They don’t make movies like they used to, and aren’t we glad. This is from 1935 and starring John Wayne. It’s The Dawn Rider, recently available on Hulu in their Classics section. It was released by Lone Star Pictures, which I don’t see around much these days.
John Wayne is John Gordon, whence the name Dawn Rider. No, I don’t get the connection either. Anyhow, it’s your typical dusty town in the Old West, and Bates the undertaker (Nelson McDowell) is bemoaning to Ben McClure (Reed Howes) the sad state of his industry. Business is about to pick up.
The first thing big John Mason does when he rides into town is to get into a street brawl with Ben.
They are soon fast friends, and Ben introduces John to sweet Alice Gordon (Marion Burns). Big mistake, because Ben is sweet on Miss Alice, himself.
Things take a deadly turn, as John Mason pays a visit to the local express office where his father “Dad” Mason (Joseph De Grasse) works as the manager. John Mason walks in on a holdup, and Dad pulls a gun on one of the holdup artists. For his efforts he gets killed by another outlaw firing through the window. Wretched homecoming.
The robbers make their getaway, and the surviving Mason opens up with his six gun. He peels two robbers off their horses as they head down the street. Following the remaining five outlaws, he gets ambushed, but still manages to drop another bad guy with some very fine shooting.
He recovers under the tender care of an affectionate Alice. Things are not going well for Ben.
John Mason cooks up a scheme to decoy and waylay the outlaws. The offshoot is two robbers, who had stowed away under a tarp in the back of the express wagon come to a bad end. One, who has been forced to drive at gunpoint, is shot through by the pursuing gang. Another gets tossed off the moving wagon.
Bad news again, as the producers replay a western movie standby. The driver shot by the robbers, the wagon runs away. John brings the horses under control, but the wagon breaks free and plummets over a cliff, the driver still aboard. Meanwhile, John has polished off just about all of the remaining gang members.
Except for the one who shot his father. This turns out to be Alice’s brother Rudd Gordon (Dennis Moore), who plans an ambush back in town. Ben kills Rudd and takes the bullet for John and dies in the street. John finishes off the last of the outlaw gang.
The undertaker’s business is booming.
John and Alice ride off to make whoopee.
Of course this one is bad. The plot is a cut below Luke Short, and continuity is horrid to lacking. Examples:
The outlaws are preparing to hold up the express office. One puts on a mask. But the ones inside the express office are not wearing masks. They make their getaway without going to the trouble of killing all the witnesses. What was their plan B?
After John’s initial encounter with the outlaws, the remainder of the gang sadly laments the loss of two of their number. If you watched the shootout during the gang’s escape and during the subsequent ambush, you will count three badmen biting the dust.
Ben has a giant crush on Alice, and he’s purchased an engagement ring. She’s not returning his affections, but he doesn’t pick up on that. Guys, before you even think of an engagement ring, you and your squeeze should already be accumulating sack time.
I see this a lot in old movies. The outlaws are chasing the express wagon. The wagon is drawn by four horses. The chase seems to go on for miles. A man on a horse can’t shortly ride down a horse-drawn wagon?
The climax of the plot is the ambush of the express wagon. Many gang members are killed plus the driver of the wagon. Everybody in town goes about their business without any thought of hauling the bodies back to town. Old time western movies tended to be like that. Details of everyday life got swept under the rug so as not to interrupt the plot flow.
For the TV audience this black and white film was “colorized.” Using the magic of Adobe Photoshop I rendered the screen shots back to monochrome.
John Wayne executed a passel of films prior to this one. This is one of a series of low-budget productions he played in to claw his way back to leading status after a slump related to studio politics. His last movie was to be The Shootist, which came out in 1976, three years prior to his death. In between were some signal performances and a slew of stinkers.