“West of Dodge City”

July 9, 2008

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Here’s the plot of the third Durango Kid film of 1947 (there would be six more): Hod Barker kills John Avery to get his land for a power plant. What sort of power plants did they have in the Old West, you ask? Don’t worry, the power plant is a fake. It needs a reservoir and the land is not suited for one. Hod wants the land for some other, unstated purpose.

Captivating, huh?

Steve Ramsey is an independent assayer (another sexy job for Charley) who was hired by the dead man before he…became dead. It’s unclear if he knows Smiley at the beginning of the film, or if they get friendly real fast.

Durango does a great deal of quick changes in this film. He even changes twice during a ride, a short ride at that.

There’s a stock character that I never knew was a stock character until I started watching these films. It’s not seen as frequently as, say, the crotchety old prospector, or the quick tempered henchman, but you see this character every six or seven films. He’s the naive cocky kid, usually the little brother of the love interest or the son of the good woman, who is used by the bad guys. Here he’s played well by Glenn Stuart in his first of only two roles.

Durango uses the old “rope across the trail trick”. It’s amazing how often they use this footage. It’s clear that they shot this stunt once and, film after film, dress the characters the same to match the footage. Wardrobe must have always kept the following clothes on hand; black shirt and black hat, white shirt and white hat, checkered shirt and no hat. Even more amazing is that they display the necessary attention to detail to pull this off, yet can’t remember if Smiley knows whether Steve is the Durango Kid or not.

Smiley is the printer in town. Black ink and black face. ‘Nuff said.

Our old friends, Mustard and Gravy, are back. They play Smiley’s cousins.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

“What are you two doing in the Texas Panhandle?”


“You broke?”

“We’re so low we got to reach up to touch bottom!”

“You guys run out of places to play?”

“The places we play run us out!”

You can learn a little more about this pair at this site.


4 Responses to ““West of Dodge City””

  1. Mun Mun said

    I wonder what “Hod” is short for. Hodunk?

  2. Mike Newton said

    I have not been able to find out the real names of Mustard and Gravy. Obviously they were white men who put on blackface to do their minstrel routines. It’s possible that they were from WLS Radio in Chicago, home of the National Barn Dance. That’s where Gene and Smiley worked. They could have known Smiley and asked him to get them jobs at Columbia. Many of Starretts’ films used C&W musicians (Merle Travis, Texas Jim Lewis, Ozzie Waters) because they were familiar to the audiences of Starrett’s films.

  3. Georg Rice said

    they were 2 white me from Wilson, NC by the names of Frank (Mustard) Rice, and Ernest (Gravy) Stokes. Frank (Mustard), was my father, now deceased, as well as Ernest (Gravy) Stokes. Smiley was responsible for getting them to Hollywood, and into the 3 movies with him. They made one other movie with Eddy Arnold. The had also doen personal appearances with Arnold.

  4. frank roberts said

    Enjoyed seeing Rice’s son’s comments. He ran a clothing store in Wilson and invited me to his house when Smiley and Rufe Davis were visiting. They were doing Petticoat Junction at the time. I was a feature writer for the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. Frank gave me a picture of himself as Dr. Nick Nack the Quack. They hoped he could get on ‘Petticoat’ but that was the time CBS was closing down the ‘rube’ shows. Rufe, by the way, was one of the original
    Three Mesquiteers. He also had a good role in the Bing Crosby movie called, I think, “Dixie.” (That was Bing’s wife’s name. if I remember correctly Mustard-Gravy did three movies with Eddy Arnold and one with Charles Starrett.

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