Other Cowboy Stars — Bill Elliott in “The Savage Horde”

March 17, 2011

When this film was released, what did Charles Starrett think?  It was 1950.  He and Bill Elliott were the same age.  Charles had been at a major studio for 17 years while Bill Elliott was hopping between minors.  And yet, here is Elliott starring in a REAL western with name supporting characters, an actual budget and even a 90 minute running time!

Charles, on the other hand, was playing the Durango Kid eight times a year in 55 minute films with ever shrinking budgets and shooting schedules.

Could this have been another reason Starrett decided to retire in 1952?

Bill Elliott did not retire.  He appeared in ten more westerns after “Savage Horde” before playing Detective Andy Doyle in a series of pictures for Allied Artists.  Instead of jumping ship, he made the leap to Noir!

Once upon a time, Elliott took a cup of coffee at Columbia.  He was a fresh faced young guy.

By 1950 and “The Savage Horde”, he’s looking a lot rougher.  He’s also better at playing the tough guy.  He’d made over 200 films at this point.

Physically, Elliott is the same sort of cowboy star as Starrett.  He’s tall and lean.  He has a long face.  He’s mainly heroic but can play it a little grim at times.  And sometimes…super goofy.

In “Savage Horde”, Elliott plays John “Ringo” Baker, a gunman who killed an army Captain in self-defense and is now on the run from a patrol lead by his brother.  He settles in Gunslock because his childhood sweetheart is in love with the villain.  He organizes the independent ranchers to hold their own against in a range war.

Another western star who never retired is in this one, Mr. Bob Steele.  He’s Dancer, the hired gun.  He’s the bad guy.

Bob Steele made the move from leading man to supporting roles and had a career that stretched into the 70’s.  Here he plays “that little sawed-off gunslick Dancer,” as described by Noah Beery Jr.  He’s younger than Elliot and plays this role crazy and mean.  He emanates cocky self-confidence in every shot.  Great crazed expressions and brilliant eyes as he stares down a harmless rancher, mocking him before shooting him dead, or laughing at the death of confederate.

I love this guy.

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