Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Desert Gold (1936)

I celebrated Marsha Hunt's 100th birthday last week by watching one of her very earliest films, DESERT GOLD (1936).

DESERT GOLD, based on Zane Grey's novel of the same name, was Marsha's second film. Happily she gets to do a bit more than a traditional "B" Western leading lady; she plays a spunky gal, and in fact it's her courage which ultimately saves the day during the climactic shootout.

As the movie begins, Judy (Hunt) is engaged to marry much older businessman Chet Kasedon (Monte Blue). Then a handsome young mining engineer, Randolph Gale (Tom Keene) arrives in town, along with fellow engineer Fordyce Mortimer (Robert Cummings), throwing Judy's romantic life into turmoil.

Gale and Mortimer are hired by Kasedon to find a mine only the local Indians know about; but meanwhile Kasedon also kidnaps Indian Chief Moya (Larry "Buster" Crabbe) and attempts to torture him into divulging the mine's location.

When the engineers learn what Kasedon's up to they rescue Moya and side with the Indians. It also makes it imperative that Gale break up Judy's wedding plans pronto -- especially as he wants to marry her himself!

I found this film quite enjoyable, starting with the use of stock footage of a stagecoach in Lone Pine's Alabama Hills, intercut with the driver and passengers against back projections! Scenes like that are, well, gold for a "B" Western fan.

IMDb says that the film used Bodie as a location, but that's in error. (For more on Bodie, see my review of HELL'S HEROES.) The cast did do quite a bit of filming at Southern California's Iverson Ranch.

Hunt, Cummings, and Leif Erickson (billed as Glenn Erickson) seem impossibly young here. Cummings and Erickson had each been in just a handful of films at this point. Cummings is very goofy, front and center with the leads as Keene's toothache-ridden sidekick; Erickson mostly blends into the background in a supporting role.

It's fun to watch Hunt battle with Keene in a love-hate relationship; he's determined to marry her from the moment he meets her, but she doesn't want to give him the satisfaction of falling too easily. Keene was also in the enjoyable Western CROSS FIRE (1933), reviewed here in August.

Marsha's father is played by Raymond Hatton. The cast also includes Si Jenks, Frank Mayo, and Walter Miller.

The same year DESERT GOLD was released, Hunt, Crabbe, and Hatton also appeared in the Zane Grey film THE ARIZONA RAIDERS (1936).

DESERT GOLD was directed by James P. Hogan and filmed by William Clemens. It runs a quick 56 minutes.

DESERT GOLD is a Paramount Pictures film which is now in the public domain. It's available on DVD from Lions Gate. The print is soft but not as faded as some '30s public domain prints. I found it quite watchable.

Amazon Prime members can stream DESERT GOLD at no extra charge via Amazon Prime Instant Video.


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