|Index||4 reviews in total|
Lawman Rocky Camron recruits old pals Ken Maynard, Eddie Dean, and Max
Terhune to help ferret out a gang of big-time bank robbers. The quartet
take cover in a medicine show in order to get close to the villains,
with each man doing his particular specialty for the show.
A final starring role for Maynard, this and other later pictures get a lot of flack because of Ken's weight. However, this semi-remake of the John Wayne vehicle Paradise Canyon (written/directed by the same writer) is actually quite entertaining, with Ken still a lot of fun to watch, performing some of the same cowboy tricks on the medicine show that initially attracted the attention of Hollywood some twenty-years earlier.
Also, Eddie Dean belts out a handful of great songs and Max Terhune brings along his dummy. Rounding out the cast is western character actor and final Frankenstein Monster Glenn Strange, pretty Ruth Roman, and eternal heavy Charles King, a villain who seems to have come back more times than Freddy Krueger!
Instead of being Maynard's last, it should have been the first in a Three Mesquiteers/Range Busters type series. I would have paid money to see it.
This WWII era western features the great Ken Maynard in one of his
later films and Eddie Dean in one of his first featured roles. Both are
Marshals investigating a payroll robbery during the days of the Wild
West. Also featured are Max Terhune (of 3 Mesquiteers fame) as well as
Maynard was one of the great silent film cowboy stars, but did not fare so well in the talkies. In this one, he seems over the hill and a bit dis-interested. Eddie Dean does well in his role and would go on to his own film series.
I enjoyed seeing the unique casting in this western, despite a standard script. For fans of classic era westerns, this one is worth seeing for that alone ......
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the oddest of coincidences, this is the second Western in a row I've
watched, picked entirely at random, to take place in a town called Red
Bluff. The other was the 1942 Rough Riders picture, "Riders of the
West". I don't recall the state ever being mentioned in the stories,
but a quick Google search brought up a bunch of hits for Red Bluff,
"Harmony Trail" has a pretty interesting team up between star Ken Maynard, Eddie Dean, and Max Terhune, and it made me wonder whether this was one of the traditional Western 'B' trios that became a staple of the genre. Terhune had been a member of The Three Mesquiteers, but in this case, it was simply a matter of putting a number of top draws together. Actually, for Maynard, this was his last hurrah following a stint with Hoot Gibson and Bob Steele as part of Monogram Pictures' Trail Blazers series. By this time, Maynard's girth had gained quite a few inches, and he's quite paunchy, no longer the solid, youthful looking cowboy that he was at the start of his career in the mid 1920's.
In the story, the three buddies hook up with a traveling medicine show to get the goods on an outlaw gang who robbed twenty five thousand dollars. In an interesting gimmick, the baddies sell a herd of five hundred cattle to a local rancher for precisely the same amount, and deposit the stolen marked money in a bank account, thereby throwing suspicion on a local rancher. The main villain, Jim Sorrell is played by veteran bad guy Charles King.
Besides bringing in the hoodlums, the picture offers a side story with Eddie Dean romancing Ruth Roman's character, the daughter of the medicine show owner. Dean, one of the top cowboy crooners, sings the title song along with a couple of others, including an out of place but entertaining boogie woogie tune. What's interesting about the medicine show set up is that Max Terhune winds up delivering the sales pitch usually done by the snake oil salesman. I wondered about that for a while, especially since Pop Martin (Robert McKenazie) wound up with virtually nothing to do for his part in the story.
If you're wondering about my summary quote above, I would be too, as it doesn't seem like a comment that would be coming out of a Western. Credit that to Terhune's ventriloquist dummy Elmer in response to learning that the local sheriff would be tracking the bad guys. I've seen Terhune's act with Elmer in a few of his Three Mesquiteers films, but here's a bit of trivia coming out of this flick. Care to guess Elmer's last name? - it's Sneezeweed!!!
Ken Maynard even does rope tricks in a story that had been used earlier
by John Wayne in "Paradise Canyon."
Wayne's character was also a sharp shooter, as is Maynard's, but the Duke didn't do rope tricks.
Nor in the Duke's version was there an Eddie Dean to sing, nor Max Terhune with his puppet (sometimes referred to as ventriloquist's dummy) Elmer.
Never mind: It's a good enough plot device to get the story moving, and different enough in the two movies not to matter the least little bit.
Even more surprising than Maynard's doing rope tricks -- a surprise to this viewer who obviously needs to learn more about Ken Maynard movies - - was a very young Ruth Roman's appearing in a B western. She even does a little dance!
Many a budding star, such as Rita Hayworth and Jennifer Jones (using different names), began in B westerns, but it was a surprise to me, again, to see Miss Roman. She would be acting 45 more years after this.
Some of the classic western performers are in "Harmony Trail," including Glenn Strange and Charles King, along with Bud Osborne and John Cason.
Nothing new, perhaps, but the very good cast is well directed in a good story. I recommend "Harmony Trail."
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