The year is 1943. Another Western for Charles Starrett. The Starrett/Hayden team is over, after 8 films. It’s less than a year before Colbert Clark will say, “Hey wait, remember that film from 1940? Something called “The Durango Kid”?

So let’s take a moment to take stock. To check out the State of Charley as he is on the verge of playing the character that would define him.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

So what’s Charley like in “Fighting Buckaroo”? Well, he’s tough. This scene pretty much defines him. He hears gunshots and finds a dead body next to a burning haystack. He picks up a newspaper lying (somehow) on the ground nearby. Headline reads: “Rustling Terror Grows.”

Charley: “Same old story, men trying to get something for nothing.”

He’s also late. There are two whole numbers by the band before Charley shows up. It’s over 13 minutes before he is even introduced.

I don’t know if Jock Mahoney was doing Charley’s stunts yet, but someone does some great horse work, hanging off the side of the saddle, facing backwards and shooting.

And Charley himself does at least some of the slugging in a great no-holds-barred brawl, with furniture breaking and windows shattering.

Steve Harrison has come to town to help his BFF Dan McBride. Turns out old Dan has a crooked past and Steve, a former Texas Ranger, once arrested him. Now Dan’s gone straight, has a daughter and a sweetheart and a house band, and is being falsely accused of rustling. Steve’s gonna save him.

Future Country Music Hall of Famer Ernest Tubbs has a sizable speaking role as Ernie, Dan’s foreman. Comic duties are handled by the improbably skinny comic relief Arthur “Arkansas” Hunicutt.

A couple more things about 1943’s Steve. He likes things the hard way — concocting this unnecessarily complicated trap at the end. He’s also an idiot — standing up and shaking a guy’s hand during a 20 man shoot-out.

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