Preston Foster costars with Dix, half a dozen years before they made another good Western I've previously reviewed, THE ROUNDUP (1941).
Dix plays Clay Tallant, who rescues saloon singer Kitty Rivers (Margot Grahame of TWO IN THE DARK and NIGHT WAITRESS) when her attempt to leave Silver City is blocked by men working for Sheriff Jake Mannen (Louis Calhern).
Mannen may be a sheriff, but he's a very bad man, and since he wants Kitty he's determined to keep her around. Tallant, who seems modeled on Wyatt Earp, ends up as town marshal, in direct competition with Mannen to control the town.
When the sheriff's men are out to get Tallant, he receives help from an unlikely source, outlaw Tex Randolph (Foster). Randolph admires Tallant's guts and doesn't like the unfair odds when Mannen's men gang up on the new marshal.
Tallant's got other problems, in that he's fallen hard for Kitty, but his younger brother Orin (James Bush) fell in love with her first...
THE ARIZONIAN is from a story and screenplay by Dudley Nichols. Around the time Foster's outlaw was befriending Dix's marshal in the saloon, I realized the situation seemed very familiar...a couple minutes later it dawned on me that my favorite George O'Brien "B" Western, THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939), was a loose remake.
THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY is 13 minutes shorter and tells the story much more economically, along with changing the leading lady from saloon singer to schoolmarm; however, several of the key incidents from the original film appear in the remake, including the memorable smoky shootout.
In addition to the appealing relationship between Dix and Foster -- which I only wish had been given more screen time -- the movie has a number of other fine things to distinguish it, starting with Calhern's performance as evil personified. Viewers won't soon forget his actions in the final minutes of the movie.
Grahame is a fine leading lady, and there's an especially nice part for Etta McDaniel (sister of Hattie and Sam), who's given the chance to be a strong heroine near the end of the movie and makes the most of it.
Joe Sawyer is a slimy standout as one of Calhern's gang. The movie also stars Willie Best, Francis Ford, J. Farrell MacDonald, Ray Mayer, and John Alexander.
THE ARIZONIAN was directed by Charles Vidor and filmed by Harold Wenstrom. It runs 75 minutes.
THE ARIZONIAN is not available on DVD or VHS. It has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.
The clip available on the TCM website has a great shot of Vasquez Rocks as it begins. The movie was also shot at Iverson Ranch.
Previous reviews of Richard Dix films: THE PUBLIC DEFENDER (1931), HELL'S HIGHWAY (1932), ROAR OF THE DRAGON (1932), SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR (1936), IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD (1937), BLIND ALIBI (1938), SKY GIANT (1938), TWELVE CROWDED HOURS (1939), MEN AGAINST THE SKY (1940), THE ROUNDUP (1941), TOMBSTONE: THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (1942), and THE KANSAN (1943).