June 21, 2008
This 1940 non-Steve Western is memorable because Charley’s character has a father!
In real life, Charley lost his father when he was very young. I’ve read 7 years old and I’ve read 9 years old. The story goes that Charley’s grandfather sent him to live with relatives on a farm in South China, Massachusetts (see blog entry “Charles Starrett’s Boyhood Home”). I don’t know what kind of father figures were in Charley’s life, but on-screen he had two polar opposites.
In “Shot In The Dark”, his dad is a famous mystery writer who solves crimes on the side. He’s brooding and mysterious and Charley even thinks he’s the killer at one point.
In “Texas Stagecoach”, Larry Kincaid (yeck!) works for his father running a stagecoach. Dad is a real hot-head. He’s always escalating everything, and going for his gun. It’s almost a running gag how many times Larry has to intercept his Dad before he gets his rifle down.
I image from the title “Sons of Steel” that we may meet another father-type in our journey here. Let’s table this discussion for now, and pick it up again then.
The plot of this non-Durango film has the bad guy banker playing two rival stagecoach companies against one another, as each attempts to complete the first road to Kingman. He cackles to his henchman (Dick Curtis, again), “I’m playing them both to lose.”
Lots of familiar faces here. Pretty Iris Meredith and Bob Nolan own the other stagecoach. The Sons of the Pioneers work for them. It appears that Pat Brady was being groomed for some sort of Smiley-esque role. Pat makes Smiley look like the maestro of comedy, and you all should know by now how I feel about Smiley. (hint: I hate him!)
Charley delivers a cool line about feuding (delivered as he grips the barrel of his father’s gun): “It’s easy to start and hard to stop!”
He (or Ted Mapes or Francis Walker) does a great (if totally unnecessary) mounting of a running horse.
This film also features the following regrettable dialogue. Larry finds Patchy outside the Wagon Wheel Restaurant and offers him a job. “You’re a lazy thievin’ redskin but you’re the best tracker this side of the border.”
Music by Son of the Pioneers, of course.