What could be better than a George O'Brien or Tim Holt Western? How about a Western starring both O'Brien and Holt, plus Rita Hayworth?
That movie is 1938's THE RENEGADE RANGER. O'Brien and Holt play Texas Rangers who end up on opposite sides of the law when Larry (Holt) is kicked out of the Rangers for "conduct unbecoming" after one brawl too many.
Larry joins forces with Judith Alvarez (Hayworth), who is accused of having committed murder. In reality, Alvarez is one of a number of border ranchers unjustly forced off their land by evil tax collector Ben Sanderson (William Royle). Jack (O'Brien) is charged with bringing Judith to justice but ultimately ends up protecting her from Sanderson and his men.
THE RENEGADE RANGER isn't the best of O'Brien and Holt's "B's," but it's fun and very fast-paced, running just 59 minutes. Ray Whitley and the Phelps Brothers are also along for the ride, providing a nice musical break, and Cecilia Callejo, as Holt's sweetheart, sings and dances with castanets. I enjoyed her -- yet couldn't help wishing Rita were dancing instead!
Rita is lovely, though still years away from her '40s superstar status. I've always been a big Hayworth fan, with YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER (1942), COVER GIRL (1944), and TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945) among the earliest films I saw at L.A. revival theaters as a child in the '70s. It's fun to catch her in her early roles.
THE RENEGADE RANGER launched Tim Holt's career as the star of RKO "B" Westerns; Holt would star in well over 40 such Westerns between 1938 and 1952, while simultaneously appearing in "A" titles such as THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942), MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946), and THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948). Holt was also a decorated member of the Air Corps during WWII.
George O'Brien continued making RKO Westerns through 1940. A Naval veteran of WWI, he reenlisted with the Navy in WWII and from that point on the Navy was the main focus of his career, serving until the 1960s.
O'Brien made just five more films after WWII, three of which were for his longtime colleague, director John Ford: FORT APACHE (1948), SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), and CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1964). Ford had previously directed O'Brien in THE IRON HORSE (1924) and SEAS BENEATH (1931).
Orin has played bass with the New York Philharmonic since 1966, and his son Darcy, who died in 1998, was a prolific author whose many books included a biography of Pope John Paul II. Orin and Darcy's mother was actress Marguerite Churchill.
THE RENEGADE RANGER was directed by David Howard and filmed by Harry J. Wild at the Iverson Ranch.
THE RENEGADE RANGER can be seen in an excellent print as part of the Warner Archive's Tim Holt Western Classics Collection, Vol. 1.
THE RENEGADE RANGER can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.
GUN LAW (1938), PAINTED DESERT (1938), THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939), and LEGION OF THE LAWLESS (1940).
Previous reviews of Tim Holt Westerns: THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947), RIDERS OF THE RANGE (1950), STORM OVER WYOMING (1950), RIDER FROM TUCSON (1950), and BORDER TREASURE (1950).