Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tonight's Movie: West of the Pecos (1945)

WEST OF THE PECOS is a well-made RKO "B" Western starring the young Robert Mitchum and Barbara Hale.

Mitchum, who had appeared the previous year in the Western NEVADA (1944), stars as Pecos Smith, while Hale plays Rill, who accompanies her father (Thurston Hall) when he travels to Texas for his health.

Pecos and his friend Chito Rafferty (Richard Martin) help Rill and her father settle into their new ranch, while also bringing to justice those responsible for the death of Pecos's best friend, Tex (Bill Williams).

This is a nicely constructed 66-minute Western with an appealing cast and particularly fine use of the Alabama Hills; the movie is a must for those who love Lone Pine.

My only quibble with the movie is that Barbara Hale spends a significant part of the film's running time dressed as a boy. I can't say I enjoyed the cross-dressing aspect of the plotline, with Pecos calling her "Kid" and a variety of resulting awkward little situations. Otherwise, the film is quite enjoyable, with Mitchum and Hale both demonstrating why they would go on to have long, successful careers.

This was Mitchum's last "B" Western; his career took off with the release of THE STORY OF G.I. JOE (1945) the same year, and then it was on to TILL THE END OF TIME (1946), UNDERCURRENT (1946), THE LOCKET (1946), PURSUED (1947), CROSSFIRE (1947), OUT OF THE PAST (1947), and on and on his great list of credits continues, for another 50 years.

I particularly loved realizing that Bill Williams was riding shotgun on the stagecoach carrying his real-life future wife, Hale; I don't think they ever actually spoke in this film, but finding them on the same stage was rather delightful. Williams and Hale married in 1946 and would later costar in A LIKELY STORY (1947) and THE CLAY PIGEON (1949). Williams passed on two decades ago; Hale, who was also seen by me last weekend in HIGHER AND HIGHER (1943), is now 90.

Richard Martin played Chito Rafferty in RKO Westerns throughout the '40s, including in Mitchum's NEVADA and in many Tim Holt Westerns, including THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947). In WEST OF THE PECOS he is well teamed with Rita Corday, playing Hale's French maid; together they provide just the right amount of comic relief without overdoing it.

The movie was directed by Edward Killy and filmed by Harry J. Wild.

WEST OF THE PECOS is available on DVD from Lions Gate in the Zane Grey Western Classics series. The C&C Television Corp. print is quite good.

It also had a release on VHS.


Blogger Rick said...

I think Barbara Hale, lovely as she was, did a very creditable job (movie-wise, at least) at passing for a boy in this one. For a truly laughable example of this old cliche, look at Glynis Johns in THE SWORD AND THE ROSE. That "boy" wore more makeup than a Vegas showgirl.

7:18 AM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Thanks, Laura, for the tip about the good use of the Alabama Hills in this film - I must view it. The Lone Pine Film Festival is this week, October 12-14. I can't make it this year but hope to go next year and take the guided tour of the films made in the Alabama Hills (I tried taking the self-guided tour and was completely lost!) Jane

10:12 PM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Correction! The Lone Pine Festival really is this week so that's Oct. 5-7. -- Jane

9:50 PM  

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