PAINTED DESERT is another pleasant George O'Brien Western for RKO. It's distinguished by location shooting at California's Red Rock Canyon and a couple lovely songs performed by Ray Whitley and the Phelps Brothers.
This time around O'Brien plays Bob McVey, who owns a ranch with a mine on the property. He meets Carol Banning (Laraine Johnson, better known as Laraine Day) when her grandfather claims to own the rights to the mine. Eventually Bob and Carol go into the mining business together. She initially claims not to like Bob but anyone watching Bob and Carol interact knows the lady doth protest too much.
BORDER G-MAN (1938).
Off the screen O'Brien was 22 years older than his 17-year-old leading lady, but the gap doesn't seem nearly that pronounced on the screen, as the lighthearted O'Brien is in tremendous physical shape and Day always seemed quite mature for her age. (She was just 19 when she starred in the 1940 film FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, appearing several years older.) They have appealing chemistry, with O'Brien falling for her as soon as he sees her eyes, no matter that she's pointing a gun at him!
The Phelps Brothers, seen here in a photo, appeared in several of Whitley's films including BORDER G-MAN, starring O'Brien. They have a sound reminiscent of the Sons of the Pioneers. Thanks to the internet I learned that the 15th annual Phelps Brothers festival was held last month in Chesapeake, Virginia. There's more info at the Phelps Brothers site.
PAINTED DESERT was directed by David Howard. It was photographed by Harry J. Wild, who would later shoot a number of excellent film noir titles. The supporting cast includes Maude Allen, Stanley Fields, Fred Kohler Sr., and Lloyd Ingraham.
This film has been shown on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available online. It's not yet available on DVD and does not appear to have had a VHS release.