MAN OF THE FOREST
(director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: Jack Cunningham/Harold Shumate /from the Zane Grey novel; cinematographer: Ben F. Reynolds; editor: Jack Dunn; cast: Randolph Scott (Brett Dale), Verna Hillie (Alice Gaynor), Harry Carey (Jim Gaynor), Noah Beery (Clint Beasley), Barton MacLane (Mulvey), Buster Crabbe (Yegg), Guinn Williams (Big Casino), Vince Barnett (Little Casino), Blanche Friderici (Peg Forney), Tom Kennedy (Sheriff Blake), Lew Kelly (Matt, foreman), Duke R. Lee (Jake, a henchman); Runtime: 59; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harold Hurley; Paramount; 1933)
“It’s a ludicrous B Western that fails to be anything but action-packed, charming and dumb.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Henry Hathaway’s (“To the Last Man”/”The Thundering Herd”) Man of the Forest is based on a Zane Grey story; it was previously filmed in 1921 and 1926. Screenwriters Jack Cunningham and Harold Shumate revise it greatly from the novel. It’s a ludicrous B Western that fails to be anything but action-packed, charming and dumb. Randolph Scott sports a trim mustache and looks a lot like Errol Flynn.
Brett Dale (Randolph Scott) is a mountain trapper who has a pet mountain lion named Mike. His good friend Jim Gaynor (Harry Carey) tells him that his sleazy neighbor rancher Clint Beasley (Noah Beery, Wallace Beery’s brother) has schemed to get his water rights on land he’s owned for the last twenty years, in the next ten days, because he’s a former jailbird, but he plans to outwit him by turning over his water rights to his innocent niece Alice (Verna Hillie) coming to the territory by stage. When Brett hears Beasley scheming to kidnap Alice, using two men who work for Gaynor, Mulvey (Barton MacLane) and Jake (Duke R. Lee), he instead thwarts their plans by kidnapping Alice first when she arrives in Cameron and is escorted by Jake in a horse-and-buggy. Brett then takes the confused young lady to his mountain cabin, and fails to make his case that he’s friends with her uncle leaving her in a quandary over her predicament. They spend the night together, with Alice convinced he’s a kidnapper. In the morning, the crooked sheriff (Tom Kennedy) arrests Brett when Gaynor is found stabbed to death in front of his cabin. He was killed by one of Beasley’s henchmen, but Brett is convicted and set to hang. Brett escapes as his pet lion corners the sheriff and Little Casino (Vince Barnett) and Big Casino (Guinn Williams) rescue Alice from the home of Peg Forney, Beasley’s jealous housekeeper, who is ordered to keep the younger woman there until the villain takes over Gaynor’s spread. It leads to a final predictable shootout between Beasley’s men and Brett, who is backed by Gaynor’s loyal ranch hands. Of course, the good guys win and everything returns to normal in Cameron. It seems like so many other run-of-the-mill Westerns, that it’s so easily forgettable but for the lion and Scott’s tash.
The film’s best line has Peg Forney urging Noah Beery to stop lusting after Verna Hillie by saying “We’ve been together 20 years” — whereupon Beasley snaps back “Well, ya needn’t count the last 19 of ’em!”
REVIEWED ON 9/30/2006 GRADE: C