“Pecos River”

May 27, 2008

Not sure where the fellas at the studio came up with this title. I didn’t sure see any river!

You know, Charley smiles alot in these films. He’s got a nice smile. It seems natural. I’m glad he liked his job. It was 1951 and almost over. Six more Durango Kid films and Charley retired from the screen forever.

He gets to do a little more acting than usual in this one. When we meet Steve Baldwin, he’s in disguise — unshaven, dirty clothes, poor elocution and a phony wanted poster to boot. Charley’s advancing age helped him with his portrayal here.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Turns out he’s a Postal Investigator (boy, they come up with some sexy jobs for Charley). He’s looking for those Mail Robbers “wanted for that Tucson mail robbery.”

Jock (now Jack) Mahoney (long time Starrett stuntman) plays an Eastern educated square who arrives in town in a straw hat with a tennis racket and a mandolin. Some jerks pick on him but it turns out he can fight like…well…The Durango Kid. Exactly like the Durango Kid.

Great montage where Durango trains Jack to shoot so that he can avenge his father’s death. GREAT MONTAGE! Spinning and drawing — pantomiming “you try it now, Jack” — throwing cans in the air and shooting them — one shoots the eye out of a target of a man, the other shoots the other eye out — laughing when they miss. Shoulder-chucking. All that great stuff.

Neat tension between the two sides of Charley. Durango actually saves the one guy who can finger Steve for Murder.

Some great lines:

Sherriff: “The first thing you learn in the Law is, you gotta catch ’em with the meat, the feathers don’t count.”

Later. Charley: “When a man keeps cleaning a loaded gun, he don’t trust his company too much.”

Through the looking glass moment where Jack dresses up as…Steve!

Smiley Burnette plays “Smiley Burnette, Spec Specialist”. For the first time I’ve seen, Smiley is out of his trademark dusty outfit and chewed-up hat. He’s dressed in a top hat with a tie and vest and other fancy duds. Question: Why mess with a sure thing? Why draw on a winning hand?

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

“Pecos River” features the truly weirdest ending (by far) of any Durango Kid film I’ve seen.

Picture this: They blow the bridge at Deep Canyon and the stagecoach pummels to the rocks below, presumably with Durango and the Sheriff in it. Cut to: Smiley watching it with Jack and the girl. As Jack comforts the girl, Smiley walks up to the camera and addresses the audience directly, “Don’t worry about a thing yet, folks. Wait until I get on my special patented glasses for looking into the future. By seeing ahead I can tell exactly what’s about to happen. Yeah, everything might be fine and dandy.” He turns around and comes back with some sparkly glasses on. “Just what I thought, the future looks wonderful…”

Dissolve to the final scene of everyone assembled to say goodbye to Steve. The Sheriff is just fine. Smiley continues to narrate what they are saying. In the future, Smiley plays a Harmonica, but we can’t hear it. Smiley says, “I guess these glasses don’t work for sound too well.”

The closest they have come to breaking the fourth wall like this was in “Laramie Mountains” when Smiley took a piece of paper from Ringeye the Dog’s mouth and held it up to the camera. It read “The End.”

No band in this one. Only “Harmonica Bill.” Here’s the bit: his name is “Bill” and he accompanies Smiley’s singing by playing on a Harmonica!

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

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One Response to ““Pecos River””

  1. Smiley was famous for those scenes where he directly addresses the audience. He did it in a couple of Sunset Carson films at Republic, where after discussing the plot with the other actors at the end, he turned to the audience and said “You kids go home now. You’ve been here all afternoon.” Seeing that years later as a mature adult, realizing how much time has passed, brings a lump to the throat. Notice that the heroine did not get any billing at all. For the record, her name was Dolores Sidener, one of many contract actresses at Columbia, looking for a major career break.

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