Thursday, June 12, 2014

It's kind of nice being the good guy for a change.

Last week, I wrote about a 1951 Western called The Last Outpost--something I stumbled across by chance as being available to stream. The night I watched it, I actually treated myself to a Western double-feature, watching another film that I had found by accident. So you all get a double-feature of sorts as I post about B-Westerns two weeks in a row.

This one is 1936's Texas Rangers, part of a four-movie set I spotted at Target. It features Fred MacMurray and Jack Oakie as outlaws who are separated from the third member of their gang when they are dodging a posse. Arriving in Texas, the two join the Texas Rangers, motivated by a complete lack of money or food.

They don't really take their job as lawmen seriously. In fact, when they find their old partner again (Sam--played by Lloyd Nolan), they make plans to warn him of Ranger activity, tell him about impending gold/money shipments, and secretly help him in other ways.

But a funny thing happens as time goes by. The two men can't help but admire the bravery of their fellow Rangers. One of them meets a pretty girl, who admires him as the man she only thinks he is. The other discovers he enjoys having a young orphan he rescued from Indians look up to him.

It takes awhile and MacMurray's character is especially reluctant to change, but the two men eventually realize they like being good guys.

But then, they are assigned to bring in their old friend Sam. Where do their loyalties lie--with the Rangers or with their old friend?

This is another great Western. For those of us who grew up knowing Fred MacMurray primarily as the father on My Three Sons, it's always fun to watch him play a tough guy role and do it well. Because, by golly, Chip and Ernie wouldn't have gotten away with any of their shenanigans if MacMurray had still been packing a six-gun! Uncle Charlie wouldn't have been so smart-mouthed all the time, either.

The supporting cast is strong as well. Lloyd Nolan combines charm and ruthlessness as Sam and Gabby Hayes has a brief but fun role as the sort-of corrupt judge of a Texas town. King Vidor is the film's director and gives us several magnificent action sequences, particularly a scene in which a few Rangers are trapped on a cliff-side by Indians waiting below them, only to have more Indians begin to roll boulders down on them from above.


  1. I thought this would be a trailer for the film. I was very pleased to see that it was an actual clip, generally more satisfying.

    It takes a lot of good acting to make plastic boulders look so deadly.

    I agree that seeing Fred MacMurray in a bad guy role is somewhat mind-bending, compared to his mild mannered persona in My Three Sons and the Disney movies. He definitely could handle the demands of such a role, as proved by this movie, Double Indemnity, and his other various film roles. There aren't too many actors who got to play both heroes and villains at different times in their careers.

    Jack Oakie is another one primarily known for his comedy. Looks like he made a good tough guy as well.

    I'd be interested to see this film in its entirety. Do you know if it's available on DVD?

    Thanks for posting this--I hadn't run across this film before.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the clip Jack Oakie does provide the comic relief in this film, but he is also believable as someone you can depend on in a fight. I found the movie as part of a four-film DVD set at Target. There's a link on the bottom of the post to the Amazon page for this set. All four movies in the set are good, though this one and Audie Murphy's "Kansas Raiders" are the best of the lot.


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