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Wednesday, March 8, 2017


From John Wayne’s 'galley years' between THE BIG TRAIL/’30 and STAGECOACH/’39, a typical B-Western from his recent move up to new Republic Pictures. (When a move to Republic is ‘up,’ you know you’ve been down.) Here, Wayne’s a Union soldier gone home to Texas where post-Civil War Reconstruction has gone corrupt with local extortion & ‘justice’ a shot in the back. Wayne quickly wises up, but joins the carpetbaggers with his comic sidekick to set things right from the inside. It’s standard doings in most ways, but with enough oddities to hold your attention. Especially when Texas vigilantes ride out on horseback, torches ablaze to help Wayne back at the fort. Except for the missing white robes, these guys are only a step-and-a-half away from BIRTH OF A NATION Klansmen. Plus, cringe-worthy ‘Darkie’ humor, though with a twist. Here, performers like ‘Snowflake’ Toones & Etta McDaniel (sister of Hattie) use the implicit subterfuge in their shufflin’ act for something explicit, jumping into stereotypical singing & dancing as an alarm to warn about Yankee carpetbaggers heading their way. A gag you’d expect to find in a film from the ‘enlightened’ 1960s. The film may be third-run fodder for the Kiddie Matinee set, but hiding in plain sight, a tiny protest.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: A dangerous horse-riding stunt has Wayne galloping after Ann Rutherford and her runaway horsecart. But the guy who does the jump from charging horse to wagon-bed has got to be that great stuntman/action coordinator Yakima Canutt.

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