THE (aka: WAGON WHEELS)
(director: George Archainbaud; screenwriters: Harold
the story "Peace Marshal" by Frank Gruber;
cinematographer: Russell Harlan; editor: Carrol Lewis;
Carbonara; cast: Richard Dix (John Bonniwell),
Jane Wyatt (Eleanor Sager), Albert Dekker (Steve Barat),
Victory Jory (Jeff Barat), Eugene Pallette (Tom
Waggoner), Beryl Wallace (Soubrette), Willie
Best (Bones), Clem Bevans (Bridge toll collector), Hobart Cavanaugh (Josh Hudkins), Eddy Waller (Mr. Gilbert,
newspaper editor), Francis McDonald (Gil Hatton), Walter Baldwin
(Judge Lorrimer); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating:
NR; producer: Harry Sherman; United Artists; 1943)
"Routine Western uplifted by the lively direction of George Archainbaud."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Western uplifted by the lively direction of George
Archainbaud ("The Lost Squadron"/"The Lone
Ranger"/"Hopalong Cassidy") and the solid performance
of popular silent screen star Richard Dix, as the
stalwart hero of the western frontier railroad town of
Broken Lance, Kansas, in the late 1800s. It's based on the 1939 story
"Peace Marshal" by Frank Gruber, and the b/w western
is written by Harold Shumate. It has the
usual western set pieces (a saloon fight, an ambush, a
stampede and a shoot-out in the climax) and it follows
the formula of the bad guy is the town's most
respected citizen, who tries unsuccessfully to rope in
the honest marshal in his scheme to fleece the town.
If you've seen only a few westerns from that period,
you know the deal and this one offers no surprises.
Those concerned about racial stereotyping will object
to the role of black actor Willie Best, as he always
acts frightened by rolling his eyes and is beholden to
the generosity of the white man to earn his keep as
the servile hotel porter.
cowboy, gold miner and Civil War veteran sharpshooter John
wounded stopping the James Gang from robbing the bank
owned by Steve Barat (Albert Dekker), and the grateful banker sponsors the new
town hero John to run for marshal. The adventurer John
is heading to Oregon to see if he can make a fortune,
but stays as the newly elected marshal because he's
attracted to the pretty Eleanor Sager (Jane Wyatt).
She's the owner of the hotel where he takes a room,
who makes him feel welcome by giving him some big
friendly smiles. Eleanor is engaged to shifty gambler Jeff Barat
(Victory Jory), the brother of Steve.
Jeff is crooked, but who is not as crooked or
dangerous as his brother. Jeff's romance with Eleanor
doesn't stop John from making a play for the
irresistible Eleanor, who has already turned down
Jeff's marriage proposal.
Quickly John develops a
strong dislike for Steve, as the greedy banker uses
the law to unfairly but legally squeeze every cent out
of the citizens. Steve does such heartless things as
putting up a toll bridge before one can enter the
town, with the toll going solely to him. When John's
old friend, the Texas cattleman Tom Waggoner (Eugene Pallette), refuses to pay an
outrageous $5,000 toll for the cattle to cross, John
advises a stampede. This leads to the corrupt Steve,
with a secret criminal past in New York City, hiring
John's old nemesis Gil Hatton (Francis McDonald) and his gang to eliminate
the marshal. John fights back with support from the
town and gets unexpected help from Jeff, who doesn't
want to be identified with his criminal brother.
REVIEWED ON 2/18/2012 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ