DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
WHEN THE WEST WAS YOUNG (aka: HERITAGE OF THE DESERT) (director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: from a Zane Grey story/Frank Partos/Harold Shumate; cinematographer: Archie Stout; cast: Randolph Scott (Jack Hare), Sally Blane (Judy), J. Farrell MacDonald (Adam Naab), David Landau (Judson 'Judd' Holderness), Gordon Westcott (Snap Naab), Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams (Lefty), Vince Barnett (Windy); Runtime: 60; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harold Hurley; Comet Video; 1932)

 
"The directorial debut of Henry Hathaway."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Randolph Scott's first starring role is in this decent B-Western. It was also the directorial debut of Henry Hathaway ("True Grit"/"The Sons of Katie Elder"/"Niagara"), who bases it on a Zane Grey story that's set in the Old West in the 1890s and provides enough punch to get by with such a weak script by Frank Partos and Harold Shumate.

Jack Hare (Randolph Scott) is a handsome young eastern surveyor who goes out west to survey the property of rancher Adam Naab (J. Farrell MacDonald). Judson Holderness (David Landau) is a ruthless cattle rustler and owner of the White Sage Saloon, who is after Adam's ranch, claiming he needs it in order to drive his mostly stolen cattle to water in a straight path through Adam's pass. When his offer to buy the spread is turned down, Holderness (which sounds a lot like His Holiness) resorts to either stealing the land by false claims or cattle rustling or forcing Adam out like he did to four other settlers.

Upon Jack's arrival to document Adam's property, Holderness gets his dumb goon Lefty (Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams) to shoot his horse out from under him and leave him to die in the desert. But Jack's rescued by the pretty Judy (Sally Blane), the ward of Adam (her late father's business partner) and the fiancee of Adam's weak-willed son Snap (Gordon Westcott). Judy and Jack immediately fall in love, which causes the jealous Snap to have dad push up the wedding date. Dad has waited for twenty years to see these two married and wants nothing to stop it.

Things come to a head when Snap, who receives under the table money from the rustler due to gambling debts at the White Sage and in return has been helping Holderness rustle his own horses, is forced to help in stealing part of Judy's ranch. It leads to an action-packed climax, as the rustler's plans fall apart and he now tries to take over the ranch by force.

This is the second filming of the Zane Grey story, which was first filmed in Paramount in 1924 with Bebe Daniels as the female star.

REVIEWED ON 5/29/2009       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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