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The Crooked Trail (1936)

Passed  |   |  Action, Drama, Romance  |  25 July 1936 (USA)
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After Jim Blake saves Harve Tarlton's life, they become partners in a gold mining claim. After a while Harve reverts to his outlaw way of life. Everyone but Jim seems to know that Harve is ... See full summary »



(original story and screenplay)
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Complete credited cast:
Jim Blake
Lucile Browne ...
Helen Carter
John Merton ...
Harve Tarlton
Charles King ...
Ted Adams ...
Estaban Solano
John Van Pelt ...
Ed Cassidy ...
Grimby (as Edward Cassidy)
Horace Murphy ...


After Jim Blake saves Harve Tarlton's life, they become partners in a gold mining claim. After a while Harve reverts to his outlaw way of life. Everyone but Jim seems to know that Harve is bad but Jim merely thinks he needs a chance to go straight. But Jim's wife Helen has a plan to expose Harve as the outlaw he is. Written by Maurice VanAuken <>

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A NEW SADDLE AND GUN SAGA! (original poster - all caps) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 July 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Lead Law  »

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Edited into Six Gun Theater: Episode #1.11 (2015) See more »

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Generations Before Brokeback Mountain
6 May 2011 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

The Crooked Trail was a western film starring Johnny Mack Brown that was an independent production for an outfit called Supreme Pictures. It would have to have been an independent film because the Code would never have allowed a film with a more than subtle gay subtext to have been done at a major studio where more scrutiny would have been exercised. I wonder what Brown and the rest of the cast realized about The Crooked Trail.

Johnny Mack Brown finds Ted Adams and John Merton both unconscious and suffering dehydration on the badlands. He saves them both though they tell conflicting stories about who was the aggressor in a fight they had.

Brown is a noted lawman from Texas who now just wants to seek a fortune in panning for gold and he takes Merton in as a partner. Everybody takes to Brown, especially Lucile Browne, but no one really likes Merton. In fact Merton unbeknownst to Brown is robbing the other prospectors.

The script provides for a Greek chorus of commentators among the old time prospectors. Just to make sure you get the point about the motivations of the characters, they tell you that Merton is jealous of Lucile Browne and the attention she's getting from Johnny Mack Brown. She's scared of Merton as are others, but Brown sees only good in Merton.

The Crooked Trail comes as close in a film during that time to illustrate an unrequited same sex crush as I've ever seen. And in a B western which would normally be for the Saturday matinée kiddie trade as well. Of course the gay man is the villain here, but that was to be expected given the times.

It's hardly a great film, not even having the production values of something from Republic or Monogram. Still The Crooked Trail ought to be examined by those who are studying the gay cinema and how it crops up in unusual places.

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