Before there was Durango, there was Starrett/Hayden.

In 1941, Columbia decided to team two of their B-Western stars, Charles Starrett and Russell Hayden. They did 8 films together in a year. “Bad Men Of The Hills” (1942) is the seventh.

This is the first of these I’ve seen. I’ve heard about this team and was wondering how it worked. As the plot progressed and we met Steve Carlton, I kept wondering “Where’s Hayden? When will he show up?” Would he ride into to town with Steve, his best friend who travels with him everywhere? Or would Steve get in trouble and only then send for Hayden, his ace in the hole?

Thirty minutes into the film, my questions were answered. Hayden plays a character in the film, the leader of a gang that Steve thinks is responsible for his friend’s murder. And they only team up in the last four minutes of the film!

There a lot of differences between this film and the films from the Durango series. Let me count the ways:

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

1 – No Durango Kid.

2 – Very talky. For example, a long exchange in a court house scene questioning the authority of a Federal Judge to appoint a US Marshall while in a sovereign state…

2a – much speechifying!

3 – Steve shoots to kill!

4 – Steve is more of a wise-cracker:

“Hands up, Carlton”, “Beautiful weather we’re having.”

“How will we keep in touch, Carlton?” “Mental telepathy.”

“You better talk, Carlton.” “Okay, which comes first the egg or the chicken?”

“What’s your name?” “Steve.” “What’s the rest of it?” “You name it, then you’ll be sure to remember it.”

5 – No stock or re-used footage.

Plot involves the dirty Sheriff of Powder Creek who kills Marshall Dave Upton, Steve’s best friend. When Steve comes to investigate, he suspects the Chimney Hole Gang, led by Hayden. He later learns it’s the Sheriff.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Russell Hayden has his own style. He’s always named “Lucky.” In all 8 films, Charley is “Steve” and Russell is “Lucky.” Weird city.

He also appears to be the one who plays the love scenes. There is a lame attempt at a love triangle with pretty Luana Walters, but Steve comes off less as a suitor and more as the well-traveled gay friend with perfect manners.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

He’s also a little taller than Charley.

Singing and comedy duties are handled by Harmony, played by Cliff Edwards, perhaps best known as the voice of Jiminy Cricket.