September 10, 2008
This 1940 film is one of the best directed Starrett vehicles I’ve seen. Joseph H. Lewis uses interesting angles and framing, quick cutting, and a lot of moving camera.
There’s silver on the Kenyon ranch. Carson want to buy the spread before the lode is discovered. Lash (Dick Curtis) is Kenyon’s foreman and a partner in the scheme. Jeff Douglas (Charles) arrives in town. He looks just like his dad, who owns half of Kenyon’s spread.
There’s a nice bit up front where Charley shows up atop a black horse. The happy Kenyon presents him with a white stallion – thus completing the image.
Since the good guys aren’t aware that there is trouble brewing for the first 25 minutes, Charles gets to play Jeff as pretty happy-go-lucky – joking around with Bob Nolan and the boys, taking long rides with Iris Meredith.
Things change when some money is stolen. Charles pulls out his patented open mouth frozen in surprise look. Didn’t anyone ever tell him just how stupid it looks?
Having just watched a couple of westerns starring Charley’s contemporaries, I’m more atuned to some of his strengths. He definitely has a commanding way about him when he needs to. When he gives orders, it makes sense that people listen. I don’t get that from Johnny Mack Brown. Tim McCoy has a more casual relationship with power, but he can make a point and underline it pretty damn well.
Another thing I’ve learned to value about Charley’s acting abilities: he can talk really fast when he needs to. He has a scene here where he spits out exposition line after exposition line, cramming a lot of plot into 90 seconds.
There’s a nice stunt in this one, and Charles does it himself — interrupting a saddle mount to kick a gun out of an outlaws hand.
I also count the first fancy jump I’ve seen in any of these Starrett films — over a low wagon at a gallop.
Stanley Brown has a small featured part as “Cassidy”, holding a gun on Iris Meredith and Starrett before the big fight. He did over 120 films, almost all of them uncredited.
Sons of the Pioneers provide the music. Bob Nolan has a speaking role.
Final thought: I wonder if Lee Van Cleef ever acknowledged his debt to Dick Curtis?