The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

 


Everyone likes a Randolph Scott Western


This
adaptation of the Ernest Haycox story Trail
Town
is a great little movie. It’s the good old ranchers vs. homesteaders
plot as ruthless cattle barons and their allies in town are bested by decent
homesteaders, the future of the US of A, aided by a bold town marshal (Randolph
Scott, no less).
 
Come on, Randy, dump Dvorak and go for Rhonda

 
As black
& white 1940s B-Westerns go, you won’t get better. Scott is an Earpish
clean-up-the-town lawman who looks forward to the day when all the saloons, gambling
joints and houses of pleasure in wicked Abilene will be closed down and
replaced by stores and churches. Boring, huh.

The best
actor in the movie, though, is Edgar Buchanan as Bravo Trimble, the cowardly
county sheriff who contrives always to miss the action and any arrestin’ that
needs to be done, leaving it to brave town marshal Randy. Bravo says he might
go back to dentistry (a good joke when you know that Buchanan had been a
dentist before becoming a Western actor) but is persuaded to campaign for re-election
instead. He is a devotee of the card game fan-tan (which I always thought was
Chinese roulette but what do I know?)
 
Bravo prefers to play Fan-Tan than actually arrest anyone
 
Some of
the Harold Shumate script is a bit corny but Edwin L Marin’s direction is pacy
and tight. He did eleven Westerns, many with Scott, as well as Tall in the Saddle with John Wayne. Abilene Town could be his very best.

There’s
one thing very hard to understand, though: why on earth, when gorgeous Rhonda
Fleming is in town and making eyes at Randy, he has to go for the second-rate
Ann Dvorak. New Yorker Dvorak is truly awful in this, as indeed she was in the
four other B-Westerns she made. Shoulda stuck to gangster moll roles. Oh well, no accounting for taste, I guess.

The
excellent Lloyd Bridges is in it as a wholesome homesteader, still playing strapping-boy parts in his 30s, as he was to
continue to do well into the 1950s. He was always very good in Westerns and we
must do a Lloyd-o-rama career retrospective one day. Of course High Noon was the high noon of his
Western career but he was also very good in several other oaters, notably Little Big Horn.
 
Lloyd Bridges, always excellent
 
Abilene Town was also the first Western of the capable Jack
Lambert, as the heavy Jet Younger. I remember him from Bend of the River, Vera Cruz and any number of Western TV shows,
always an excellent badman.


Randolph Scott is outstanding, full of enthusiasm and energy. It was one of his best roles of the 40s.

I suppose a 1946 movie would have something to say about end of conflict and reconciliation, or is that reading too much into it? Still, Abilene was Dwight D Eisenhower’s home town and it was celebrating his homecoming. United Artists cashed in and the movie was a huge hit.

Archie Stout
photography too. Abilene Town is a
winner. Everyone likes a Randolph Scott Western and this one was out of the top
drawer.


Marshal and sheriff with Abilene lady. Odd costume to wear at home.

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