Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Overlooked Movies: Clearing the Range (1931)
I haven't seen very many Hoot Gibson movies, but I've enjoyed all the ones I've watched. The jovial, almost pudgy Gibson, with a goofy grin on his face and his six-gun tucked behind his belt or shoved into a hip pocket instead of riding in a tied-down holster, isn't your typical B-Western hero. And his movies tend to be on the lightweight side. But they're fun.
In CLEARING THE RANGE, he plays Curt Fremont, a drifting cowboy who comes back to his hometown to find that his banker brother has been murdered. Friends of the family, including a crusty old rancher and his beautiful daughter, suspect that the bank's cashier, who has taken over running things, is the killer. But Curt shows no interest in finding out who murdered his brother, which leads people, including the rancher's beautiful daughter, to consider him a coward.
Ah, but is it a coincidence that a dashing, mysterious Mexican bandit known as El Capitan shows up about the same time and starts wreaking havoc with the crooked cashier's plans? I think not! Luckily, the screenwriters don't even attempt to make a mystery out of this, as it's obvious all along that Gibson's character is just pretending to be a coward and is also the dashing El Capitan.
Gibson's sheer likability carries this movie, along with the fact that he's a surprisingly athletic hero and handles some of the rough-and-tumble stuff himself. Nobody's going to mistake CLEARING THE RANGE for a lost classic, but it is a pleasant way to spend an hour if you're a B-Western fan.