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"Sheriff of Cimarron" was made when Sunset Carson was at the peak of
his two-year career as a Republic cowboy star. In a way, this was his
first starring role. Before he had been saddled with Frog Millhouse
(Smiley Burnette) who often got top billing. Unlike your average six
gun hero, Sunset was a ladies man on and off the screen which is what
eventually got him canned by Republic when he showed up with an
underage filly in hand. In this movie he winks at pretty Helen Burton
(Linda Stirling) while making a clicking noise with his mouth reminding
one of the sexual grrrr Jerry Lee Lewis and other rockabilly singers
used in their music. His acting wasn't the best on the screen but he
looked the part of a Saturday afternoon matinée idol. He certainly rode
tall in the saddle. He had a promising movie career ahead of him when
his rowdy personal life caught up with him.
The talented Yakima Canutt was in charge behind the camera so the viewer is in for the best action scenes possible at the time. Particularly impressive is the final chase involving a runaway stagecoach with Sunset on the coach and his brother Ted atop one of the team horses. The stage breaks away from the team leaving Sunset to fend for himself. This part was a good training ground for Canutt. He elaborated upon it when he directed a similar type situation for the chariot race in "Ben-Hur."
The weakest part of "Sheriff of Cimarron" is the humor which at times is outright embarrassing consisting mainly of childish pranks played on the town character, pill-pusher Pinky Snyder (Olin Howland). Howland was oft times cast a country rube, a role he played so well. His type humor which may have been funny at the time is today definitely not funny. The film even begins with one of the pranks which is an unaccountable flaw in Canutt's direction. The master of stunts should have begun with a spectacular action sequence to pull the audience into the show.
The story is a good one about two brothers, one good and one despicably evil. Ted Carson aka The Sonora Kid ( Riley Hill) makes Cain look like Snow White. He framed his brother Sunset who served three years in prison for his brother's crime. He is hell-bent on shooting his brother in the back while pretending to be his friend. He is a cold-blooded killer. Riley Hill plays the conniving and treacherous sibling to perfection. As Hamlet says, "One may smile, and smile, and be a villain." Republic had the meanest bad guys of any studio. So the outlaws led by stalwart heavy Jack Ingram can be counted on to give hero Sunset Carson as much trouble as he can handle in a 56 minute time slot. The only one missing that would have made it more difficult for Sunset to clean up Cimarron was Roy Barcroft.
Get your popcorn popping and your Milk Duds out, it's time for some straight shootin', fisticuffs, and hard ridin'. Sunset even gets to use a bull whip. Don't miss it.
Sheriff Of Cimarron finds Sunset Carson recently released from prison
for cattle rustling. He's done three years and little does he suspect
that it was his own brother who framed him for a crime he didn't
commit. For a G rated cowboy film this is pretty unusual as they
stressed family values to the Nth degree. It's also pretty cold.
When Sunset as a private citizen prevents a pair of holdups the citizens of Cimarron make him the sheriff. But brother Ted played by Riley Hill wants his good brother the sheriff out of the way as he's cramping his operation even though Sunset doesn't know his brother's behind it.
Hill is one coldblooded character. We wouldn't see feuding brothers like this in a western until Winchester 73 with James Stewart and Stephen McNally.
For comic relief we get Olin Howlin the butt of juvenile humor by some town juveniles. That we could have done without.
Sheriff At Cimarron is pretty good with potential to be something better. Herbert J. Yates should have spent some more money on it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Sheriff of Cimarron" was Sunset Carson's first starring Republic
western following four films in which Smiley Burnette took top billing.
The story has Sunset riding into the lawless mining town of Cimarron and foiling an express company robbery. There he meets his brother Ted (Riley Hill) and charming and lovely Helen Barton (Linda Stirling) the daughter of John Barton (Jack Kirk) the express company head. As the result of his heroics, Sunset is coerced into becoming the new sheriff following the resignation of the former sheriff (Ed Cassidy).
It turns out that Sunset had been in prison for three years for a crime he did not commit (surprise). He then sets about bring the M'Cord (odd spelling) gang to justice. Veteran baddie Jack Ingram plays M'Cord and Bob Wilke Dobie his henchman.
This film was the first to be directed by legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt (though he is credited with co-directing a film in 1935). As such, he keeps the action flowing and the stunts spectacular.
As an actor, Carson seems to have been a graduate of the "Yakima Canutt School of Acting". He seems awkward and ill-prepared. Fortunately, Republic surrounded him with superior production values, a good supporting cast and a competent action director.
Others in the cast include Olin Howland as "Pinky" the comic relief, Tom London as head of the miners and George Cheseboro wasted as a mine owner.
In spite of his limitations, Carson would go on to make another six westerns ending with his firing by studio head Herbert J, Yates in 1946 for "indiscretions" apparently involving a minor.
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