of my favorite cowboys.
(It's truly only parenthetical I mention having got to meet Ray Corrigan about a month before his death and even attended his funeral. I had looked forward to meeting him for a long time, and was fortunate enough to do so at a Western Film Collectors convention in July of 1976. He was a lovely and charming man, still looking handsome and strong. R.I.P.)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's safe to say that this is not what I was expecting for the first
film in the Three Mesquiteers series. It eventually turns into a
Western of course, but first it focuses on returning American vets from
the trenches of World War I, and how handicapped soldiers would cope
with reintegration into normal society. The dialog among wounded and
amputated servicemen at the start of the picture lends a poignant
resonance to the film that permeates throughout. It's fair to say that
a certain patriotism welled up in this viewer while watching the story,
trusting that the sacrifices that these veterans made for their country
would be rewarded to some degree by virtue of the homestead opportunity
made available by the government.
The Three Mesquiteers connection is not a given from the start however. Stony Brooke (Robert Livingston) and Tucson Smith (Ray Corrigan) are a pair of cowhands who come upon Lullaby Joslin (Syd Saylor) in a San Juan Basin saloon where he's arrived to scout out the locale for the arriving settlers. The locals, led by the Canfield Brothers (J.P. McGowan and Al Bridge), are determined to stop the vets before they even have a chance to get started. In the first set of fisticuffs in the picture, Tucson takes on henchman Bull (John Merton) in a lively brawl accentuated by the piano player who up-tempo's his playing with the action on screen. Very effective for this early oater.
For his part, Lullaby is the go to guy the vets trusted to make the decision to go West in the first place. His gimmick is a motor bike and side car that's effective for this picture, as he leads the rest of the troopers in their more traditional buckboard wagons. Interestingly, this was Saylor's only appearance as a Mesquiteer. He was replaced by Max Terhune in the next picture of the franchise, "Ghost Town Gold". Terhune continued the part of Lullaby Joslin, and was given a ventriloquist dummy named Elmer to bring a comic relief role to the series.
You rarely ever have a tearjerker moment in a B Western, but this one comes close. One of the veterans, Bob Bryant (Gene Marvey) offers an operatic rendition of 'Home on the Range' in an early scene, but eventually falls victim to the bad guys. His burial is given military honors with the traditional playing of Taps, and he's laid to rest with the strains of 'Home on the Range' in the background. Again, a unique and interesting meld of old fashioned patriotism and B Western flavor.
The early Mesquiteers films were a high priority for Republic Pictures, even though they later shifted to the singing cowboy format initiated by Gene Autry, followed by Roy Rogers. Still, the Mesquiteers series continued until 1943 with a revolving cast that came to include such Western luminaries as John Wayne, Bob Steele, and Tom Tyler. But it all started here with "The Three Mesquiteers", eventually totaling an impressive run of fifty one pictures.
This western is very special, specially when you realize it was made not
many years after it takes place.
It shows soldiers that fought in world war one,looking for a new
to live, and going to New Mexico where they are not welcomed by the
Anyhow, two cowboys decide to help them.
They arrive driving cars, and one guy has a motorcycle with a side
The first thing the cowboys tell them is to get rid of the cars and
horses and wagons.
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