Other Cowboy Stars — John Wayne in “Desert Command”

August 23, 2011

This is the feature version of a serial, the 1933 “Three Musketeers”.  Released in 1947, presumably to cash in on Wayne’s star power, it boils hours of plot-twists, surprise character turns and cliffhangers into 70 minutes of muddle.

Pilot Lt. Wayne takes the heat for a gun-running operation in Africa and sets out to clear his name and save his gal from the clutches of the Devils’ Circle, a group of treacherous Arabs and traitorous Foreign Legionnaires.

Check out this cast of Juniors and soon-to-be B-western staples.

I count Noah Berry Jr. , Lon Chaney Jr. (as Creighton Chaney) and Francis X. Bushman Jr., son of the silent film star.  And Raymond Hatton as a Frenchie! He plays Renard, one of the 3 musketeers who are, in this telling, Foreign Legionnaires.

“The Three Musketeers” was one of three Mascot serials which Wayne was reduced to appearing in after the disappointment of his A-picture debut in “The Big Trail”, 1930.  This is early JW and he’s missing many of the trademarks of his later career — no signature walk, no signature gestures.   Which is weird to watch!

But he does have that voice and that cadence.  A lot of the early criticism of Wayne, and a lot of why (as I understand it) his performance in “The Big Trail” was considered a failure, was that his voice was considered high and reedy.  It’s true, the early sound recording really does do a whammy on his baritone.  He just doesn’t sound as tough as he looks.


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