Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Overlooked Movies: Trouble in Texas (1937)

When I was a kid, I was a fan of Tex Ritter’s movies and watched many of them on TV. Unlike Roy, Gene, and Hoppy, though, ol’ Tex is one of the B-Western stars whose work I haven’t revisited much as an adult. Based on my recent viewing of his 1937 feature TROUBLE IN TEXAS, I think I probably ought to remedy that.

This picture finds Tex playing Tex Masters, a drifting cowpoke and rodeo competitor who’s actually on the trail of the gang responsible for his brother’s death several years earlier. This gang travels around taking part in various rodeos, and one of them, Squint Palmer (Yakima Canutt), always takes the top prize money because the gang murders anybody who could beat him. This is what happened to Tex Masters’ brother.

Unknown to Tex, who’s accompanied by his boastful sidekick Lucky (Horace Murphy), the law is also after the rodeo gang and has an undercover agent working the case: a beautiful young woman named Carmen (Rita Cansino, who, after this movie, would be billed under another name—Rita Hayworth). Tex falls for her, of course, but he believes that she’s really a member of the gang, which causes some complications. After a lot of rodeo action, Tex gets the proof he needs to expose the gang as his brother’s killers, which leads to an epic chase scene as several members of the gang flee on a wagon.

TROUBLE IN TEXAS is an unofficial remake of a 1934 John Wayne movie, THE MAN FROM UTAH, and uses a lot of the same rodeo stock footage as the earlier picture. Too much stock footage, in my opinion, because those scenes go on and on. I would have tightened those up and maybe cut one or two of Tex’s songs, even though I do like his singing. Other than those quibbles, though, this is a pretty darned entertaining B-Western. Yakima Canutt really works overtime in this one, with stunt after stunt including some great stuff in that final chase. The other main villains are played by Earl Dwire and the always fun to watch Charles King. Glenn Strange, who usually played a bad guy, is the local sheriff in this one and looks great, although he doesn’t have much to do. And Rita Hayworth is, well, Rita Hayworth. Yowza, in other words.

This movie was directed by Robert N. Bradbury, whose low-budget Westerns were usually better than they had any right to be, always well-paced and with decent scripts. Bradbury (who was Bob Steele’s father) also directed the earlier John Wayne film THE MAN FROM UTAH, so he was certainly familiar with the material. Other than the over-abundance of stock footage, TROUBLE IN TEXAS is a pleasure to watch.

I realize I haven’t said much about Tex himself. Round-faced and a little on the beefy side, he’s not the prototypical B-Western cowboy star, but gosh darn it, he’s a likable galoot, with screen presence, a good singing voice, and enough athletic ability to look convincing in the fight scenes and on horseback. I need to look through my collections of B-Westerns and see if I have any more starring him, because I think I might like to watch another one before too much longer.

No comments: