It's been a while since I've watched a Buck Jones Western, so I pulled FORBIDDEN TRAIL (1932) out of the stack tonight.
Buck plays Tom Devlin, a happy-go-lucky cowhand who as the film begins is more concerned with his latest pranks than work.
Tom is forced to become more serious when circumstances lead to his working to bring down crooked Cash Karger (Wallis Clark), including chasing cattle rustlers, while also romancing lovely newspaper publisher Mary Middleton (Barbara Weeks).
This 68-minute film, with a screenplay by Milton Krims, is somewhat weaker than the other '30s Jones Westerns I've seen. Those Westerns all have strong, often creative plotlines, but the storytelling here is more muddled, filled with nondescript cattlemen fighting each other and racing around on horseback. It's one of those Westerns where a scorecard might help track the groups of people involved!
It was also interesting that Jones's character starts out as a bit of a dimwit. It's not just that he engages in juvenile behavior, but he doesn't even think about the fact that one of his pranks might easily lead to a runaway horse, endangering Mary's life. That said, Tom's development into a more responsible man over the course of the film is one of its more interesting aspects. At the end Tom's sidekick Happy (George Cooper) notes out loud that Tom is now settled down and won't be playing any more jokes.
Weeks is a nice spunky leading lady, and her scenes with Jones are the best in the film. I found an interview with Weeks by Mike Fitzgerald at the Western Clippings site. Weeks said, “I had been in love with Buck Jones since I was a child. I was not disappointed when we met. He was wonderful, terrific and so charming." Always nice to hear that an actor admired on screen is the same in real life.
Interesting that she notes she did not care for director Lambert Hillyer, who did good work on so many Jones films, where he also sometimes served as writer.
L. William O'Connell shot the movie at locations including Paramount Ranch.
FORBIDDEN TRAIL is available on DVD from Sony.
Previous Buck Jones reviews: JUST PALS (1920), THE DEADLINE (1931), RIDIN' FOR JUSTICE (1932), UNKNOWN VALLEY (1933), THE MAN TRAILER (1934), BOSS OF LONELY VALLEY (1937), ARIZONA BOUND (1941), and THE GUNMAN FROM BODIE (1941).