Young lawyer Tod Jackson arrives in pioneer Kansas to visit his prosperous rancher friends the Daltons, just as the latter are in danger of losing their land to a crooked development ... See full summary »
Earp agrees to become marshal and establish order in Tombstone in this very romanticized version of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral (e.g., Doc is killed by Curley before the actual battle and Earp must do the job alone).
The setting is the Civil War and its aftermath. Belle's family has lost their land to Yankees. She marries Confederate guerilla leader Sam Starr and they continue activities against ... See full summary »
On March 23, 1938 Randoph Scott was carrying Joan Bennett during the filming of a mob scene, when an actor playing a soldier lost his balance and struck Bennett in the face with his bayonet, causing a cut that required her to go to the hospital. An item about it was carried in newspapers throughout the country, often close to another item about her sister Constance Bennett's libel suit against gossip columnist Jimmie Fidler. See more »
Large-scale action and small-scale drama in Paramount A-western
THE TEXANS (1938) offers some great second unit action scenes in its simple tale of a cattle drive from Indianola, Texas to Abilene, Kansas. We see hundreds of head of cattle forced to swim across the Rio Grande, followed by the cowboys' struggles with such obstacles as dust storms, snow storms, prairie fires, Indian attacks, and pursuit by the U.S. Army. These sequences are quite spectacular, but they're somewhat undermined by the awkward dialogue scenes between the stars. Randolph Scott stars as an ex-Confederate soldier whose idea of taking the cattle to Kansas to keep them from being confiscated for back taxes by the Carpetbagger administrator is taken up by rancher Joan Bennett and her team of cowboys-turned-rebels-turned-cowboys-again. Scott is supposed to be a war-hardened vet trying to survive in Reconstruction Texas, but he comes off as way too cleancut and restrained. The actor needed at least another decade to develop the kind of seasoning that made him such a sturdy western star in the late 1940s-to-early 60s (THE DOOLINS OF OKLAHOMA, SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, THE TALL T, et al). Joan Bennett is terribly miscast here and plays it as if she's in a romantic comedy. Despite having to run off with the cattle with no time to pack her things, she somehow manages to conjure up a parade of fresh feminine fashions along the way and arrives in Abilene with a spanking new dress and bonnet, a new hairdo and fresh makeup. She's never remotely believable as a rancher and frontierswoman who'd kept her spread thriving during the war.
On the other hand, May Robson, as Joan's rough-hewn pioneer grandmother, is appropriately fierce and participates in the action as closely as anybody in the film. (She was near 80 when she made this!) SHE should have been the star. And Walter Brennan is his usual dependable self as the ranch foreman, Chuckawalla. Robson and Brennan are often together and the drama scenes benefit considerably when they're on screen. Raymond Hatton is another old hand at this kind of thing and he appears as Cal, Scott's frontiersman sidekick. The problem is, he literally arrives out of nowhere. When we last see Scott at the end of the opening sequence, where he's fought Union soldiers and helped Bennett escape with a shipment of rifles meant for die-hard Southern rebels, he's alone, unarmed, unhorsed and wearing an ill-fitting new suit of clothes that cost him everything he had. In the next scene, he shows up in a fresh buckskin suit, riding a horse, armed with pistols and rifle, and accompanied by Cal, with no explanation of how these things materialized or where Cal came from. Gaps like this tend to disrupt the storytelling for me.
One of the problems is that the credited director, James Hogan, worked mostly in B-movies and had a largely undistinguished career at Paramount. Why couldn't the studio have gotten one of their more experienced hands, like Henry Hathaway (LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER), to helm an important western like this? After all, no less a showman than Cecil B. DeMille had made the comparably budgeted western saga THE PLAINSMAN for Paramount two years earlier. To go from DeMille to Hogan in two short years demonstrates a distinct impairment of studio judgment. In any event, as another reviewer here pointed out, THE TEXANS compares most unfavorably with a later film that told a similar story, Howard Hawks' RED RIVER (1948).
This film introduced the gentle, melodic western song, "Silver on the Sage," sung in the film by Bill Roberts (as "Singin' Cy") and written by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, Paramount's ace in-house songwriting team. (The pair also gave us the title song of the Hopalong Cassidy western, HILLS OF OLD WYOMING, a year earlier.) I first heard "Silver on the Sage" when it was used on the soundtrack of the 1981 drama, BUTTERFLY, the score of which was composed by Ennio Morricone. I don't remember how the song was used in the film, but the BUTTERFLY soundtrack album featured Johnny Bond's rendition of it.
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