APACHE TRAIL (director: Richard Thorpe; screenwriters: from the story by Ernest Haycox/Maurice Geraghty; cinematographer: Sidney Wagner; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Sol Kaplan; cast: Lloyd Nolan (‘Trigger’ Bill Folliard), Donna Reed (Rosalia Martinez), William Lundigan (Tom Folliard), Anne Ayars (Constance Selden), Connie Gilchrist (Señora Martinez), Chill Wills (‘Pike’ Skelton), Ray Teal (Ed Cotton), Fuzzy Knight (Juke), Frank M. Thomas (Maj. Lowden), Trevor Bardette (Amber), Grant Withers (Lestrade), George Watts (Judge Keeley), Miles Mander (James V. Thorne), Gloria Holden (Mrs. James V. Thorne), Edgar Dearing (Marshal), Emory Parnell (Stagecoach Manager); Runtime: 66; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Marx; MGM; 1942)
Richard Thorpe directs with gusto this black and white B Western.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Richard Thorpe directs with gusto this black and white B Western; it’s from the short story by Ernest Haycox and penned by Maurice Geraghty.

The snappy opening has hanging Judge Keeley (George Watts) riding through town on the stagecoach to pass sentence on Tom Folliard (William Lundigan); the Judge never sets foot outside of the stage. After briefly hearing what the Marshal states, the Judge releases Tom for the three months served. Tom was supposedly involved in the stagecoach robbery his career-criminal brother Trigger Bill (Lloyd Nolan) committed but, as it turns out, he was only forced to go along with the robbery by his big brother. The still on the loose Trigger meets his brother when freed and tells him, I only wanted to toughen you up and show you it’s a dog-eat-dog world and you have to look out for Number One.

Refused his old job riding shotgun on the stagecoach, even though he’s regarded as the fastest draw in the territory and was absolved of his crime, the manager (Emory Parnell), who knows Tom’s family, hires him as the stage agent in a remote outpost in Apache territory. It’s a post no other agent wants because of constant Indian raids. Tom arrives to find his longtime friends, Señora Martinez (Connie Gilchrist) and her 18 year old daughter Rosalia (Donna Reed), and they decide to stay because Rosalia has a crush on the handsome Tom. He builds a fortress with the help of stagecoach workers Amber and Juke, and stagecoach driver Lestrade and shotgun rider Ed. He also hires a young Apache Cochee (Tito Renaldo), who admires the white people.

A stage heading for California arrives with the beautiful widow Constance Seldon (Ayars) and she flirts with a receptive Tom, who’s jealously watched by Rosalia and her mother. Also an ailing artist (Miles Mander) and his wife (Gloria Holden) are passengers, who are disturbed the stagecoach can’t leave because the Indians are on the warpath. That’s reported by cavalry officer Major Lowden (Frank Thomas) who rides to the outpost to warn Tom and quickly leaves to get back to the fort to alert the troops. Shortly afterwards, Trigger comes to the gate and is granted entry only after giving up his guns, which are stored in the same safe as Tom stored the Wells Fargo box the stage just brought in that contained the army payroll at the fort.

Tom leaves the outpost to determine why the Apaches are going on their uprising. While he’s gone, Trigger fools the artist into giving him his guns and then robs the safe, taking the widow with him as hostage. But Tom, who just rescued the injured ‘Pike’ Skelton (Chill Wills) from the Apaches, forces his brother into a gun duel and outdraws him–shooting him in both hands instead of killing him. Skelton mentions the reason for the uprising is because Trigger stole their sacred ceremonial peace pipe. The outpost weathers one Indian attack with only three casualties. When the Indians offer a proposal that if they release Trigger the attacks will cease, Tom has everyone vote and he becomes the tie breaking vote of whether or not to send his brother out to the Indians.

The MGM Western looked good, the acting was first-rate, and the directing kept things moving at a fast-clip. It was was remade in Technicolor in 1952 as Apache War Smoke.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”