5.1/10
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23 user 7 critic

The Painted Desert (1931)

Passed | | Western | 7 March 1931 (USA)
Two men find an abandoned baby and fight over the ownership of the child resulting in lifelong rivalry.

Directors:

Howard Higgin, Tom Buckingham (uncredited)

Writers:

Tom Buckingham (story), Howard Higgin (story)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
William Boyd ... Bill Holbrook (as Bill Boyd)
Helen Twelvetrees ... Mary Ellen Cameron
William Farnum ... Cash Holbrook
J. Farrell MacDonald ... Jeff Cameron
Clark Gable ... Rance Brett
Charles Sellon ... Tonopah
Hugh Adams Hugh Adams ... Dynamite
Wade Boteler ... Bob Carson
Will Walling ... Kirby
Edmund Breese ... Judge Matthews
Edward Hearn ... Tex (as Guy Edward Hearn)
William Le Maire William Le Maire ... Denver (as William LeMaire)
Richard Cramer ... Provney
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Storyline

Western pardners Jeff and Cash find a baby boy in an otherwise deserted emigrants' camp, and clash over which is to be "father." They are still bitterly feuding years later when they own adjacent ranches. Bill, the foundling whom Cash has raised to young manhood, wants to end the feud and extends an olive branch toward Jeff, who now has a lovely daughter. But during a mining venture, the bitterness escalates. Is Bill to be set against his own adoptive father? Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Clark Gable couldn't ride a horse when he made this film. Producer E.B. Derr asked Gable if he could ride a horse and he said he could. Before shooting began, he learned to ride from Art Wilson, a former Montana cowboy, who gave lessons at the Griffith Park Riding Academy in Los Angeles. See more »

Quotes

[Cash and Jeff rescue a baby from a deserted wagon]
Cash Holbrook: What have we got that'll feed his gizzard? He can't chaw jerky!
Jeff Cameron: Aw, you don't know nothin'. There's oatmeal gruel and a mite of bacon grease'll see him through.
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Connections

Featured in Film Breaks: Out of the West (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Oh! Susanna
(1848)
Written by Stephen Foster
In the score during the opening credits
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User Reviews

 
Gable grumbles as the tumbleweeds tumble with Bill Boyd as Gandhi
22 November 2015 | by AlsExGalSee all my reviews

The star of this film is William Boyd, who made a bunch of westerns for Pathe in his time. As a matter of fact, on the opening credits,Clark Gable isn't even listed. Later, when they name the entire cast he is mentioned, but he comes way behind top rated Boyd and even now largely forgotten Helen Twelvetrees.

Two pioneers, Cash Holbrook and Jeff Cameron, are trekking across the desert when they find a deserted encampment with one survivor, a baby boy. The two fight over where to go next. Jeff Cameron wants to stay at the waterhole because "it is a grub stake" - all people driving cattle through will need this waterhole. Cash Holbrook wants to continue on to grazing land so he can raise cattle. He calls Jeff stubborn, and takes the baby too, daring Jeff to shoot because if he does, the baby will fall from Cash's arms and break his neck.

About twenty years pass and Cash has become a wealthy cattleman. Not being ambitious in the old west has cost Jeff. He married, but his wife died in this harsh environment, and all he has left is his daughter, Mary Ellen (Helen Twelvetrees). In all of this time Cash and Jeff have agitated one another - Jeff is still angry at Cash for stealing the baby boy that is now a man, refusing to let Cash's herd use his watering hold for any price and makes him go 27 miles around. One night it is coming to a showdown. Cash is going to stampede his cattle to Jeff's watering hole and show him who is boss. Jeff and his daughter are prepared to shoot it out to stop him. Along comes a stranger - Gable as Rance Brent, and with him instantly taken with Mary Ellen, Rance decides to back them up in the shootout.

Cash's adopted son comes out and stampedes the cattle away from the watering hole to prevent the deadly shootout. Cash is angry, and throws Bill (Bill Boyd) out. Bill went to mining school, discovers tungsten on Jeff's land, and enters into a mining partnership with his dad's sworn enemy.

Now this is where the movie is weird. Bill is acting Gandhi-like saying that he takes neither side, he just wants Cash and Jeff to be friends again and that neither is bad or wrong. I beg to disagree, because to me Cash IS a bad man up to this point. First he uses Bill the infant as a human shield, and when Bill keeps something from escalating into bloodshed, Cash throws that son out of his life.

In the meantime, Jeff and Bill's mine is yielding lots of ore, and out of nowhere - certainly not out of any dialogue that I could perceive - Bill and Mary Ellen are in love. Meanwhile somebody is sniping at the drivers who are taking the ore into town to the railroad, and then some dynamite disappears and the mine is blown to smithereens. Everybody on Jeff's place blames Cash, and it is up to Bill to stop another potential showdown and shootout. I'll let you watch and find out what happens.

This film has absolutely no background music, which was common in early films, and much of the dialogue is very pedestrian. However, it is a good chance to see Gable in his first sound film, and although he hardly utters a word, you can see the beginning of "that Gable style".


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 March 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Painted Desert See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Pathé Exchange See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (copyright length) | (Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
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