“Blazing Trail”

June 29, 2008

Opening narration (read by Charles): “Sooner or later, a man rides a one-way trail he can’t turn back on. It doesn’t look any different to him than any other trail, so he has no way of knowing it will be his last. Normally old Mike Brady might have seen the difference. But his mind was troubled. And death takes up very little space when it’s shaped like a .45.”

This poetic opening was written by Barry Shipman, writer, actor, sun-tan lotion inventor. He wrote 26 of the Durango Kid films. Son of silent screen star Nell Shipman, he also was a writer for the serials of “Dick Tracy”, “Zorro” and “Flash Gordon.” His later work included many TV westerns and training films for the Navy and NASA. You can read a touch memorial of the man here.

He also wrote “Blazing Trail” in 1949. Steve Allen is the Marshall of Brady Town, searching for the killer of old Mike. There’s a lot of voice-over and flashbacks which makes me suspicious that this was patched together from footage from other Durango films. I recognize some of the pieces.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Durango spends much of the film removing bullets from suspects’ guns to compare with shells found at the scene of the crime. I guess it’s a good use of the Kid…

Smiley is the newspaper editor who keeps disguising himself to get the story. The Jesters sing “cheer up, be happy, wear a smile” but there’s not much of a chance of that with Smiley around.

The running gag is that Smiley can’t find a capital “D” for his printing press. In the final shot, he finds it and shouts, “Now I can write a story all about the Durango Kid.”

Barry Shipman 1912 – 1994.