I've been having something of a Richard Dix festival this week!
Having enjoyed HELL'S HIGHWAY (1932) and SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR (1936), several of my fellow Dix fans recommended I next watch him in THE KANSAN (1943). THE KANSAN was indeed as enjoyable as advertised!
Dix plays John Bonniwell, who has stopped in a frontier town while traveling to Oregon. The fast-drawing, straight-shooting Bonniwell thwarts a bank robbery by the James gang. When the wounded Bonniwell wakes up in the hospital, he soon learns that he's been elected town marshal by the appreciative townspeople.
Bonniwell quickly learns that banker Steve Barrat (Albert Dekker), who owns most of the land in the area, wants to use Bonniwell to enforce legally sound but morally dubious court orders. Bonniwell must navigate his way through a number of crises precipitated by Barrat, figuring out and dealing with Barrat's end game.
Meanwhile, Barrat's gambler brother Jeff (Victor Jory), who is in love with Eleanor himself, is an unpredictable player in the unfolding events.
THE KANSAN has many positive attributes, starting with an interesting script, written by Harold Shumate from a story by Frank Gruber. Aside from Dix, who is excellent, the film has a crackerjack part for Victor Jory as Jeff. The viewer never knows exactly which way Jeff will go; one might say he's sort of an ethical semi-villain!
Wyatt has a nice role as Eleanor, who went into business on her own after her father's death. Her Eleanor is a fine lady in every sense of the word. She likes Jeff and appreciates his interest but is smart enough to hold him at bay, and she also quickly recognizes that John Bonniwell is a quality man.
There's an excellent supporting cast, including Eugene Palette and Robert Armstrong as Bonniwell's friends. Look for Rod Cameron as a trigger-happy cowboy Bonniwell has to shoot in the arm -- after which Bonniwell pays his hospital bill!
Also in the film are Willie Best, Beryl Wallace, Hobart Cavanaugh, Douglas Fowley, Byron Foulger, and Jason Robards Sr., to name a few.
Another pleasing aspect is a campfire song sung by The King's Men just before a big action sequence. The King's Men also sang on the soundtrack of Dix's THE ROUNDUP (1941) a couple years previously.
THE KANSAN was a United Artists film produced by Harry Sherman and directed by George Archainbaud. The cinematographer of this black and white film was Russell Harlan. It runs 79 well-paced minutes.
Turner Classic Movies. It was a weaker print than is typically seen on TCM, though it was still quite watchable.
It's also available on DVD from Alpha. Given the variable quality of Alpha's public domain films, I'd be surprised if the print is any better than the one seen on TCM.
Previous reviews of Richard Dix films: THE PUBLIC DEFENDER (1931), HELL'S HIGHWAY (1932), SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR (1936), IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD (1937), SKY GIANT (1938), TWELVE CROWDED HOURS (1939), MEN AGAINST THE SKY (1940), THE ROUNDUP (1941), and TOMBSTONE: THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (1942).