Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Arizonian (1935)

Richard Dix stars as a marshal cleaning up a crime-ridden frontier town in THE ARIZONIAN (1935), a well-done RKO Western.

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.



Blogger barrylane said...

Richard ix and Preston Foster were also teamed for the final time in American Empire, produced in 1942.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

A fine western that I haven't watched in a number of years. Your good review prompts me to pull it off the shelf, Laura! I think it would be fair to say we are BOTH Dix fans now? And I know you are a big Foster fan so the film has a lot to recommend all around.

I assume you have yet to discover Dix and Foster together again in another fun western, "AMERICAN EMPIRE", in which they are up against bad but charismatic Leo Carrillo?

11:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you both very much for telling me about AMERICAN EMPIRE, I didn't know about that one and it's now on my "find" list! That sounds fun, especially as, as Jerry notes, I am such a big fan of Foster. (And you might also be interested to know there's a school named for Leo Carrillo just a few miles from me! Beyond his film career he did much good work on behalf of our state.)

Jerry, I was discussing with Kristina on Twitter that Dix, like Bill Elliott, was slow to grow on me but he very definitely has by now! I'd say IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD and THE PUBLIC DEFENDER were the key films which made me a fan, but as I look at the list of his films I've seen, that's a really solid batch of movies. And there are many I've yet to see. Kristina has reminded me I need to get to the WHISTLER films soon!

Glad you are pulling THE ARIZONIAN off the shelf, Jerry! EnjoY!

Best wishes,

11:51 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Kristina is spot on, Laura - you really need to see "THE WHISTLER" series.

Leo Carrillo's great grandfather Carlos Carrillo was the first Governor of California. There is an old house, part of an estate, in Old Town San Diego where the early Carrillos lived. We saw it when staying there and I was reminded of dear old Pancho (Let's went,Cisco!!).

6:08 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

Sounds good, will have to add this one to my current Dix binge, that you are responsible for: I watched ROAR OF THE DRAGON thanks to your recent post and, like a bag of chips, haven't been able to stop at the one. I'll have to do a roundup but you already heard me rave about DAY OF RECKONING, check that out and looking forward to your WHISTLER thoughts.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

How great you saw the Carrillo estate, Jerry! That's something I haven't done yet...though I've driven past the beach named for him many times. :) Since our son's at college in San Diego we should make it a point to check out the Carrillo Ranch when we're there -- I found a website! Carrillo was good in so many movies -- favorites are the Jean Arthur films IF YOU COULD ONLY COOK (1935) and HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937).

Kristina, delighted I helped get your current Dix binge rolling with the very entertaining ROAR OF THE DRAGON! I'm hoping to watch more soon as well, including the WHISTLER series.

Best wishes,

11:20 AM  

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