Texas Ranger Jack Steele is assigned to bring in former ranch owner Judith Alvarez, now the leader of a gang who is waging war against the crooked government officials who cheated the ...
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Texas Ranger Jack Steele is assigned to bring in former ranch owner Judith Alvarez, now the leader of a gang who is waging war against the crooked government officials who cheated the ranchers out of their land. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
THE RENEGADE RANGER (1938) is a 59-minute B-western about how white expansion in Texas forced out Spanish and Mexican landowners. Rita Hayworth plays Judith Alvarez, daughter of a Spanish landowner whose land has been taken by white landgrabbers working with a corrupt sheriff. She leads a band of Spaniards and Mexicans in making attacks on the ranchers who've taken their land illegally. Tim Holt plays a frustrated ex-Texas Ranger who wholeheartedly joins Alvarez' band and helps in their efforts. He even acquires a Mexican girlfriend (Cecilia Callejo). George O'Brien plays Holt's Texas Ranger buddy who joins the gang himself, working undercover, on assignment to capture and arrest Miss Alvarez. Holt is torn between loyalty to Alvarez and her cause and his friendship with O'Brien. O'Brien gradually falls in love with Judith himself, which complicates matters even further.
This is a fascinating movie on multiple counts, not least of which is the presence of Rita Hayworth in the role of an Hispanic crusader against white depredations. Hayworth was of Spanish descent herself (real name: Margarita Carmen Cansino) and her band is cast entirely with actual Mexican actors. (The more B-westerns I see, the more I realize that appropriate ethnic casting of Mexican and Indian roles was the rule and not the exception in this genre.) Hayworth was all of 19 when she made this and she was already a great beauty, adorned in stylish western fashions that bring out the best in her. It's easy to see the roots of the glamorous movie star and pinup queen she'd become in a few short years.
Also, the whites, except for the two male stars, O'Brien and Holt, are generally bad guys here and the taking of land from its original owners is condemned. (No word though, about the souls who occupied the land before the Spaniards arrived, but that's another story.) I've seen another western with this plot recently, "California Frontier" (1938), starring Buck Jones as an army officer working undercover in California to thwart white landgrabbers taking land from Mexicans. Rita herself had co-starred in a similar western in 1936, REBELLION. I imagine that further exploration into the vast uncharted territory of the B-western will yield additional gems.
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