Boots and Saddles
Such pictures of California in the desert have nohow been conceived anywhere else (the cinematographer is William Nobles).
An English lord claims his father’s ranch, foreman Autry has a plan to save it from creditors by training and selling horses to the Army. A neighbor holds part of the debt, he’s in the business and in league with the daughter of a colonel in the Quartermaster Corps serving at Fort Wayne.
The rival bids are tied, though Champ is obviously the better breed. A race is run around the fort on a cavalry training course with obstacles, just like Lummis’s Pueblo folk tale. The neighbor sets fire to the fort stable where Autry’s horses are kept the night before the race.
Smiley Burnette has great play with an Army bugle (cp. Harry James in Private Buckaroo) practicing to beat the band, and inadvertently enlists. The colonel’s daughter feigns to be a maid, she stoops to conquer.
The great songs include the hit title number.
Young Bill Hickok
In late 1864, a British and a French agent contrive to seize California and its wealth of gold, they enlist a tough bandit named Morell to sever communications with the East, he arms an Indian tribe and leads his raiders against the stage lines and Pony Express riders out of Missouri.
Young Hickok is a lonely jilted cowpoke making his living now at a stage depot, his girl is the daughter of a Confederate general. A raid on the depot is handled by Bill with wild determination, his friend Calamity Jane christens him, the Press takes it up, the girl has traveled West to reconcile, the stage company pays a bonus.
Army gold must travel East, the agents steal it and frame Wild Bill. The war ends, Mr. Lincoln is assassinated with their connivance. Now they plan to outfit a private army and take California.
Kane has an ounce of gold in his pocket always, his forte is puns, plot and pulchritude with songs thrown in for good measure and some beautiful camerawork in tracking shots of a horse and rider typically. The style is all his own, a little more rococo at the start of the Forties than his spartan crisp Thirties Westerns, perhaps, and tending toward the splendor in Flame of Barbary Coast.
Flame of Barbary Coast
Even the French have failed to espy this seaside Western, years before One-Eyed Jacks, and that’s a mysterious thing.
The Duke rides into town, young and rustic and smiling. A reporter observes his progress, giddily stammering out a description of the fellow’s wealth acquired at the tables and mixing up his own words, “nuggets” and “pockets”. Joseph Schildkraut deals him out with expert indifference.
William Frawley, who knows every rope and crooked angle in the whole wide world, instructs the nuggetless empty-pocketed greenhorn, who soon becomes a force to reckon with on the Coast. An earthquake completes his visit. He and his girl, a chanteuse, ride out.
That’s the great tale, and but for the mediocrity of the critics (Huston answered them with The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean), a great success.
The Saga of Annie
The terribly difficult and detailed teleplay (by Tommy Thompson) is recognized by Kane as a comic masterpiece in his best style.
An Irishwoman’s pluck and her wiles win her a fortune in the Washoe Diggings. Her father, leaving the Christian air of San Francisco, expires on the spot. The Lucky Stiff mine pays her five percent in the long run.
Disputes among the miners run to brawls, Ben wades in and administers justice. Food and timber are scarce, Annie starts a restaurant on the claim where her father is buried.
The Swede gave her the claim, not wishing to leave the Barbary Coast. The other one he sold for drink, the purchaser is Trapdoor Gregory Spain, formerly her father’s employer, shanghaiing sailors in saloons.
Which claim is which comes to trial in the miners’ court. A settlement is reached, Swede is found in front of a whiskey bottle and marries the girl. “Himself” is re-interred facing the new saloons, so “he’ll know he’s not in a heathen land.”
Little Joe is headed off for California to buy cattle. Ben and Hoss at the bank witness a holdup. Hoss impetuously draws, there is a shootout. Ben is severely wounded, so is one of the Morgan gang.
The townsmen congratulate Ben and swear to defend him against reprisals while he recuperates on a divan in Mrs. Samuels’ rooms, a widow very bitter since the wrongful prosecution and hanging of her husband by District Attorney Tom Pryor and the town. Pryor is rueful now, and a drunk.
A posse is ambushed and decimated. Support for Ben dries up in Virginia City, the men hide in the saloon. Hoss can only find one man to answer the Morgans’ note, sent with the bodies back to town. He and Pryor rig a trap and blockade from Ben’s instructions to keep the Morgans on Main Street and under fire. Just before the fight, Pryor loses his nerve and retires to his room above the saloon. Doc Travis replaces him.
The trap is sprung, Pryor dies shot from his window having hit a Morgan with his rifle, after last words for the widow to forgo recriminations. Hoss skips from alleyway to corner angle, slowly gaining advantage. Ben, who has been told (by Pryor) “the town speaks as one”, realizes the truth and joins the fray. The eldest Morgan faces him in a showdown and dies apologizing to the brother he could not avenge, “I tried”.
The men of Virginia City skulk out of the saloon and away. Ben and Hoss reflect on the two good men who came forward, “that somehow makes up for the rest”.
There is a distinct, conscious homage to High Noon in the treatment. Kane dispatches all the sundry detailed elements of the teleplay with characteristic ease.