Friday, November 01, 2013

Tonight's Movie: The Mysterious Desperado (1949)

Over at 50 Westerns From the 50s, Toby's just started a new series I'm really pleased about, Tim Holt Tuesdays.

It's a great celebration for those of us who love Tim Holt Westerns, and I hope that those who aren't familiar with these movies might learn more about them and come to enjoy them too. I just saw my first Holt Western a little over a year ago, and they've been a wonderful addition to my classic film viewing.

In the comments for the inaugural Holt post, Toby and Paula recommended THE MYSTERIOUS DESPERADO (1949), so I pulled that out to watch tonight. It's part of the Warner Archive's Tim Holt Western Classics Collection, Vol. 2.

THE MYSTERIOUS DESPERADO is indeed a good example of the series' quality. Like so many of the films, it was briskly directed by Lesley Selander and filmed in beautiful black and white by Nicholas Musuraca. Norman Houston wrote the screenplay.

Chito (Richard Martin) receives a letter indicating he has an inheritance from his uncle waiting for him in California. When Chito and Tim arrive in town to collect, they're regularly shot at by folks who obviously want Chito dead. Meanwhile, Chito discovers his cousin Ramon (Edward Norris), the rightful heir, is hiding on the old Bustamante family rancho. Ramon has been accused of killing his father, Chito's uncle.

It's a quick 61 minutes in which Tim and Chito unravel who's trying to bump off Ramon and Chito, while also ensuring Ramon will have a happy future with his love Luisa (Movita Castenada). There's a lot of great action amidst the distinctive rock formations of the Alabama Hills, as well as a climactic shootout at the rancho, a set familiar from many other Westerns.

IMDb says that the mission in the film is Mission San Fernando Rey.

It's interesting to note that Tim Holt's character in this film is named...Tim Holt! He goes by Tim Holt in a few more of his RKO Westerns.

As in the other Holt Westerns, there are some nice bits of character and humor squeezed in with the fast-paced story. As is the case in the other films -- RIO GRANDE PATROL (1950) particularly comes to mind -- part of the movies' charm is Tim's perpetual amusement with Chito. I love the sidelong glances and grins Tim gives Chito when Chito's not looking.

An interesting side note is that Movita Castenada, who plays Luisa, played Franchot Tone's Tahitian love, Tehani, in MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935). An odd bit of trivia is that in the '60s she married Marlon Brando, who played Fletcher Christian in the 1962 remake of the film. What's more, when Brando and Movita were divorced, he married Tarita, who played Maimiti in the remake -- so Brando was married to two actresses who were each in a version of the BOUNTY story, released 27 years apart.

Movita, who was born in 1917, appears to still be living, if IMDb is correct. (Update: Movita died February 12, 2015, at the age of 98.)

The supporting cast includes William Tannen, Frank Wilcox, Robert Livingston, Leander De Cordova, and Kenneth MacDonald.

According to TCM, this film has also been shown under the titles IN OLD CAPISTRANO and RENEGADE OF THE RANCHO.



Blogger barrylane said...

Are you certain Movita played opposite Franchot in Mutiny? I think she was Fletcher Christian's girl. I'm sure that you know this but if not, Roger Byam was offered to Cary Grant, who was still under contract to Paramount. They refused to lend him to a rival studio...and when his contract expired the following year Grant resolved to manage his own career. And, we know how that turned out.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Barrylane,

According to my references, as well as IMDb, Maimiti, Christian's girl, was played by Mamo, aka Mamo Clark.

When I first became enamored with the movie and books as a teen, I kept the two exotically named actresses straight in my mind by remembering that the actress whose name started "Ma-" played the character whose name started "Ma-."

It's certainly interesting to imagine Grant and Gable in BOUNTY!

Best wishes,

3:39 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...



6:13 PM  
OpenID fiftieswesterns said...

Thanks for the plug, Laura. And thanks for encouraging more people to check out Tim's Westerns!

8:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're so welcome, Toby, I'm excited about your series! And I really hope more people will become Tim Holt fans, just as I have in the past year.

Best wishes,

12:09 AM  
Blogger Clayton Walter said...

I really do have to get these; I watch three or four o' these B-reelers a week, and I don't want to ever run out! This one looks fantastic.

Clayton @ Phantom Empires

12:04 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

You'll love it, Clayton! :) :) The Holts and O'Briens are my favorite B Westerns, and I'm picking up a real liking for Buck Jones, too. And I like Johnny Mack Brown and and...

12:10 PM  

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