TRAIL STREET(director: Ray Enright; screenwriters: from the book Golden Horizon by William Corcoran/Norman Houston/Gene Lewis; cinematographer: Roy Hunt; editor: Lyle Boyer; music: Paul Sawtell; cast: Randolph Scott (Marshal Bat Masterson), Robert Ryan (Allan Harper), Anne Jeffreys (Ruby Stone), George ‘Gabby’ Hayes (Billy Burns/Brandyhead Jones), Madge Meredith (Susan Pritchett), Steve Brodie (Logan Maury), Billy House (Carmody), Virginia Sale (Hannah), Harry Woods (Lance Larkin), Jason Robards Sr. (Jason), Phil Warren (Slim), Harry Harvey (Mayor), Frank McGlynn, Sr. (Tim McKeon), Guy Beach (Doc Evans), Sarah Padden (Mrs. Ferguson); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nat Holt; RKO Radio Pictures; 1947)
“It does the Western genre proud.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An unassuming Western about law and order that packs a wallop. It’s based on the book Golden Horizon by William Corcoran and scripted by Norman Houston and Gene Lewis. Ray Enright (“Dames”/”South of St. Louis”) directs with an eye for developing character and keeping things hopping with plenty of action. It does the Western genre proud. Star Randolph Scott just completed a comedy called Christmas Eve before this film and vowed from now on he’ll only make Westerns–a promise he kept. This was also the beginning of a starring career for Robert Ryan, just out of the marines, as he went on from here to make The Woman on the Beach, Crossfire, and The Set-Up, well-received films that showed his dark side and made him a star.
A range war between Farmers and Cattlemen develops in heat infested and lawless Liberal, Kansas. Old-timer motormouth and teller of tall tales, Billy Burns (George ‘Gabby’ Hayes), sends a letter inviting his friend Bat Masterson (Randolph Scott) to be the town’s marshal. Bat takes the job and immediately arrests baddie Lance Larkin (Harry Woods) and Slim, one for starting a fight and the latter for trying to shoot the winner in the back. He makes Billy his deputy; gladly greets the good capitalist Allan Harper (Robert Ryan), an easterner buying up all the land for the farmers; tells the mayor that he believes in law and order and that no one but the law will be able to carry firearms into town; turns down a sweet deal offered by the ambitious cattle baron Logan Maury (Steve Brodie); befriends dance hall singer Miss Ruby Stone (Anne Jeffreys); tips his hat to Allan’s sweetheart Susan Pritchett (Madge Meredith); and tells crooked saloon owner, the corpulent Carmody (Billy House ), after he fails in his assassination attempt that someday he’ll have to kill him.
As expected, Allan and Logan come into conflict over business and women. It precipitates a final shootout between the Farmers and Trail Riders. The fleeing farmers return after Allan shows them the right way to plant wheat in Kansas. The law brings the killer of one of the farmers to justice, and the farmers help the law save the day by joining in on the final shootout as the baddie trail riders try to spring the killer from jail. The romance part also ends on a happy note. Susan is always saying she’s unhappy in Kansas and wants to return east, while Allan refuses to leave Kansas. The oily Logan seizes this moment to make a play for the vulnerable woman. After he dumps an embittered Ruby, he asks Susan to marry him and live in Chicago. The catch here is that Ruby was adopted as a child by Allan’s parents and they grew up together back east, and her fondness for Allan as a friend is very deep. Therefore when Logan goes after Allan, the jilted Ruby manages to destroy Logan’s dreams of being an empire builder.
Jeffreys is charming singing “You’re Not the Only Pebble On the Beach.” Gabby declares that the Texas grasshoppers are tall enough to pick their teeth with barbed wire. Scott is convincing as the hard-nosed lawman with the rep of having cleaned up Dodge City, who yearns to be a journalist. He tells one of the baddies “Listen, fella, there’s only two kind of people I allow to call me Bat: good friends and people I like. You don’t belong in either group.” The rest of the supporting cast all do a fine turn.
REVIEWED ON 8/27/2005 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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