“Outlaws Of The Prairie”

July 19, 2008

1937. Pre-Durango.

Cool opening at the Tres Nogales Rangers Station. The Sons of the Pioneers are strumming and singing out front when the air is filled with smoke and gunshots. It’s Dart, drawing and shooting targets off a post.

“Pretty tough losing your trigger fingers and having to learn to fan a gun.”

“How did he lose them?”

“No one knows. He never did say.”

Dart pulls and fans six shots, all bullseyes!

Nice gutsy, tough guy introduction, right? Except, Dart (Charles) is wearing a big spotless white hat, a flowing spotless white scarf, a shiny gun-belt and creased shirt and pants.

A Ranger rides into the station and dies. Dart volunteers to take over his job. Bringing down a gang of stagecoach robbers in Oro Grande.

Travelling to Oro Grande brings Dart to the site of his father’s death. In flashback, we see Bad Men shoot his home-steading father. Young Dart shoots one of them. The gun man grabs him and pulls out his knife. “This will teach you to shoot at me.” He cuts his fingers off.

Dart still carries the knife that did the cutting.

Again, gritty and brutal. This backstory inspires him to grow up to be a tough Texas Ranger — and dress like a circus clown in his big white hat.

I can’t get over the idea that this look was considered cool. That a guy could have as such a dynamite tough guy pedigree, and be expected to dress like that. It’s a different time, I guess.

Familiar plot: banker is secretly running the gang to rob the miners so that he can foreclose on their claims.

Familiar device: Charles stages a fight with a friend to impress said banker and get in with the gang.

This is one of the few films I’ve seen where Charles has a crew — he’s not alone, he’s part of a group. In this case, it’s a bunch of Rangers on the job. I like it. It’s nice seeing him ride up and join the gang around the campfire, have a little coffee and share his plans with his friends.

Very cool ending, with Dart turning in his badge so he can go kill the man who cut off his fingers. It’s a quick draw, and Charles is fast! He outdraws the guy, guns him down, and kills the assassin on the roof behind him to boot.

All the while looking like a big goofball dressed in a big white spotless hat!

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Sons of the Pioneers perform a lot of music in this one. I counted six songs.


3 Responses to ““Outlaws Of The Prairie””

  1. Mun Mun said

    Dart is a cool name.

  2. stevesomething said

    Dick Curtis’ name in this is “Dragg.” Dart vs. Dragg!

  3. Mike Newton said

    Starrett’s large peaked Stetson and his long silk neckerchief (that looked as though it might get caught in his gunbelt) were Starrett’s trademark. I’ve read that the neckerchief was really one of Rita Hayworth’s stockings or scarves. this particular movie dealt with a revenge motive and had some scenes that the Legion of Decency may have had some issues in accepting. You don’t actually see the outlaw cutting his fingers but the boy puts on a good crying act and he does hold his hand. Wonder what Mamas would have thought about that if they knew what their kids were watching. This is also the first film where Starrett uses his gun fanning technique. He was doing that long before the television cowboys came along.

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