|Index||8 reviews in total|
This pretty good RKO B western stars George O'Brien, whose career,
which was going pretty hot in silent days, wound up in this series of
solid B westerns for RKO. After he retired in 1940, his mantle was
picked up by Tim Holt. The entire series is entertaining, even if there
are usually some flaws -- in this one, there is a lot of trouble
matching lighting from one shot to the next.
But the story is pretty good: it's a Reconstruction story, about how the ruthless carpetbagger is stealing old property through spurious tax claims. In this case, it's old Spanish Land Grant owners, in the person of Rita Hayworth, newly delatinized in appearance but still playing Hispanics.
Tim Holt is still learning his craft here and he's pretty stiff and callow seeming. He rarely got a chance to show his real ability and spent a long, happy career in B westerns, although he occasionally poked his head up, most notably as the junior gold prospector in THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE.
The rest of the movie is fun for looking at veteran talent: Neal Hart and Tom London in front of the camera, Oliver Drake in a scripting credit. All in all, a pleasant way to spend an hour, especially for fan of Hollywood westerns.
While the plot idea of having an evil rich boss trying to control
everything out west is one of the most common themes in westerns, "The
Renegade Ranger" manages to take a worn cliché of a plot and make it
mildly interesting. Mind you, this is a B-movie and to really
appreciate it, you should remember that it has a very modest budget and
modest cast--and they did pretty well with these constraints.
The film stars a big western star of the day, the all but forgotten George O'Brien as well as an up and coming star, Tim Holt. It also offers a very rare chance to see a very young Rita Hayworth before she was reinvented by Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn. What I mean by this is that Cohn envisioned her as a big star and had her makeup, hair and even hairline altered to create a much more glamorous image. Here in "The Renegade Ranger", although she's pretty, she isn't yet the stunner she'd soon become.
As far as the plot goes, the only way this really differs from the 101231092312 other westerns with evil boss-men is that the leader of the opposition is a lady (Hayworth) and an ex-Ranger (Holt) is working both sides of the fence during the picture! So why, if it's so familiar do I recommend it? Well, the acting. The three leads were a good bit better than usual for such a film and they managed to carry it off--making the acting seem more natural than usual. Worth your time.
RKO's B Westerns were always strong in the acting and script
department. And "The Renegade Ranger" is no exception. Long-time cowboy
star George O'Brien is solid as always. But it's relative newcomers Tim
Holt and Rita Hayworth that really shine. Holt seethes with talent and
emotion. And Hayworth just seethes.
You can tell both are headed for great things. Holt would become RKO's top B Western star with occasional forays into A pictures such as "Magnificent Ambersons" and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre". And Hayworth would become a superstar.
The writing is equally solid. Frequent B scribe Oliver Drake gives a sympathetic portrayal of Mexican outlaws in Texas. Proving once again that B Westerns aren't as politically retrograde as many think.
Yup, all this is good. But RKO B Westerns also have downside. The action isn't that well-staged. And there's never enough of it. This film is no exception there either. Promised fights are over too quick. Promised showdowns look confused and unfocused. And without good action, a Western can really drag. And this one does.
Still "The Renegade Ranger" is worth a watch for the intriguing plot, reliable O'Brien and especially the nascent talents of Holt and Hayworth.
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.
Sad to say if it were not for the presence of Rita Hayworth as the
outlaw queen in this film, The Renegade Ranger would be sadly forgotten
today. As it is it's not a bad B western from RKO and it featured the
guy who would be that studio's B picture cowboy hero Tim Holt.
George O'Brien stars in The Renegade Ranger and he's gone undercover to arrest Rita Hayworth. She's the descendant of former a Spanish land grant family and she and her tenants are being cheated systematically by crooked politicians. But he's got a complication he didn't figure on. Former Texas Ranger Tim Holt who is in fact the title character has turned outlaw and has joined Hayworth. He doesn't give O'Brien away, but in fact he convinces O'Brien to start investigating the corrupt land grabbing politicians in the region.
The film is a well constructed and well plotted B film. In the Citadel Series Films of Rita Hayworth, George O'Brien said that Rita was a promising newcomer who was eager to learn and took advice and criticism well. Everyone knew she was headed for bigger and better things.
And she certainly was.
This is a film basically about crooked land trickery in the old west,
specifically Texas in this case. Such activities historically were well
documented for a time along the Rio Grande on the far south Texas
border rather than so specifically the Pecos River area of Texas which
was mostly just empty desert, but do form a footnote in the five
hundred year history of the Spanish Colonial New World and its later
ex-colonies the Republic of Mexico and Republic of Texas (later to
merge into the U.S. and become a State). The colorful border atmosphere
is somewhat captured in this otherwise routine western movie.
Established star and real-life American hero George O'Brien is strong in the lead role and young buck Tim Holt is an unpredictable and mercurial kid Ranger and they are both fine in their roles, ordinary as the roles may be. Veteran actors do good work in support.
But now the reason for my review of this movie: stunning young Rita Hayworth. Her beauty and screen presence jump off the screen. She has obviously got "it". Her acting is forceful and her wardrobe ranges from pretty dresses to riding clothes that do not (or cannot) constrain certain parts of her upper torso. As a side note, I could mention that she does an impressive amount of her own horsemanship in this film. And if I was a rider in her vigilante justice group I would surely follow her to hell and back. Hayworth is a young actress giving a good performance here that sets her up for the launch of her soon to be mega-stardom, and deservedly so.
OK, its only an ordinary b-western. But the film's three starring performers elevate it well above what it otherwise would be.
Too bad that George O'Brien is largely forgotten among front row kids.
He may not have the charisma nor singing voice of a Rogers or LaRue,
but his burly physique is perfect for action roles. Here it's really
Holt who has the eye-catching charisma. No wonder he was soon featured
in his own series. Of course, the chief attraction is Rita Hayworth
before her career took off. She's certainly a striking presence, but
for curiosity seekers like myself, it's hard to tell with that hat on
whether this was before or after her hairline was raised. It certainly
made a difference in appearance. Check out Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935)
for a revealing glimpse.
The programmer itself has a couple of good plot twists a tricky ex-Ranger Holt with a wobbly moral compass, and a misled Ranger O'Brien who chases after the wrong gang. The plot's also driven by a conflict between Latinos whose land ownership derives from Spanish land grants and a ruthless frontier land-grabber who wants to scheme the land away from them. Conflict over Spanish land authority is an interesting historical twist I never really thought about. On the other hand, I've got to agree with another reviewer who finds the action scenes foreshortened and not very exciting. Anyway, it's the thoughtful storyline, along with Holt and Hayworth that make this oater worth sticking around for.
A "6" on the matinée scale
Renegade Ranger, The (1938)
* 1/2 (out of 4)
A couple Texas Rangers (George O'Brien/Tim Holt) are hired to bring in a ranch owner (Rita Hayworth) who is raging a battle against the government over land stolen from ranchers. She's painted as a murderer but really she's just acting as a Robin Hood type. Even at 60-minutes this RKO Western is deadly dull without any excitement. There are your typical fist fights and shoot outs but all of them are deadly dry as is the relationship between O'Brien and Hayworth. The only saving grace is Holt in his supporting role and Hayworth is somewhat interesting.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|