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Twentieth Century Fox's 1941 version of Zane Grey's hit novel, RIDER'S OF THE PURPLE SAGE, is visibly low on production values, and yet entertaining because of a fine cast assembled around a very young George Montgomery... an actor obviously being groomed and developed for bigger roles to come.
This particular Zane Grey novel has been made into at least five different films during the past eighty years. It's appeal lies in the unfolding story of a loner, a self-sufficient man, but one who is somewhat apart from the rest of society. The plains and prairies of the old west are a perfect setting for a man such as this. If George Montgomery seems at home in this role, it's because he literally grew up on a horse in Montana. His riding skills are evident in some early scenes where he is seen stopping a cattle stampede.
Paramount cast the veteran actor Robert Barratt in the antagonists role, Judge Dyer. The part has been sanitized since in the original novel the character was a leader of the Mormon church... not a judge. Barratt always brought authenticity to his parts and he does so here. You may remember him as the last Mohican in THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS with Randolph Scott.
Kane Richmond, a 30s character actor in "A" films and a leading man in some "B" films plays Adam Dyer, the judge's son. He is more than annoyed when Montgomery shows up to interfere with his pursuit of Jane Withersteen, played by Mary Howard. Richmond brings some fire to his role mixed with just enough sympathy that the viewer might wish he wasn't such a bad fellow after all.
Mary Howard is adequate, which is enough when it comes down to the women shown in 30s and early 40s westerns. Richard Lane and Lynne Roberts round out the other major parts.
This film was a favorite of George Montgomery's, who possessed the only copy I've ever seen. I recommend watching this one because it is both entertaining, and a well-told tale.
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