I chose THE MAN TRAILER as the leading lady is Cecilia Parker, who later played Marian in MGM's long-running ANDY HARDY series. I also thought the lone review at the film's IMDb page sounded cute, and indeed it was.
Track Ames (Jones) is a good man who's had bad trouble with both a Texas lawman and a ring of crooks headed by Jim Burke (Arthur Vinton). The desperate Track is tempted to become an outlaw, but instead he ends up saving a stagecoach containing a shipment of gold and pretty Sally Ryan (Parker) from Burke.
Track becomes a marshal in the Oklahoma town where Sally lives, going by the name of Dan Lane, but trouble, in the form of Burke, isn't far behind him.
Some of the acting, combined with the somewhat scratchy sound quality of the print I watched, feels a bit "quaint," but at the same time, Jones in particular has an endearing sincerity despite not being the greatest actor. Moreover, the film's stylish and economical storytelling keeps the viewer interested, along with the sweet love story.
In terms of my overall enjoyment, I'd rank this one about on a par with a George O'Brien Western, which is a high compliment coming from me. I don't know if I'll like all of Jones's films as much, but I liked this one!
The movie is eye-catching from the opening scene where Track approaches the rustlers' lair, while a lookout watches from a high perch. Some nice stunt work follows with a horse to stagecoach transfer. The exteriors were apparently shot at Iverson Ranch; the rocks seen early in the film were so striking that I briefly wondered if it was the Alabama Hills.
Watching the exciting chase scene, I was struck that we're watching history on two different levels when watching a Western like this, or many other films; beyond the "times past" depicted in the story, we're also watching historic Western moviemaking, with actors and locations which have become so familiar to us over time.
One of the nicest bits of storytelling occurs when Track is asked by several townsmen to be a marshal. He turns the job down, saying it's not in his plans, but Sally wordlessly takes the badge from one of the men, with a slight smile on her face. Cut to the next scene, and Track is standing in front of the marshal's office, wearing the badge; we further realize that some time has passed when he looks at the engraved watch he received as a reward for rescuing the gold, as it would have taken time for the watch to be engraved and delivered to him. Sally's father had said there was no stopping her when she put her mind to something, and it's clear from this little moment he was telling the truth!
There's also some sly humor; early in the film we see Track roasting what is clearly a rabbit over his campfire, while he chats with his horse (which was a clever way to handle some exposition). Later in the movie, when Sally's father asks what's for dinner, she replies, "Fried rabbit," prompting a startled "Not that again!" look from Track which no one else sees. Little moments like that really added some color to the movie.
I also really appreciate a movie where the hero and heroine don't have misunderstandings due to lack of communication. It was thus quite refreshing when, after declaring their feelings for each other, Sally asks Track if he can share the problem that's worrying him. He immediately takes out the wanted poster with his picture on it and hands it to her. That gave the movie a gold star in my book right there.
Jones was considerably older than Parker, but while he looks older, the gap doesn't seem all that big on screen; they seem well-suited, especially as she is no shrinking violet, but a spunky gal through and through.
The supporting cast includes Clarence Geldart, Steve Clark, and Charles West. The movie was filmed by Benjamin Kline.
THE MAN TRAILER was written and directed by Lambert Hillyer, who had a long career in the Westerns business. The movie runs a brisk 59 minutes.
THE MAN TRAILER does not seem to be currently available on DVD, VHS, or streaming. Let's hope this Columbia Pictures film is one day more easily accessible.