Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Prairie Law (1940)

PRAIRIE LAW is another very enjoyable George O'Brien RKO Western, teaming O'Brien with frequent leading lady Virginia Vale.

This time around O'Brien plays Brill Austin, a rancher helping some homesteaders, including lovely Priscilla (Vale), with water rights after the bad guys sell the newcomers land without access to water.

It all gets a little complicated, with shenanigans involving cattle rustling, fake elections, and moving the county seat, but Brill and his friends soon set matters right and by the end he's also won pretty Priscilla.

It's an action-packed 59 minutes. Along the way there's a scene with some lovely Western music, and there's also a clever, amusing sequence where a jury conducts its deliberations while also taking part in a shootout.

The cast includes J. Farrell MacDonald, Dick Hogan, Cy Kendall, Paul Everton, Henry Hall, and Monte Montague. Hand Worden has a small role as a man buying land.

In Boyd Magers' WESTERNS WOMEN Virginia Vale recalled Slim Whitaker, who plays O'Brien's sidekick Silent, as "Another very fine man...he always played his character very well."

More quotes from Vale about her experiences working on the O'Brien Westerns can be found here and here. She had nothing but good things to say about O'Brien, director David Howard, and the other actors she worked with.

Some fascinating trivia about Virginia Vale is that after her film career, she served for decades as a competition judge for the U.S. Figure Skating Assocation. The Los Angeles Figure Skating Club published an obituary for Vale in their December 2006 newsletter, The Ice Monitor.

Cinematography of PRAIRIE LAW was by J. Roy Hunt. IMDb also says there was uncredited photography by Harry J. Wild.

PRAIRIE LAW isn't yet on DVD, but I'm hoping the Warner Archive will release a second collection with the rest of the six movies teaming O'Brien with Virginia Vale, since three of them are already available in a very nice set.

PRAIRIE LAW been shown on Turner Classic Movies.

February 2016 Update: PRAIRIE LAW is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive in the nine-film George O'Brien Western Collection.

June 2016 Update: My review of PRAIRIE LAW in the George O'Brien Western Collection is here.

Previous reviews of George O'Brien-Virginia Vale Westerns: THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939), LEGION OF THE LAWLESS (1940), BULLET CODE (1940), and TRIPLE JUSTICE (1940). Now that I've seen PRAIRIE LAW, the only one of O'Brien and Vale's joint films which I haven't tracked down is STAGE TO CHINO (1940).


Blogger Jerry E said...

Hi Laura
Happy New Year!
These RKO O'Briens are right up there with the RKO Holts, aren't they? RKO made some of my favourite films between c 1935 and 1951 when Howard Hughes ruined it.

10:41 AM  

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