Monday, March 07, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Rock Island Trail (1950)

ROCK ISLAND TRAIL (1950) is an enjoyable Republic Pictures Western starring Forrest Tucker and Adele Mara.

Tucker and Mara lead an excellent cast in this story of building of the Rock Island Railroad.

Tucker plays Reed Loomis, a visionary who pushes for the railroad to be built, always dreaming of further expansion. Mara plays Constance, a banker's daughter who is attracted to Reed from their first meeting.

Shortly after Reed comes into her life Constance breaks her engagement to Kirby Morrow (Bruce Cabot), who turns out to be a bad man in any event. Kirby and Reed clash constantly -- and violently.

This is a good, solid Western with much to recommend it, starting with the charming leads. I enjoyed their straightforward love story, with the only conflict being that Reed wants to earn good money before marrying so that his wife isn't the only wealthy one in the family. (Constance later finds a unique way to solve that problem!) Even when Aleeta (Adrian Booth, aka Lorna Gray) makes a play for Reed, he's immediately clear to her that he's a one-woman man -- or as he later jokes about it to Constance, one woman at a time.

The film has some good dialogue, with Constance's banker father David (Grant Withers) a particularly fun character. I enjoyed his interactions with both Reed and Constance.

Both female leads are admirably forthright, not hesitating to speak their minds. Booth's Aleeta, the second female lead, is an educated Indian woman who speaks flawless English and French and who moves back and forth from traditional Indian dress to what some at the time would have described as more "civilized" clothing. I briefly had hopes Aleeta might find a way to induce Kirby to reform his evil ways, as he clearly admired her, but it was not to be.

It's worth nothing that this is the movie in which Tucker and Cabot infamously duel with mops dipped in boiling water! That was unique, to say the least.

Fire is also a recurring theme in the film; there's a shocking scene when Tucker pours whiskey over someone and then sets him on fire (!), and in a later fight on a riverboat Cabot tries to set fire to Tucker. Not to mention that there's a stunning fire on a railroad bridge!

Forrest Tucker certainly filmed some brutal fight scenes in his career; his battle with Randolph Scott in the Columbia film CORONER CREEK (1948) a couple years previously came to mind while watching him tangle with Cabot in this.

Tucker and Mara would reunite with director Joseph Kane for CALIFORNIA PASSAGE (1950), released a few months after this film. Both movies were written by James Edward Grant (ANGEL AND THE BADMAN).

ROCK ISLAND TRAIL was filmed in Trucolor by Jack Marta. It runs 90 minutes.

The supporting cast included Chill Wills, Jeff Corey, Jimmy Hunt, Roy Barcroft, Olin Howlin, Stanley Andrews, Emory Parnell, Jack Pennick, and Noble Johnson.

On a biographical note, it's nice to know that both Mara and Booth had succesful long-term marriages, Mara to writer-producer Roy Huggins and Booth to actor David Brian. A third actress in the movie, Barbra Fuller, who plays Constance's friend Annabelle, was briefly married to Western star Lash LaRue. Adele Mara died in 2010. IMDb does not list death dates for either Booth (born between 1917 and 1924, sources vary) or Fuller (born 1925).

ROCK ISLAND TRAIL isn't a perfect film but there's a lot about it I liked, and I suspect fellow fans of the cast will feel the same. Hopefully at some point in the future it will be released on DVD.


Blogger Jerry E said...

I like your very valid point about Tucker's rough fight scenes, including that great fight from 'CORONER CREEK'. Twenty years later he had a humdinger of a punch-up with the Duke in the under-rated 'CHISUM'. Ironically, he was known as one of Hollywood's best-dressed men.

11:43 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Jerry! I've never forgotten that CORONER CREEK fight. :) CHISUM is a later Wayne I haven't seen yet! I've gradually been checking them off my list, will keep that one in mind.

Best wishes,

4:07 PM  
Blogger Hal said...

Also known as Lorna Gray, Adrian Booth is thankfully still with us, and turns 100 on July 26th. Boyd Magers has a very good interview with her on his site, and she and Tucker were lifelong friends.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Great to know she'll celebrate a centennial birthday this year, Hal! I love that she and Tucker were longtime friends.

Best wishes,

7:56 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

No one mentioned Jimmy Hunt so far or his role/character in the movie. He was one of the more popular child actors of that time period. He played Stinky Tanner who ever that was in the film??

4:26 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jimmy Hunt visited McCrea Ranch a couple years ago and talked about his work with Joel McCrea in SADDLE TRAMP and THE LONE HAND...I don't remember him off the top of my head from ROCK ISLAND TRAIL but he was a good actor who was in a number of enjoyable films.

Best wishes,

7:40 PM  

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