The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans


Tyrone Power, on Her Majesty’s service

 
 
 
Tyrone
Power didn’t really do Westerns. Any big studio star in the 1950s had to climb
into the saddle occasionally but he was much more comfortable romancing exotic dames
or buckling swashes. He was, of course, Jesse James in Fox’s big picture of
that title in 1939 and a pretty dashing Jesse he was too. He also starred in a smaller
but really rather good Fox Western in 1951, Rawhide,
about a remote stage station being besieged by bandits. But he only did six cowboy
films in total and apart from Jesse James
and Rawhide, two were Canadian Mountie
pictures, one was a Brigham Young biopic and in the other he was Zorro; they
hardly count as Westerns at all.

After a tiny
(uncredited) part as a Mountie in a small-studio B-picture, Northern Frontier, in 1935, his very first Western appearance, Power returned
to the northern wastes in a red tunic for his last oater, Pony Soldier. Immediately, you recognize
the (rather attractive) scenery of this ‘Canadian’ film as being Sedona, AZ. It’s
all orange rocks and very unSaskatchewany. At least Universal’s rather
unconvincing 1954 Raoul Walsh-directed Mountie picture Saskatchewan starring Alan Ladd had been shot on location in
Alberta (and very nice the photography was too). Fox’s Saskatchewan was
situated a tad further south. Never mind, it looks nice (the scenes not shot in
the studio anyway).
 
Canada, AZ
 
It’s supposedly
based on a true story (but we all know how that goes in Hollywood) about a
young, inexperienced Mountie named Constable Duncan MacDonald. It’s 1876. The
RCMP has only being going for three years and no one has yet told Duncan that
the Mountie always gets his man. As a result, he returns to base having let the
fugitive he was pursuing escape. After this faux pas he is assigned to bringing
the whole Cree tribe, which has fled its “reserve” over into the US, back
into Her Majesty’s domains, as well as rescuing two captives that the Cree have
taken. To achieve this mission he only has one helper, the comic-relief fat half-breed
sidekick Natayo Smith, played, with gusto, by Thomas Gomez. New Yorker Gomez is
one of the highlights of the movie, in fact. He was entertaining as the ship’s captain
in the New Orleans Dale Robertson flick The Gambler from Natchez. Here he brings life to what otherwise risks being a
rather plodding ‘Western’.
 
Tyrone with heavweight sidekick Gomez
 
Well,
Duncan is brave and resourceful, you won’t be surprised to hear. And one of the
captives (Penny Edwards, already in her tenth Western) is glamorous, which won’t
surprise you either. The other is Flint McCullogh! What’s he doing here? A bit
out of his way, isn’t he? Although the Wagon
Train
might have passed through Sedona, I guess. Anyway, Robert Horton is a
bad guy, sneering and criminal. He has escaped from one of Her Maj’s jugs north
of the border. Don’t worry, Duncan will see he gets back behind bars.

As part
of the peace treaty, Duncan is semi-obliged to adopt a ten-year-old orphan boy
of the tribe so Fox could have a kid in it. He’s played by Anthony Earl
Numkena but I fear you will search Burke’s
Peerage
in vain for this Earl Numkena.
 
Duncan with adopted son
 
Always
in these Indian pictures there’s a statesmanlike chief and a younger hothead
brave who is all out for war. Pony Soldier is no exception and we have Stuart
Randall (whose part had to be redubbed as his accent was too Texan) as the
noble Standing Bear, while Cameron Mitchell (Buck Cannon from High Chaparral; I
think of him more though in The Outcasts of Poker FlatGarden of Evil and as the sheriff gone bad in Hombre)
is very well made up and quite convincing as the warrior Konah (second billed,
no less).
 
Stuart Randall as Candian chief with Texan accent
 
They say
Richard Boone was in it but I didn’t spot him. Sadly. IMDb also says it was
Earl Holliman’s film debut. What part did he play? I don’t know.


Is it a Western? When is a Western not a Western? Click here to find out.

Anyway,
Pony Soldier is watchable, in a generic sort of way, but don’t expect too much.

There’s a bit where a mirage appears and Ty claims it is big medicine of Queen Vic, so they better toe the line

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