“Blazing The Western Trail”

May 22, 2008

image courtesy of Les Adams - Abilene, Texas

Courtesy of Les Adams

The sixth Durango Kid film!

After recently haven watched so many films from the end of the series, I’m happy to be back in 1945, back at the beginning.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

For one thing – NO SMILEY! The infinitely better Cannonball (played by Dub Taylor) is the comic relief in this film. It’s funny, he does the same basic shtick as Smiley, but it’s just fresher and more fun to watch. The last time I watched a DK film with Dub, I wasn’t aware of his later career with Sam Peckinpah, Burt Reynolds, Disney films, TV guest spots on many of my favorite shows… Now that I do, I can’t NOT see it!

And Charley seems to be having more fun with the role back then.

Plot involves two stagecoach companies competing for the contract to the Quanto Basin Line. The bad guys try to pin the killing of their foreman, Waring, on the owner of the competitor.

Someone didn’t get the memo from the studio. You know, the one that read, “Charles Starrett’s character will have the first name of ‘Steve’ and whatever last name occurs to you.” Here he plays JEFF! Waring, nephew of the murdered foreman.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

It’s not just Dub that’s fresher in this film. There is an excitement about the idea of Durango Kid that is missing from the later films.

For example, check out this exchange between ‘Jeff’ (it still sounds so weird!) and his friend, Tex Harding:

“I’m going to find out who killed my uncle and why!”

“Where you gonna start?”

“I don’t know, Tex. Maybe the Durango Kid will ride again!”

They share a knowing smile (signaling to me that Tex is in on it!)

Later, Tex asks Jeff after a DK raid, “How’d the masquerade go?”

And there’s more: The bad guy says, “The Durango Kid?! Why I heard that down in Texas he…” CRASH! He is interrupted. I wish they had kept this device alive (they used it in “Return Of The Durango Kid”) of alluding to some mysterious activity of the Kid’s down in Texas.

And more: Someone says, “The Durango Kid always fights on the side of the Right!”

And even more: The Sheriff suspects that Jeff is the Kid…and gives him his blessing!

And how about this? Durango gets wounded and Jeff has to pretend he isn’t hurt.

And then? The bad guy figures out that Jeff’s the Durango Kid!

And then Jeff and Tex pull a double-switcharoo and convince the bad guy that Jeff ain’t Durango.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

And, in the end, Durango arrests the bad guy and pulls off his scarf – revealing his identity!

Like I said, a lot more interest in exploiting the whole idea of a masked man double-life for our hero.

All this pales, however, in the light of the following scene. We get to see (that’s right) THE TRANSFORMATION!

Durango Kid has the drop on some bad guys and runs from the room. They chase him and rush out of frame. PAN to: The Closet. It opens, revealing Charley in full DK disguise, but without the mask! And there’s his white outfit! It’s just hanging on the inside of the door! And Charley changes his black hat for his white one — right before our very eyes! As he starts to change his shirt, we cut (or I passed out momentarily, I’m not sure…)

Music is by Bob Will and His Texas Playboys.

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One Response to ““Blazing The Western Trail””

  1. The reason that Dub Taylor was in this particular film, and not Smiley was because Smiley did not enter the series until 1946. While Dub Taylor did become a good character actor in his later films, he was an imitation of Smiley in both his hillbilly character and musical ability. Jimmy Wakely tells of how Dub became his sidekick at Monogram after they had to retire Lee Lasses White. While Dub was an asset in the Wakely series, he did have a drinking problem which sometimes created embarrassment on Wakely’s personal appearance tours.

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