6 user 1 critic

20 Mule Team (1940)

Passed | | Action, Adventure, Comedy | 3 May 1940 (USA)
In California's Death Valley, in 1892, Borax ore miners scratch a hard living until a map pinpointing the location of high-grade Borax ore surfaces, sending prospectors and crooks alike into a gold-rush-like frenzy.


Richard Thorpe


Owen Atkinson (story), Robert C. DuSoe (story) | 3 more credits »




Complete credited cast:
Wallace Beery ... Skinner Bill Bragg, an Alias of Ambrose Murphy
Leo Carrillo ... Piute Pete
Marjorie Rambeau ... Josie Johnson
Anne Baxter ... Jean Johnson
Douglas Fowley ... Stag Roper
Noah Beery Jr. ... Mitch
Berton Churchill ... 'Jackass' Brown
Arthur Hohl ... Salters
Clem Bevans ... Chuckawalla
Charles Halton ... Henry Adams
Minor Watson ... Marshal
Oscar O'Shea ... Train Conductor
Lloyd Ingraham ... Stockholder


It is 1892 in Death Valley and the yields from the Borax ore are getting so small that refining it is a losing proposition. The only thing that will save the company is a new deposit of high grade Borax, and Bill has a pouch of it that he got from a dead prospector that he buried on the road. Roper knows the value of the strike could be worth millions, but he needs Bill to find the prospectors' claim so they can record it and become rich partners. While Roper has no intention of cutting Bill in on the millions, he also has his eye on young Jean. Josie sees Roper for the scalawag that his is and it means trouble in Furnace Flat. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


ROARING DRAMA OF DEATH VALLEY DAYS! (original print media ad - all caps) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


This film received its initial television broadcast in Los Angeles Friday 15 February 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by Chicago Wednesday 27 February 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), and by Philadelphia Wednesday 6 March 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6); it first aired in Altoona PA 20 March 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), in Seattle 25 March 1957 on KING (Channel 5), in New York City 29 March 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2), in Portland OR 6 May 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), in Albuquerque 7 May 1957 on KOAT (Channel 7), in Tucson 15 May 1957 on KVOA (Channel 4), in Minneapolis 12 July 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9), in Norfolk VA 22 July on WTAR (Channel 3) and in San Francisco 7 February 1958 on KGO (Channel 7). See more »


Early in the movie when Bill goes into the Saloon and orders a beer its three-quarters full when he starts to drink, but, Josie grabs it and in the next shot of the three of them and the bartender the glass is three-quarters empty. See more »


Skinner Bill Bragg: Let's scratch some sand over him and keep the buzzards from picking him to pieces.
Piute Pete: Pretty soon wind comes some more, blow sand off and coyotes dig him up just the same.
Skinner Bill Bragg: Ain't you got no respect? It's the idea of the thing. Now get to scratching.
See more »


Referenced in Northward, Ho! (1940) See more »

User Reviews

Cornering the Borax Market
5 January 2017 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

20 Mule Team is one of the few westerns to deal with the mining of alkali salt in the place which is best known for it continental USA, Death Valley, California. It's the lowest point on the North American continent with heat the equivalent of what our troops are dealing with now in the Middle East.

Wallace Beery plays a former outlaw who has been living in the area around Death Valley and eking out a living as a miner of this salt with sidekick Leo Carrillo. But one day along comes Douglas Fowley who's an outlaw from the old days now with a confidence scheme in mind to corner the market in Death Valley and he wants Beery in on it lest he rat him out to the law because Beery has a price on his head.

Bilking the suckers isn't all Fowley has in mind. He's also on the make for Anne Baxter who is the daughter of saloon owner Marjorie Rambeau who Beery has an on again off again thing going. Kind of like his relationships with Marie Dressler and Marjorie Main in other films.

The location shooting in Death Valley is the best thing the film has going for it, especially the climatic shootout with Beery and Fowley.

What truly spoils 20 Mule Team is an obviously tacked on ending which made it a happy one. I can't say more, but if you watch 20 Mule Team I'm sure you'll agree.

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Release Date:

3 May 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Twenty Mule Team See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)


Black and White (Sepiatone)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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