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The Law West of Tombstone (1938)

Passed | | History, Music, Romance | 18 November 1938 (USA)
Notoriuos liar Bill Barker, having been banished westward by the law, talks the townspeople of Martinez into making him Mayor and Judge. Here he has to deal with the outlaw the Tonto Kid, ... See full summary »



(story), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Clara 'Clary' Martinez
Sam Kent
Danny Sanders
Madame Mustache
Robert Spindola ...
Joey Chuy (as Robert Moya)
Mulligan P. Martinez
Mort Dixon


Notoriuos liar Bill Barker, having been banished westward by the law, talks the townspeople of Martinez into making him Mayor and Judge. Here he has to deal with the outlaw the Tonto Kid, the troublesome McQuinn Brothers, and look after his daughter Nita Mosby who thinks her father is dead. Written by Maurice VanAuken <mvanauken@a1access.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

outlaw | brother | mayor | arizona | liar | See All (62) »


That was Bonanza Bill Barker, the fighting man who served his own brand of justice back in the roaring 80's...before the machine-gun age! See more »


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

18 November 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Lei na Terra dos Bandoleiros  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Watch for a very brief appearance by Charles Middleton as the town's newspaper editor. Middleton is best known for his portrayal of Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon serials. See more »


Edited into Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch (1976) See more »


Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Foster
In the score when Nitta and The Tonto Kid are at their campfire
Reprised at the end
See more »

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User Reviews

Easygoing western with quirky characters and great frontier flavor
30 May 2011 | by See all my reviews

THE LAW WEST OF TOMBSTONE (1938) doesn't play like a standard Hollywood western, either A or B. It's more like what you'd get if you took two short stories based on a colorful, larger-than-life western character and merged them together and made a film out of it. It's much more character-driven than plot-driven. A handful of lively, eccentric characters with wildly varying agendas are thrown on screen together and let loose in a tiny Texas town hoping to see some growth from a new railroad station.

Harry Carey Sr. plays Bill Barker, a tall-tale-spinning westerner with big dreams but little capital. In the opening scene, set in New York in 1881, he rides a carriage at high speed down Broadway and tries to con a Wall Street tycoon who's a little too smart for him. Back in Texas, he finds himself elected mayor of Martinez, thanks to his ability to dazzle a crowd with extemporaneous big talk. He takes a local outlaw under his wing, the Tonto Kid (Tim Holt), and tries to get him to straighten out, especially after the boy takes a liking to a newly arrived young lady who happens to be Barker's daughter, a relationship she has no knowledge of, having been raised to think her father died a hero at Gettysburg. Which is exactly how Barker wants it.

There are Indians, whose movements are manipulated to benefit different factions, and corrupt ranchers seeking to deprive rivals of available water resources. There are dance hall girls whose function is never spelled out but is quite evident nonetheless. Everything happens at its own pace and if you come into this expecting—or demanding—the usual western formula you will allow the film's considerable virtues to fly right over your head.

In the few writings I've seen on this film, much is made of the central characters' resemblance to certain western historical figures, e.g. Judge Roy Bean, Billy the Kid and the Clanton Gang. As someone who's read quite a bit of western history, I find the characters presented here unique enough to stand on their own as memorable fictional figures and the tale, as spun here, more in keeping with folklore than with history.

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