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False Colors is an above average entry in the Hopalong Cassidy series.
Young Tom Seidel, a ranch hand on Cassidy's Bar 20 spread is gunned
down without any apparent reason. But there's a big reason it turns
out, young Seidel is the heir to two thirds of the Diamond Hitch ranch
in another part of the state. It seems as though he ran away from home
as a kid and his father has died and split inheritance that way with he
and his sister.
So Hoppy, Jimmy, and California go off to the Diamond Hitch country and find someone posing as their recently deceased friend. Tom Seidel is playing both the heir and the impostor.
Anyone with any kind of experience watching B westerns will know that it is banker Douglass Dumbrille behind the dastardly scheme as he's behind any number nefarious enterprises in film. Dumbrille even has sheriff Roy Barcroft in his pocket. The suspense here is how Hoppy and his pals save the situation for the sister and now real sole heir of the ranch. Let's just say he's got something up his sleeve and he doesn't tip his hand right away.
In the cast as one of Dumbrille's henchmen is Robert Mitchum and this is one of about half a dozen Cassidy westerns where Mitchum got some of his earliest roles. He has a really brutal saloon fight with Bill Boyd who has to save Andy Clyde from a beating. Truth be told Andy Clyde kind of deserved one. But you see the film to find out.
It's a nicely plotted story, definitely above average for a B western and even a Hopalong Cassidy film which were generally above average as B westerns went. Jimmy Rogers is playing a character with his own name and Jimmy was the younger son of Will. Truth be told he's not much of an actor, but the part doesn't exactly call for Robert DeNiro.
Although Hoppy appears dressed all in black throughout this film, it's not one of the better Hopalong Cassidy outings. Interesting highlights are a fight between Hoppy & Robert Mitchum (at one point William Boyd's stunt double is quite obvious), & Hoppy's shooting a gun out of Mitchum's hand. Hoppy always had two sidekicks. One was the scruffy oldtimer (first done to perfection by George "Gabby/Windy" Hayes & later played by Andy Clyde as "California"). The second sidekick was usually named "Johnny" or "Lucky." The "Johnnies" & the "Luckies" of the Hoppy films were often handsome young actors who had trouble acting. The idea was to give the women in the audience something to look at, & to provide a romantic interest when "Johnny" or "Lucky" fell for the heroine. "False Colors" makes me yearn for a Johnny or a Lucky, because the "Jimmy" (Rogers) in this film is neither attractive to look at, nor can he act. As a matter of fact, he's the worst actor of any junior sidekick in the Hoppy movies, and he appeared in several of them. Aside from having a famous dad (Will Rogers), why they needed this guy is beyond me! His attempts at providing a romantic interest are unintentionally laughable. I rate this 5/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Four reviewers before me did a pretty good job of describing the action
here so I'll take a somewhat different approach. The reason I love
these old time B Westerns is because they often contain elements that
don't make any sense at all and yet they pass for a credible story.
This picture is loaded with them, so let me get right to it.
For a while there it looked like Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd), California Carlson (Andy Clyde) and Jimmy Rogers (using his own name) were going to make this look like a Range Busters movie. Hoppy suggests to his pals that they enter the town of Poncho individually so no one suspects that they're working together. But guess what - as soon as they each arrive they hook right back up again! So what was the point?
Then there's the local attorney portrayed by Earle Hodgins. The shingle outside his office shows the name of Jay Griffin. However when he introduces himself to Hoppy he calls himself Quigley! I guess there could have been another attorney, but what are the odds? He didn't look like he had a partner.
So after a while, Hoppy and his pals discuss their strategy to smoke out the outlaw that's impersonating their buddy Lawton (Tom Seidel in a dual role). Their conversation takes place on a porch in the middle of town, and quite visible behind them is a local citizen who could hear every word they said. Fortunately this didn't have any bearing on the story, but you'd have to wonder in a rational world what the guy would have been thinking.
So anyway, the boys get in a jam with the sheriff who's in the pocket of town boss Mark Foster (Douglass Dumbrille). They get some jail time but the sheriff figures it's best if he lets them go to hightail it out of town. Now I don't know if I heard this right but I replayed it a couple of times, and what California said to the sheriff sure sounded like "You're a white man, Sheriff", as in he was doing the right thing, but it sure sounded weird given the circumstances.
Now I might not have this next one in the proper sequence but it really doesn't matter. At one point, Foster's henchmen take off after the trio and mean to do them in. Starting out, one of the outlaws shouts "Come on boys, spread out" and wouldn't you know it - they all gallop off on their horses in a bunch together!
One last goof and this was a pretty good one too. Robert Mitchum shows up in the flick as one of the henchmen and gets riled by California during a card game. About to get the drop on California, Hoppy shows up and the two of them engage in a pretty fair bar-room brawl. Being it's Hoppy's picture he gets to beat the tar out of Mitchum's character who's left with a number of cuts on his face. Yet the next time we see him he looks good as new!
So does any of this really matter? Heck no! I'll be watching another one in a few more minutes!
The first half is outdoors with some spectacularly moody vistas of the
snow-covered Sierras. Just as impressive are those great shots of the
many weird boulders covering the Alabama Hills. This is familiar
territory for Hoppy and the boys, but it's never been more visually
There's some good action during this first part as Hoppy tries to prevent bad guy Foster (Dumbrille) from cheating a young brother and sister (Seidel & Drake) from their ranch inheritance. The second half moves indoors as Foster's scheme draws Hoppy and the boys out of the hills and into town. Too bad, in my little book, they couldn't keep this second half outdoors too.
It's a more notable cast than usual. Dumbrille, of course, is a veteran baddie from many an A-production, while hulking thugs Barcroft and Strange get rare speaking parts. Leading lady Drake would soon appear in that most nourish of noir classics, Detour (1945). But most notable is Bob Mitchum promoted into one of his first speaking partscatch how well he acts with his eyes at the poker table. No wonder he was emerging from the crowd of cowboy extras. And for a minute, it looked like actor Seidel would be one of the few in Hollywood to get killed twice in the same movie!
There're the usual action staples-- some hard riding and a couple of really energetic fist-fights to keep things from getting too talky. I guess my only complaint concerns sidekick Jimmy Rogers. I agree with reviewer Don W that he's an inept presence, who unfortunately rather resembles a young Jimmy Durante. Wisely, the screenplay downplays his romance with the personality-plus Drake.
Anyway, the 60-minutes adds up for me as half-of-a-good Hoppy.
Bud Lawton, one of Hoppy's young ranch hands, is ambushed and killed right after he has had a lawyer draw up a business agreement in which he names Hoppy, California and Jimmy as his full partners in his 2/3rds ownership of a ranch that he has just inherited from his estranged father. Hoppy and his sidekicks decide to visit the ranch and upon arrival discover that "Bud Lawton" has returned to the old homestead. The imposter has been hired to do the impersonation by a rat who wants the water rights which go with the property and hopes to get the property by having the imposter convince Lawton's sister to sell the ranch. Douglas Dumbrille as usual does a marvelous job playing the villain, Mark Foster. Of course if this movie is remembered at all by non-B western fans it's because of Robert Mitchum. And what a good job he does. I've seen an early John Wayne western and I can't say that I thought he was anything special but Mitchum does shine in this early film, especially in the poker playing scene and the subsequent barroom brawl with Hoppy. I like Andy Clyde as California but must agree with a previous reviewer that he kinda was asking to get hit after his inappropriate kibitzing at a poker game.
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