THE DEADLINE (1931) is an early Buck Jones Western for Columbia Pictures. It was recommended to me by fellow Jones fans, and I enjoyed it very much.
Buck plays Buck Donlin, who was unjustly convicted of manslaughter and has just been paroled after serving one year of a five-year sentence.
Buck returns to his hometown where many snobby citizens turn their back on him. He has a loyal group of friends, however, in the blacksmith (Knute Erickson), little Jimmy (George Ernest), and Helen (Loretta Sayers), who loves him. He's also given a fair shake by the sheriff (G. Raymond Nye) and Helen's father, the town banker (Edward LeSaint).
Buck longs to be with Helen but refuses to see her because he believes it's not fair to her that he's a parolee who is persona non grata in the town. His only hope is to be able to clear his name. Some handwritten notes on a document held by the sheriff since the trial provide the first clues in the mystery.
THE DEADLINE was written and directed by Lambert Hillyer. As mentioned in a discussion over at 50 Westerns From the 50s, Hillyer is a name I am quickly coming to associate with quality.
The '30s Jones films I've seen are notable for their dense plotting, strong characterizations, striking photography, and unique bits of storytelling, and this 65-minute film is no exception. For instance, when Buck returns to town he has a trio of compelling scenes with the blacksmith, the sheriff, and Helen's father. They're refreshingly free of cliches, especially the scene with Helen's kindly father, who encourages Buck to make his own decisions about seeing Helen.
Buck's reunion with the blacksmith and his beloved horse Silver is quite touching. I also really liked Buck's initial discussion with the sheriff, a fair man willing to listen; Nye is quite good in the role.
Sayers finds herself in peril multiple times but is no shrinking damsel in distress; she's a spunky gal who is determined that Buck realize she loves and believes in him. Jones and Sayers had previously been paired in THE FIGHTING SHERIFF (1931), which was Sayers' first film, and would later team in HIGH SPEED (1932). She was out of films by 1938. She passed away here in Orange County in 1999.
THE DEADLINE was filmed by future director Byron Haskin (TOO LATE FOR TEARS). Locations included the Paramount Ranch and Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park.
THE DEADLINE is a Columbia Pictures film available on DVD-R from Sony Choice. I watched a good-looking print of unknown provenance so can't personally vouch for the Sony Choice DVD-R, but I've been told by others who have viewed it -- including regular commenter Jerry Entract -- that it looks very nice indeed. Jones fans who don't already have this film will want to be sure to order it.
Previous Buck Jones reviews: RIDIN' FOR JUSTICE (1932), UNKNOWN VALLEY (1933), THE MAN TRAILER (1934), BOSS OF LONELY VALLEY (1937), and ARIZONA BOUND (1941).