December 12, 2008
Over lunch with my friend Rodney Ascher the other day, I was complaining, as I often do during our lunch meetings, about the lack of continuity in Charles Starrett’s character in the Durango Kid series; you know, how he’s always got a different last name, a different job, a different relationship with Smiley.
I was shaking my head with familiar frustration when Rodney pointed out something that had never occured to me: that the only constant, in fact, in these films is the Durango Kid himself. That, therefore, the Durango Kid was the true identity and the Steve character was the mask that he put on.
115 films and I never once thought of it that way. But then, that’s why we call Rodney “The Doctor”!
I will now attempt to discuss 1950’s “Frontier Outpost” from that perspective. It’s going to be tough, but here goes nothing:
The Durango Kid is masquerading this time as Steve Lawton, who has some unstated military relationship with a Major Copeland (played by Fred Sears). In the opening sequence, Durango robs a stagecoach of a shipment of gold, then appears in Steve disguise to return it to the Major.
Later, Copeland and the other passengers on the stagecoach discover a mysteriously deserted fort. He tells the rest of the riders that “Steve and Smiley have been assigned to me” to help find out about more gold shipments that have been going missing.
The Major doesn’t know that the Durango Kid is posing as Steve. Smiley seems to know. When the Major is killed, Durango, in the guise of Steve, reports Copeland’s death to Colonel Warrick who says “you’re not only an outlaw, you’re a crazy outlaw.” Durango, still disguised as Steve, is arrested for the Major’s death.
The obese Smiley with his OCD involving food consumption tries to free Durango in a number of half-assed ways that generally include singing.
Once freed, Durango is able to shed the Steve disguise momentarily and ride to the rescue of the folks at the fort. In the end, he adopts the Steve persona one last time to receive a well-deserved apology from the Colonel. With that behind him, he sheds the Steve Lawton persona forever.
And off Durango rides, off to another adventure, where he will don another disguise, with a completely different identity, job, and name.
Except that his first name will again be “Steve.”