THE TEXAS RANGERS (1951) is a very enjoyable George Montgomery Western, and one only needs to look at the supporting cast to understand why: In addition to leading lady Gale Storm, the cast includes Western stalwarts such as Noah Beery Jr., John Dehner, Douglas Kennedy, Jock Mahoney, William Bishop, John Litel, and Jerome Courtland. It would be hard not to have a good time with a cast like that!
Montgomery and Beery play Johnny and Buff, a pair of outlaws riding with Sam Bass (Bishop), John Wesley Hardin (Dehner), Dave Rudabaugh (Kennedy), Butch Cassidy (John Doucette), and the Sundance Kid (Ian MacDonald). Sundance betrays Johnny and Buff, who are arrested and sent to prison.
Johnny's former commanding officer in the Civil War, Major Jones (Litel), is now a Texas Ranger, and he offers Johnny and Buff a deal: swear an oath to the Texas Rangers and work for him rounding up the rest of the outlaw gang in return for a pardon. They are happy to comply, as the prison is brutal, and as it turns out, Johnny's kid brother (Courtland) is a Ranger too.
The path to redemption doesn't always go smoothly, and Johnny considers fleeing the Rangers and Texas at one point, but then circumstances strengthen his resolve to see the job through and stay on the straight and narrow. It doesn't hurt that he's attracted to a feisty newspaper publisher (Storm).
Montgomery and Storm have excellent love-hate chemistry, and I only wish they had had more scenes together. There's a terrific sequence where Montgomery is being watched by the outlaws and needs to find a way to get an emergency message to the Rangers; as the gang watches from the street, Montgomery trashes the newspaper office while telling her what she needs to do to help him.
Montgomery gives a performance of some depth, portraying a man who came home from the war and found his family dead and home gone; he's believable as a man who could go either way, bad or good.
Phil Karlson. It was filmed by Ellis Carter in SuperCinecolor. The movie was shot at Southern California movie ranches, with the climactic train sequence shot near Jamestown, California.
THE TEXAS RANGERS has no relationship to the 1936 Fred MacMurray film of the same name, although the films each have the same basic premise, in which a pair of outlaws sign on with the Texas Rangers.
This Columbia film is a tough one to track down. I grabbed a copy when it was on YouTube a few months ago but it's no longer available online. Hopefully it will be out at some point in the Sony/Columbia MOD program. I'd certainly be happy to purchase a good print of this title.