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HELL TOWN (BORN TO THE WEST) (director: Charles Barton; screenwriters: Stuart Anthony/Robert Yost/story by Zane Grey; cinematographer: Devereaux Jennings; editor: John Link; cast: John Wayne (Dare Rudd), Marsha Hunt (Judith Worstall), Johnny Mack Brown (Tom Fillmore), John Patterson (Lyn Hardy), Monte Blue (Bart Hammond), Sid Saylor (Dinkey Hooley), James Craig (Brady, card sharp); Runtime: 51; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William T. Lackey; Paramount; 1937)
“One of the Duke’s better B Westerns.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the Duke’s better B Westerns. After this “buddy” film Wayne became a Mesquiteer. It’s directed in a brisk fashion by Charles Barton; writers Stuart Anthony and Robert Yost based it on a story by Zane Grey.

Broke drifters, gambler Dare Rudd (John Wayne) and lightning rod salesman Dinkey Hooley (Sid Saylor), arrive in Wyoming from Montana, where they hope to get a handout from Dare’s wealthy rancher/banker cousin Tom Fillmore (Johnny Mack Brown). The boys get confused when they see rustlers on the trail and take the wrong side in a shootout, but Cousin Tom comes along and straightens things out. They get hired by him as chuck wagon cooks, and the charming Dare immediately sets his sights on his cousin’s sweet girlfriend Judy (Marsha Hunt).

Judy talks Tom into letting the irresponsible Dare, who foolishly thinks of himself as the best poker player west of the Mississippi, be trail boss for delivering over $10,000 worth of cattle to a railroad town a short distance away. They get jumped by rustlers, as one of their cowboys (John Patterson) is a double-crosser working for rustler saloon owner Bart Hammond (Monte Blue) and sets their camping site in a spot where it’s easy to pull off an ambush. But Dare outsmarts them and repels the ambush, and brings the herd to town. After he gets paid off, Bart suckers him into a card game with card shark Brady. Before Dare loses all the money, Tom shows up and takes over playing his hand. He exposes Brady as a card cheat and before they get back to Tom’s ranch they have a shootout with Bart’s gang that takes care of the rustling problem.

Back at the ranch Tom forgives Dare, offering him a partnership. He’s also reconciled that Dare has stolen the heart of Judy.

This snappy, well-received film revived the sagging careers of both Wayne and Brown.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”