“Gallant Defender”

June 8, 2008

Charley’s first Western!

Best I can piece together, after Paramount dropped him, Charley did some independent studio films before his contract was picked up by Columbia. I wonder how the decision to try Charley in Western roles came about. And I wonder how Charley got the news.

“Charles, have a seat. First off, welcome to Columbia Pictures. We’ve been thinking of trying you out in this Cowboy picture…”

Or did he show up at wardrobe and realize, “looks like I’m playing a cowboy in this one.”

However the decision came about, it stuck. Charley appears to have been in only a= two non-Westerns from here on, 1936’s “Secret Patrol” and “Along Came Love”. And we’re talking about 17 years.

It’s kinda cool that Charley’s first Western character is a reluctant hero. He’s no Durango with his “Looks like there’s trouble, that’s why I’m here” business.

Familiar plot involves Cattlemen v. Homesteaders. It looks like it’s going to be a war. The sheriff even says, “You don’t need a sheriff, you need an army!”

Everyone in Oro Grande wants John Flagg on their side. He tells the Homesteaders “I may lend my gun from time to time, but it’s never for sale.” He tells Cattleman Monroe more or less the same thing and shoots a few of his men. John is leaving town before he meets lonely Barbara McGrail (Joan Perry herself, the future Mrs. Harry Cohn.) So he throws in with the Homesteaders and becomes a sort of “Magnificent One.”

Charley sports a great old school cowboy look. All black, except for big white hat and white scarf and gloves.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Like “Fighting Buckaroo”, Charley is a little tougher in this role.

Another difference between this and the later films, besides the obvious “John” issue, is the music. There are only two songs and they appear back to back in a little break from the action mid-way through the film. The Sons of the Pioneers are among the homesteaders around a fire, and they all sing and then someone plays a fiddle and then they do song number two.

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One Response to ““Gallant Defender””

  1. Mike Newton said

    Columbia Pictures needed a western hero at this time who would appeal to girls as well as boys. Starrett’s good looks made him a box office favorite, but it was his ability as an ex-athlete that helped to put his hero character across. He had boxed in college so he was able to do many of the fights himself. His continuing battle with Dick Curtis, picture after picture, was termed “The Never Ending Fight.” Since he was not a singer, but musical westerns were popular, the Sons of the Pioneers were added to his regular cast. Young Len Slye was seen in several scenes and later was to make his mark as Roy Rogers at Republic.

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