Friday, June 09, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Rainbow Trail (1932)

George O'Brien stars in THE RAINBOW TRAIL (1932), based on a story by Zane Grey.

THE RAINBOW TRAIL is a sequel to O'Brien's RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (1931), which was released about two months previously.

Although I haven't yet seen the O'Brien version of RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, I saw the 1941 George Montgomery version at the Lone Pine Film Fest a couple of years ago, and I realized the characters and story being discussed early in THE RAINBOW TRAIL sounded very familiar.

Fortunately I brought Ed Hulse's FILMING THE WEST OF ZANE GREY home from Lone Pine last year, which helped me untangle things! It's a bit of a complicated history, especially given that there were two earlier silent versions of THE RAINBOW TRAIL, filmed with William Farnum in 1918 and in 1925 with Tom Mix.

Fay Larkin (Cecilia Parker), the little orphan girl of RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, is now a young woman. She's been brought up in a secret valley by Jane (Alice Ward) and Jim Lassiter (Edward Hearn), who were played in the original by O'Brien and his real-life wife, Marguerite Churchill.

Fay leaves the valley and is kidnapped by the evil Dyer (William L. Thorne), who threatens to kill Jim and Jane if Fay doesn't stay with him willingly.

Young John Shefford (O'Brien) hears part of Fay's history from an old man (James Kirkwood) whose life he tries to save and goes looking for her...which leads to numerous life-threatening scrapes as well as romance.

It's all somewhat complicated but a reasonably good show, with a bit of a feel of a Western LORNA DOONE.

I suspect it would be much more enjoyable, however, if it were available in a better print. Like many Zane Grey films, it's fallen into the public domain and only seems to be available in a murky print. It was filmed by Daniel B. Clark at the Grand Canyon and I assume it originally looked really good; indeed, the crisp photos in FILMING THE WEST OF ZANE GREY make one long to see it as it's meant to be seen.

Director David Howard had a long relationship working with O'Brien, both at Fox, which released this film, and later at RKO before his untimely death in 1941. O'Brien is always appealing in these short Westerns, invariably a cheerful, confident man who isn't stopped by the threat of danger, especially if a lovely young lady is involved.

Cecilia Parker also appeared with O'Brien in that year's MYSTERY RANCH (1932). She was also a charming leading lady for Buck Jones in UNKNOWN VALLEY (1933) and THE MAN TRAILER (1934). The leading lady of numerous Westerns, she is perhaps best remembered today as Marian, the sister of Andy Hardy in MGM's long-running series.

Parker was 17 when this was made, and according to a brief account I found on the web, decades later she and O'Brien gave an interview and reminisced about the fact she had to have an on-set tutor during filming.

The cast also includes Minna Gombell, Ruth Donnelly, Roscoe Ates, and J.M. Kerrigan.

IMDb gives the release length of THE RAINBOW TRAIL as 65 minutes, but the print I watched ran a bit under an hour.


Blogger Jerry E said...

It does take a bit of getting your head round, but it's worth the effort, I think. I watched this film only a short time after watching O'Brien's film of "RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE" from the year before. We both enjoy O'Brien's films I know, Laura.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad you've seen it, Jerry! I recently acquired a copy of O'Brien's RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE thanks to a good friend of this blog; now that I know the connection to this film I hope to see it soon.

For me O'Brien's Westerns are "movie comfort food" at its best. So relaxing to watch one, and he's always a delight.

Best wishes,

1:41 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

In the Sane Grey originals, the villains are all Mormon, both as individuals and the church in its entirety. in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study In Scarlet, which I believe to be, by far, the best of his Sherlock Holmes novels, same thing.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Interesting background. I was a bit confused when I saw a description of the novel last night, since it wasn't a match for the movie plot.

Best wishes,

7:22 PM  

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