“West of Tombstone”

June 26, 2008

Courtesy of Les Adams

Over the image of a crude cross with the name “Billy The Kid” written on it, runs this scroll: “William H. Bonney, alias Billy The Kid, was killed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, July 14, 1881. So the official records state. But was he? The supposed killing was done by his life long friend, Sheriff Pat Garrett, and has long been disputed, even by members of Billy’s outlaw band.”

The film begins with a stagecoach robbery and the wounded lawman on board swearing the leader of the gang was Billy The Kid.

Next, Charles rides into Fort Sumner and digs up Billy’s grave — it’s empty except for a saddle and gunbelt.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

This film is called “Billy The Kid Rides Again” right? Or “The Return of Billy The Kid” or “Pat Garrett’s Folly” or “The Empty Grave on Boot Hill”?

Nope. “West of Tombstone.” Nice work, boys. Thanks for the vague geographic clue to the general location of the action of the film. Big help. Really sells the picture.

Courtesy of Les Adams

Deputy United States Marshall Steve Langdon is looking for Billy. It’s a mystery. Is it Lucky Barnett (Russell Hayden)? No, it’s his Dad – gone clean – and the old Hole in the Wall Gang is blackmailing him into setting up stagecoach robberies for them.

This 1942 film is the third pairing of Charles Starrett and Russell Hayden, and their names both appear above the credits. They would do five more films together before the partnership was dissolved and Charley found his niche as the Durango Kid.

Just as Charley is always Steve Something, Russell is always Lucky Something.

People in these films get “winged” alot. This means that they get shot, but conveniently don’t suffer the real-life consequences of taking a bullet. I’ve learned to accept the stomach shot that heals overnight and the shoulder wound that doesn’t affect one’s gun work. But this takes the case: Lucky gets shot in the head, he clutches his eye and falls down. A few minutes later, he comes to and jumps up. No blood, no wound, no mark at all. After a couple of days of bed rest, the Doc says he’s just fine. Yeah….

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Comedy is handled by Cliff Edwards, a former vaudevillian renowned for his ukelele act, who we might remember best as the voice of Jiminy Cricket and singing “When I See An Elephant Fly” in “Dumbo”.

Shot among the great rock formations of Brandeis Ranch and Iverson Ranch in California.