Monday, April 20, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Eagle's Brood (1935)

THE EAGLE'S BROOD (1935) was the strong second entry in the long-running HOPALONG CASSIDY movie series.

The first film, HOP-A-LONG CASSIDY (1935), was released in August 1935. Last fall I wrote about that movie in some detail for Classic Movie Hub. As a side note, that was the only film in which the nickname "Hop-a-long" was hyphenated!

The second Hoppy film, THE EAGLE'S BROOD, was released two months later, in October 1935. It was strongly recommended by Frances M. Nevins in his comprehensive Hoppy reference HOPALONG CASSIDY: ON THE PAGE, ON THE SCREEN, and it did not disappoint.

The movie has a somewhat darker, grittier feel than later Hoppy films, including steely-eyed Bill "Hopalong" Cassidy (William Boyd) being a pretty dangerous customer. You absolutely do not want to mess with this man! Hoppy was always a confident character but here he's almost scary at times, then finally he'll break into a reassuring smile.

The film opens with the murders of the parents of young Pablo Chavez (George Mari), while he hides in the nearby woods. (This sequence reminded me a bit of the opening of a later Zane Grey Western, 1937's THUNDER TRAIL.) Pablo is found by Dolores, a kind-hearted dance hall performer; Dolores was played by Joan Woodbury, curiously billed as Nana Martinez, the only time in her career she used that name.

Dolores quickly realizes that her boss Big Henry (Addison Richards) is behind the murders and is now hunting for the child, wanting to eliminate a potential eyewitness to the killings. She hides the little boy, then writes to his grandfather, the famous bandit El Toro (William Farnum).

El Toro heads north from his home in Mexico to find his grandson, pausing along the way to save the life of Sheriff Cassidy (Boyd). Cassidy recognizes El Toro and orders him to return south of the border, then pledges to find the man's grandson, in gratitude for saving his life.

Cassidy and his Deputy Johnny Nelson (James "Jimmy" Ellison, seen here) turn in their badges and head off to find Dolores, arriving in town separately and not letting on they know one another as they investigate the situation. A series of violent incidents take place as the men edge closer and closer to finding little Pablo.

This was quite a strong and compelling drama which I enjoyed very much. It's told in a compact 61 minutes but is a complete, satisfying story with some dramatic punch. I'd describe it as a model "B" Western.

Woodbury and Farnum are particularly good among the supporting cast, which also has familiar names like George "Gabby" Hayes and Paul Fix. Former silent film actress Dorothy Revier registers well as Dolly, who works with Dolores.

It's quite interesting to track the evolution of the Hoppy character from the very first films, as he's definitely a more lighthearted persona as the series continues. The movie is also much more violent than I've seen in later Hoppy films, including a couple people flying over cliffs. Legendary stuntmen such as Cliff Lyons and Jack Montgomery were among the movie's crew.

THE EAGLE'S BROOD was directed by Howard Bretherton and filmed by Archie Stout. IMDb says the movie was shot in the area of Kernville, California.

This movie is available on DVD and VHS, and it's also available for streaming via multiple services.


Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Nice one, Laura! At this early stage of the series the 'trio' format wasn't really in place yet as it was much more the Cassidy-Nelson duo. George Hayes fairly quickly established his Windy Halliday character and the trio was in place. Character-wise, my favourites are those that featured Boyd, Hayes and Russell Hayden as Lucky Jenkins. They just 'clicked' perfectly.
These Cassidy films were the best-made B-western series ever, due to the production values allowed by the budget allocated by Paramount. I still find them a joy to watch, 66 years after I saw my first one!

11:32 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

This is a good picture, and Jerry nailed the trio. I thought all of the Paramount Hoppy's were top of the line, but from 1941 on and UA's involvement, the focus seemed shaky, with many juveniles coming in and out replacing
Ellison and Hayden inadequately. The final dozen, produced after the fact, personally by Bill Boyd were underfinanced, underproduced and dull. They should have ended when Pop Sherman was done.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry and Barrylane!

Love getting each of your feedback, as you know this movie and the series so well, and I'm a relative "newbie," having seen no more than 10 of them so far.

I don't think I've seen enough yet to choose the sidekicks I like best. I like both Hayden and Ellison; Ellison's characters can be a bit petulant at times, but he makes up for it by being so cute LOL.

The location shooting of this one is a definite plus, a very attractive film.

Looking forward to more!

Best wishes,

9:38 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

The melodrama in The Eagle's Brood goes right to my heart. Plus, I always enjoy catching anything with Joan Woodbury.

As one "Hoppy" fan to another, sharing this in the ongoing proof that great minds think alike:

8:20 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree with you about Joan Woodbury -- I was so pleased to find her "hiding" behind a different name in this. She's a striking actress whose name I'm always glad to find in the credits. FLAME OF THE WEST (1945) is one I particularly like.

I'm so glad you shared the link with your thoughts on the Hoppy films as I thoroughly enjoyed it! Thank you. :)

Best wishes,

7:44 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Now I have Flame of the West to look forward to. Thanks for the kind words and the sharing.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

You're so very welcome! And I hope you'll enjoy FLAME OF THE WEST when you see it!

Best wishes,

7:19 PM  

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