“South of the Chisholm Trail” Revisited

December 13, 2010

Last night, I was watching George Marshall’s Texas and it all felt eerily familiar and I couldn’t put my finger on why.  Then it hit me — it’s “South of the Chisholm Trail!”  The boxing match at the beginning, the big boss who has just brought the railroad to Abilene, our heroes robbing some stagecoach robbers so as to return the money and nearly getting lynched for their effort, trouble in Bearcat Kansas… it’s all the same!

Columbia had clearly recycled the plot of their 1941 William Holden/Glenn Ford A-picture in one of the nine Durango Kid films they churned out in 1947.

I wondered, had I discovered some unknown fact?  Some cherished bit of trivia from Durango lore?  Would I have bragging rights forever?

Naw!  Our old friend Les Adams had already figured it out years ago.  To quote his IMDB notes in their entirety:

“No studio reworked stock footage from their other western films more than Columbia Pictures, other than Warners/Vitaphone did when making a new Short out of footage from three other shorts, or a Short from a feature western. Vitaphone and the Warners’ shorts department sold exhibitors the same footage as many as five different times under a different title.

And Columbia re-used their plots over and over again as plots in all of their early series-westerns , starring Buck Jones or Tim McCoy, were made over again (and again) in the series starring Ken Maynard, Bob Allen, Charles Starrett, Bill Elliott and Russell Hayden. The only Columbia western series that didn’t rely on dusting off previously made films was the Ken Curtis-Hoosier Hotshots series.

But for this film, Columbia did a re-work of one of their A-westerns, 1941’s “Texas” that starred Claire Trevor, William Holden and Glenn Ford. They, of course, dumbed it down, simplified it and altered it to fit The Durango Kid character, but bottom line the primary plot was essentially all “Texas”, with similar characters and professions among the bad guys, and also inserted a few incidents and some of the dialogue from that film. And the climatic cattle-stampede through town from “Texas” was used in full.

Of course, subbing George Chesebro for the Edgar Buchanan and Frank Sully for the George Bancroft characters does tend to lose a lot in transition.”

I think Les has it all figured.  Except for one question:

Which one’s Smiley?

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