Other Cowboy Stars – Buster Crabbe in “Stagecoach Outlaws”

December 31, 2010

It’s 1945.  It’s been four years since Buster Crabbe and Al “Fuzzy” St. John first appeared as a team in “Billy The Kid’s Round-up”.  The final card in the opening credits of “Stagecoach Outlaws” shows the pair sitting on a corral fence above the words “Our Old Pals.”

It’s also been nine years since Crabbe appeared in “Arizona Raiders”. Has he matured as a cowboy star?

Well, he’s less flip. He’s sturdier.  He’s still super strong and he’s still happily reaching into his actor’s toolbox for the arched eyebrow.  He also looks puzzled a lot.  This involves a gaping mouth.

The thing that jumped out at me about Crabbe in both of these films is his comedy.  Most cowboy leads participate in the humor of the films as a spectator or bemused and detached participant.  Charles Starrett will shake his head at Smiley’s antics.  He’ll dismiss some comic situation with a straight-faced barb that dissolves to a hearty laugh.  This is true of most cowboy leads, especially the non-musical ones.

Not so, Buster Crabbe.  He readily takes part.  He is forever willing to use his impressive physicality for comic effect.  It’s a like-able quality, but at times it seems like the only reason the comedy is happening is that Buster doesn’t know what else to do other than just jump in and follow his sidekick’s lead.  And heroes aren’t supposed to follow their sidekicks!  It doesn’t work that way.

Other interest to Starrett Completists: this film was written by Fred Myton who wrote for the silents and penned three pre-Durango Starrett vehicles, “Two-Fisted Rangers,” “Pinto Kid” and “Texas Stagecoach.” Director Sam Newfield also helmed the under-rated early Starrett starrer, “Undercover Men.” He also directed the unfortunate “Terror of Tiny Town.”

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