Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

The Outlaw’s Daughter (Fox, 1954)

 

Derringers galore

 

I really like The Outlaw’s Daughter for one principal reason: it’s derringer-rich. The little guns, with which, regular readers will know, I am pretty well obsessed (click here for our comprehensive and riveting article on derringers) feature heavily and you won’t believe it but there’s even a derringer duel, in which two characters pull them, on each other. That could be a first!

 

 

Otherwise, to be brutally frank, the movie is verging on the ordinary but hey, it’s worth sitting through it for those good bits.

 

Given the title, you might think the picture was a companion piece to the Bel-Air Western Outlaw’s Son (see index for our review) but it’s no relation. This one was an Edward Alperson production (this and Rose of Cimarron in 1952 were his only Westerns), released by Fox.

 

It was directed by Wesley Barry, a freckled boy actor from the age of seven, very popular in 1920s silents, who moved on to be an assistant director, producer and director in both films and television. He directed quite a few episodes of Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, with Guy Madison, some of which were cobbled together for big-screen releases, but this was his only non-Wild Bill Western feature.

 

From child actor to movie director

 

Perhaps the aim had been to release in 3D, which was all the rage in 1953 but soon faded. I say that because the titles are luridly-colored blocks, like Hondo and so on. Anyway, the rest wasn’t 3D and there’s none of the classic 3D lunging at the camera, you know how they do. So it’s a standard 76-minute Eastmancolor oater.

 

There are some very nice Sedona, AZ locations, though, occasionally noticeably well shot (often from a height) by Gordon Avil (The Yellow Tomahawk, War Paint, Fort Yuma, etc).

 

It’s an 1880 story. It opens with a stagecoach, guarded by Marshal Jim Davis riding alongside, being held up by Bill Williams and Elisha Cook Jr, who are accompanied by reluctant and cowardly old-timer Clem (George Cleveland). They manage the robbery rather cleverly, by leaving a lantern in the trail illuminating a sign indicating that the bridge ahead is unsafe. But they’re bad’uns. They kill a man on the stage, who turns out to be the marshal’s bro. Not a good move.

 

Williams, this “innocent-eyed, boyishly handsome blond ‘B’ actor of the 1940s and ’50s” as the IMDb bio has it, was a reliable nice-guy lead and second lead, usually in ‘lesser’ pictures. He did well with the kiddies in The Adventures of Kit Carson on TV which ran for three seasons (I remember it well, though in reruns). He did a couple of dozen big-screen Westerns, from 1945 to 1971, and this was his first feature Western lead. He occasionally played the villain, as here, but was probably better suited to solid all-American good guy. He was Mr Barbara Hale.

 

Bill usually the good guy

 

Pint-sized Elisha had a long and distinguished career in character parts, as I’m sure you know.  He was unforgettable as Wilmer in The Maltese Falcon but from a Western perspective (which is after all what counts) he will always be admired for his feisty bantam Stonewall Torrey, shot down by Jack Palance in Shane. But you may well also recall him in the likes of Pat Garret & Billy the Kid, Tom Horn, Day of the Outlaw, The Indian Fighter (as the photographer), Drum Beat and many more. He’s always good value.

 

Elisha

 

As for Mr Cleveland, he was always for me Gramps in Lassie but he had a very long career. He was in no fewer than 174 feature films, between 1930 and – this was his final year – 1954. 51 of these were Westerns and this was his last. He was especially good as the cranky old-timer.

 

George good in oaters

 

And tall Jim Davis we of course know well. I remember him chiefly as railroad detective Matt Clark on Stories of the Century. I drank that show in as a boy, believing it was all historical (doh). But he did 60 feature Westerns, between 1942 and 1968, and was a leading light at Republic, very popular in their Bs, leading in a few in the 50s. In this one he is the sturdy and righteous lawman, who will eventually bring Bill and Elisha to justice.

 

Jim’s the hero – and he’ll get the gal (eventually)

 

So not a bad cast, at all! We also get Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams as an apple-munching deputy.

 

Big Boy is Jim’s deputy. That’s Nelson Leigh as Jim Dalton on the left.

 

The outlaw of the title is a Dalton. If you’re wondering whether it’s Frank, Bob, Grat, Bill or Emmett, it’s Jim. This (fictional) Dalton (Nelson Leigh) has retired from outlawin’ and is living on a ranch with his glam daughter Kate (Sheila Connolly, Mrs Guy Madison, in her only Western, here using the stage name Kelly Ryan). Naturally, Kate is a feisty gal. That’s de rigueur. Jess Raidley, aka Big Red (Williams), all in bad-guy-black and with one of those fake 1950s two-gun rigs, is clearly sweet on her but she doesn’t want to know. She’s even less likely to canoodle with Big Red once the villain has shot her pa, which he does – but she only finds this out later.

 

Feisty outlaw’s daughter becomes outlaw

 

With her daddy dead, Kate goes off to town to get a job in a store, as ‘Miss Dawson’, being ashamed of her family’s outlaw past, you see. There, the marshal takes a shine to her. He is obstinately nice to her even after discovering her true i/d. Will he fare better than Big Red? Nope, she’s frosty to him too. She doesn’t cotton to marshals.

 

Now Big Red and Tulsa (Elisha) have teamed up with a big thuggish heavy, Rocky (George Barrows) and we come to the best bit in the movie when Rocky pulls a derringer on the marshal in the saloon and, wouldn’t you just know it, the lawman has a derringer too! I was a bit surprised, I must say. I mean derringers are usually up the sleeve of the frock coat of a slick gambler or in the purse of a shady lady. Not for a tough hero marshal. Still, a derringer duel, that’s not to be missed.

 

Soon after, Kate holds up a bank with a derringer too. You see, she’s gone in with the three bad guys (only three because old Clem has been shot) and together they rob the bank, then a mine (they want dynamite), then a stagecoach and oblige a lady aboard to disrobe because Kate takes a fancy to her blue dress, they really are very naughty.

 

The marshal and deputy pursue them. Unfortunately Big Boy is shot in the leg during this pursuit, and he is not a patient patient. He is obliged to stay in bed, munching apples.

 

Well, there’s a lot of derring-do and not a little skullduggery. Marshal Jim shoots Rocky’s stunt double off his horse. In a gunfight, Big Red ungenerously pushes Tulsa into the firing line to protect himself, and it’s RIP Tulsa. It all comes down to a Big Red/Marshal one-on-one showdown in the rocks. Big Red’s six-gun is empty and he throws it away, you know how they do, even though he has plenty of spare cartridges in the loops on his gunbelt, I noticed. But you can guess what happens. Yup, he tries to get Jim with his derringer! My cup runneth over. Of course it does no good and he falls from a Sedona cliff-top to his doom.

 

That derringer will avail him naught

 

The marshal tells Kate that she’s going away, and for quite a stretch, but he’ll be waiting for her when she gets out, so it was lurve after all. The End.

 

 

No one would claim greatness for this little oater. Brian Garfield dismissed it with the one word Poor. But it’s not the worst I’ve seen either. And derringeristas will be more than satisfied.

 

 

2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Comments
Labels