Other Cowboy Stars – Bill Cody in “Outlaws of the Range”

May 4, 2011

Our esteemed colleagues over at The Old Corral, in their fine biography of Bill Cody, note that Cody never broke into the top 10 list of Western stars.  Maybe, in part, that’s why he only made forty seven films.  By comparison, Charles Starrett, who consistently placed in the top 10 of that list, made 167.  132 of those were Westerns.

Of course, by today’s standards, 47 films would be a hell of a career.

“Outlaws of the Range” was number 43 and it was also the 3rd of 4 films he would make with his son, Bill Cody Jr.  The elder Cody often worked with kids as side-kicks.  He joins the many actors who played Red Ryder as cowboys who shared the screen with young boys.

Does Bill Jr. play Bill Sr.’s son in these films?  Not in this one; he’s Jimmy, the kid brother of the love interest.

Steve Hopper (Cody Sr.) saves the rancher’s daughter from a runaway horse and gets a job on the ranch.  There’s trouble with rustlers.  The writers of “Outlaws of the Range” hold with the proud tradition of B-Western storylines and deliver another plot complication that doesn’t deepen the narrative, only annoys.  The rustlers aren’t stealing the horses to sell them, no, they let ‘em loose.  See, they’re doing their rustling to bankrupt the rancher and get the land rights.  Why?  Oil.  Who’s “the boss” behind this scheme? That’s question isn’t it.  It’s always the question.

The rancher gets dead and Steve is unfairly accused and must clear his name, which involves a lot of eavesdropping.

Like father like son.

At this point in Cody’s career (late), he’s less jovial than he once was.  He’s still eager and honest.  And he remains forever like-able.

Is there a special screen chemistry between real-life father and son?  Not that you’d notice.  It’s a pretty one-sided relationship.  It’s all about Jimmy saying how much he likes/respects/trusts Steve.  When there is trouble, he laments “I wish Steve were here.”

How’s “Outlaws of the Range”?  There’s a pretty cool jail-break scene and the pacing is decent.

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