John Wayne in Pals of the Saddle (1938)


(director: George Sherman; screenwriters: Betty Burbridge/William Colt MacDonald/Stanley Roberts; cinematographer: Reggie Lanning; editor: Tony Martinelli; music: Daniel E. Kelly; cast: John Wayne (Stony Brooke, aka Ezeckial Saunders), Ray Corrigan (Tucson Smith), Max Terhune (Lullaby Joslin), Doreen McKay (Ann Cameron, aka Randy, Secret Service Agent), Josef Forte (Judge Hastings), George Douglas (Paul Hartman, Foreign Agent), Frank Milan (Frank Paige, Secret Service Agent), Ted Adams (Henry C. Gordon, Smuggler); Runtime: 55; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Berke; Republic; 1938)
“One of the more exciting Mesquiteer serials.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Wayne replaces Bob Livingston in his debut as a Mesquiteer, as he teams with Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune. This is one of the more exciting Mesquiteer serials. It’s directed by George Sherman and written by Betty Burbridge, William Colt MacDonald, and Stanley Roberts. The film is set in 1938 and involves foreign spies as smugglers of a poison gas. Its theme suggests that the enemy is planning to use poison gas for the next war.

The Three Mesquiteers, Stony Brooke (John Wayne), Tucson Smith (Ray Corrigan), Lullaby Joslin (Max Terhune), are aimlessly riding by a dude ranch in Mesquiteer County when a pretty girl, Ann Cameron (Doreen McKay), on a runaway horse is rescued by Stony. The cowboys go to the dude ranch to return a gun that dropped out of her purse, and in a flirtatious mood decide to take a room for the night. When Stony goes to Ann’s room, he finds her boyfriend Paul Hartman (George Douglas) dead. Stony gets blamed for the murder by Ann, but we saw that Paul was killed by Frank after he was severely wounded in the gun exchange. The hotel staff hold Stony for the sheriff, but he escapes and tracks down a fleeing Ann. She’s tending to Frank, but he succumbs. She then reveals to Stony that she’s a Secret Service agent trying to stop foreign spies from smuggling monium, a poison gas, into Mexico. They are making the chemical in a refinery in the desert, where Stony goes to after agreeing to take agent Frank’s place. You better believe Wayne and his buddies save the day after faced with a tough challenge, as Stony fakes his death and takes another’s identity to avoid the $1,000 reward posted for him by the law. This gives Stony a chance to pose as Paul to chief smuggler Gordon (Ted Adams) but the brains behind the operation, Judge Hastings (Josef Forte), recognizes him from the dude ranch and it leads to Stony and the boys confronting the more numerous smugglers as they’re set to cross the international border.