Friday, August 03, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Gun Law (1938)

I was familiar with George O'Brien from the cavalry Westerns he made with John Ford in the late '40s, but I'd never seen one of O'Brien's "B" Westerns before watching GUN LAW tonight. I found GUN LAW quite enjoyable, with several aspects raising it above average interest, and I'm looking forward to seeing more O'Brien Westerns in the future.

The movie caught my attention from its opening moments, shot in the distinctive Alabama Hills at Lone Pine, California. U.S. Marshal Tom O'Malley (O'Brien) has a fateful confrontation with an outlaw named The Raven (Edward Pawley) which comes to a climax at an oasis which turns out to have, as scrawled on a nearby rock, "Bad Water." (There actually is a place called Badwater not far from Lone Pine, in Death Valley.) O'Malley ends up impersonating the Raven in the town of Gunsight, where he and undercover Deputy Marshal Sam McGee (Ray Whitley) are trying to break up a robbery ring.

O'Brien (seen at the right) has a genial, engaging personality, and he and Whitley do well managing a somewhat complicated plotline which finds Marshal O'Malley posing as an outlaw who in turn poses as a marshal! The men have a nice camaraderie, and the way O'Brien smiles at the parson's daughter (Rita Oehmen) certainly makes a lady's heart melt.

Whitley, whose character is posing as a saloon singer, performs several tunes, backed by the Phelps Brothers. In real life, Whitley was also a composer whose most famous song was "Back in the Saddle Again."  He's seen in the photo at the bottom of this post.

When a pair of bad guys walked on screen and the tall one turned out to be Ward Bond, well, what more could a Western fan want in a 60-minute "B" movie? This one was plenty fun and I had a good time watching it.

George O'Brien starred in several films for John Ford, including the silent THE IRON HORSE (1934). When WWII began he left his movie career for service in the U.S. Navy, and after the war he made just a handful of films, preferring to focus on continuing his naval career. He appeared in two classic John Ford films after the war, FORT APACHE (1948) and SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), then made just one more movie, in 1951, before Ford called him back to the big screen for his final movie role in CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1964).

It seems rather unusual for the era that Rita Oehmen wasn't asked to change her relatively "difficult" last name. Oehmen had a brief film career, but it just so happens that she's the mother of Charmian Carr (Liesl in THE SOUND OF MUSIC) and Darleen Carr (THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO, BRET MAVERICK).

GUN LAW was directed by David Howard from a story and screenplay by Oliver Drake. Cinematographer Joseph August would go on to receive two Oscar nominations, for GUNGA DIN (1939) and PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1949).

As far as I can tell, GUN LAW hasn't had a DVD or VHS release. It was recently shown on Turner Classic Movies.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older