ImageImageBuck Jones starred in 10 films in 1937 and he directed three.  Of the 160-odd films he appeared in during his career, these were the only films he directed.

For a guy who was directed by Frank Borzage and John Ford, his film-making style is much more Elmer Clifton.   The story is pure Poverty Row and the characters more than familiar.  He does manage some nice framing.

ImageImageAnd some arresting imagery.

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ImageWith the budget and the schedule Buck was given, these are real accomplishments.  However, he never directed again.

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As part of my ongoing attempt to find a place for Charles Starrett in the history of B-Western stars, I have watched my third Buck Jones film.

“Lazybones” is a product of William Fox’s decision to bring the preeminent German filmmakers to Hollywood in the early twenties.  Frank Borzage, famous for “Seventh Heaven”, “Street Angel” and later “Farewell To Arms”, directs.  Like these films, it is beautifully lit and framed with a tremendous sense of structure.   It’s also as sentimental as all get out.

lazybonesBuck plays Steve Tuttle, “slow as molasses in wintertime”, a good-fer-nothing who adopts a little girl and becomes a man.

It’s a very moving piece and, in another context, I would have a lot to say about this film.

Within the context of this blog, Buck Jones at 34 is a very different actor than Charles Starrett.

First off, he’s incredibly physical.  In “Just Pals”, 1920, he is casually climbing ropes with one hand and jumping over fences in a single hop — a little more showy than in this film.  But his physicality is present in every scene in “Lazybones”.

Also, Buck is given a chance to do many things that Charles never did: like show vulnerability,  cry, age 20 years in a picture, and play a father (of sorts.)  Buck’s wide-eyed joy for life reminds me a bit of Charles in “Return of Casey Jones” and “Lady And Gent”.

I don’t feel like I’ve seen Buck J. in his prime, as a Western star.  “Just Pals” is another sentimental small town drama and “Arizona Bound” (1941) is towards the end of his career where he’s clearly struggling through the horse stunts.

Seeing the Rough Riders in action makes one applaud Charles Starrett’s decision to retire while he was a relatively young, and fit, 48.

Buck Jones (50 but looking 70) plays Marshal Buck Roberts.  Tim McCoy (also an older-looking 50) plays Marshal Tim McCall.  Raymond Hatton (54) plays Marshal Sandy Hopkins.  These old coots are the Rough Riders.

The Rough Riders made 8 films for Monogram Pictures between 1941 and 1942.  “Arizona Bound” is the first one.  They were all shot near Newhall, William S. Hart’s chosen place of retirement, at the Monograph Ranch.

Buck is heavy set, but he still has most of his hair.  He does his own stunts, which would seem impressive except that he looks exactly like what he is, an old man struggling in the saddle.

Tim has aged a little better.  He too has put on a few pounds.  That flashing anger in his eyes is still present, and still pretty intense.  He also still darn quick with the draw.

Raymond Hatton is the comic relief, and does a nice job for an old man.

In “Arizona Bound”, even the supporting cast is on the older side.

Charles was starting to look pretty long in the tooth when he quit acting in 1952, but he was still trim and athletic.  I know that his sight left him in later years, I don’t know if that was a factor in his retirement as well.

Buck Jones died the next year in the tragic Coconut Grove fire in Boston.  Tim McCoy lived to the ripe old age of 87.  Raymond Hatton left us in 1971 at the age of 84.

Here’s another guy whose films I had never seen.  I may have picked the wrong one.  “Just Pals” (1920) is a western in the sense that “How Green Was My Valley” is a western (both films directed by John Ford!)

It’s a melodrama surrounding some missing money in a small town.   Bim (Buck Jones) is the local bum and he, with his little hobo kid sidekick, stop the outlaw gang and save the day.

I did get a sense of Buck Jone’s presence.  It’s strong.  He’s got a natural, easy athleticism — effortlessly hopping over a fence, shimming down a rope, fiddling with a lasso.  He looks cool in battered clothes, smoking a corn-pod pipe.

In the end, he does get to do some riding, and he’s good.  Some neat stunts on horse as well.  He looks natural with a gun in his hands.

I’m be back, Buck, I’ll be back.