(From Old Corral image collection)
Above from L-to-R are Kenneth Harlan, Bob Livingston and Ray "Crash" Corrigan in this lobby card from GUNSMOKE RANCH (1937). Harlan had started in silents around WWI time, and migrated to leading roles. By the 1930s and sound, Harlan was relegated to playing supporting roles, generally as a heavy as he did as "Flagg" in this Mesquiteers oater.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Back row from left to right are Terhune, Corrigan and Livingston, while Jean Carmen (Julia Thayer) and young Sammy McKim look on. The 3M are reading the Judge Warren ransom note and the gagged baddie is Williams, one of Flagg's spies, who is played by Robert Walker. The most memorable role for Carmen / Thayer was as the rider of the paint horse in Republic's 1937 cliffhanger, THE PAINTED STALLION.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above, lawman Jack Kirk, sans moustache, and Max Terhune in a scene from GUNSMOKE RANCH (Republic, 1937), one of the early Three Mesquiteers' adventures. Kirk and Terhune were about the same weight and height, and Kirk doubled Terhune in several of the Mesquiteers adventures.
From the flood ravaged plains of mid-western river valleys to the high lands of Lone Pine's Alabama Hills. From the 1930s back to the 1880s. From home owners to flood victims. Inject the Three Mesquiteers into the mix and you have the basic plot of GUNSMOKE RANCH (GSR). The GSR plot bears a similarity to the first 3M movie, the common thread being the good will of the 3M to assist unfortunate folks (such as disabled veterans or flood victims) resettle into new areas after sustaining tragedy or disruption in their lives.
Another interesting aspect of the film is its time regression. It starts in the 1930s and slips back into the 1880s. Opening scenes are of modern (1930s) era devastation in the mid-west with flood victims being transported in buses to their new western homes. Thereafter, the film is undiluted 1880s. I remember seeing this movie as a child and believing that there were still pockets of the old west alive and well in certain sections of America. Oh, well! That's what you get when you start to believe that movies are a reflection of reality. This "time warp" , as we shall see, later found in numerous Roy Rogers movies, is also a common trait of many 3M films.
As the speeding caravan bearing the home steading refugees traverses the dusty roads of the Lone Pine flat lands, the 3M emerge from behind some roadside boulders. They are almost in their path of the oncoming convoy, so close that they nearly get a bus fender in their collective posteriors. As you would expect, Stony takes off after the lead bus. Was it to give the bus driver a piece of his mind or was it to check out Marion Warren, the leading lady, seated behind the driver? You make the call!
After regrouping the 3M ride leisurely along discussing the plight of these people. Being the kind, generous, compassionate folks that they are, they decide to sell some of their acreage to the land syndicate relocating these unfortunate folks. Conveniently, Tucson just happens to have that deed in pocket. After each signs the deed , Lullaby volunteers to deliver it to town using Stony's faster horse. No sooner has the dust settled from Lullaby's departure, then in rides Jack Ingram in a cameo "good guy" appearance. He informs Stony and Tucson that a known land swindler with the alliterative name of Phineas T. Flagg , who runs the Paradise Land Syndicate, is behind the deal.
Did you ever notice that in any movie, whether it is with George Raft, the 3M, or Humphrey Bogart, an unsavory connotation usually accompanies the word "syndicate"? Anyway, Flagg is buying land from the local ranchers at dirt cheap prices of $2/ acre and selling it to the settlers for the outrageous price of $50/acre. So off they trot in pursuit of Lullaby to retrieve their deed. The chase scene that follows contains my favorite 3M action music. Does any one produce a CD containing this piece? Lullaby pulls all kinds of tricks out of his old hat to shake off his pursuers whom he believes to "outlaws". There are some great scenes of Stony and Lullaby riding at speed. Both Bob Livingston and Ray Corrigan were outstanding riders.
In town, Lullaby has delivered the deed to Flagg and collected the sales money. With the cash in his pocket he visits the local general store where he purchases an oversized black hat and "Elmer". I thought that he won Elmer in a carnival game of chance in Ghost Town Gold? Stony and Tucson arrive in town and try to get their deed back, not wanting to be a part of the swindle. A brawl erupts in the middle of the street (and not in a saloon for a change) when the 3M try to disclose what Flagg is up to. As usual, Stony and Tucson take on at least six other guys and win handily. Among the motley crew of pugilistic henchmen are a limping Yakima Canutt, still wearing his distinctive black hat with the Cattleman's Police emblem from ROARIN' LEAD, and the ubiquitous villain, John Merton. Lullaby adds some comedy to the scene by wrestling with a store front dummy after Merton pulls his new hat over his eyes. Yak, making his usual bad guy appearance, even gets into the comedy swing of things by throwing eggs at the 3M but actually hitting Flagg. Can you hear the cheers from those 1930s audiences when those eggs hit that swindler?
Despite the best efforts of the 3M to convince the settlers that Flagg is a crook, they will hear none of it. We also learn that Flagg has a spy among the settlers. Leave it to Lullaby. He keeps the spirit of western hospitality alive and well by giving his recent acquired "Elmer" to Sammy McKim. Sammy is making his second appearance in the series in a role that, from 3M movie to 3M movie, never seems to vary. He is usually cast as the little brother of the leading lady who idolizes the 3M.
As time passes, things improve for the settlers and the 3M. Stony chases Marion, but this time, he has some competition from Tucson. The spark of romance is finally glowing in the "big brother".
Did you ever notice that the plots of the movies we have reviewed to date always have the 3M interceding on behalf of some poor, unfortunate people? No wrong doings in any adventure so far have been directed toward them personally. What a great bunch of guys! But we all knew that. Always coming to someone's rescue at a time of need. Not only saving them from danger but, in this situation, helping with basic home building skills. Was this another depression era message the movies were trying to convey?
I often wondered how Republic enticed the vain Livingston who seems to be so conscious of his appearance and snappy dress into the next scene. Here, we see Lullaby and Tucson hard at work on the home of the leading lady and her grandfather. Livingston is approaching the porch where Lullaby is painting on a ladder. Seeing Stony in ragged work clothes, rather than his usual spiffy outfit, puts him into a different persona. He looks almost normal! But you already know what's coming. Down from the roof comes the paint bucket spilling its contents over his head and shirt. It's easy to see that he was not too happy with that scene. Maybe Stony was wishing that the paint should have covered Tucson instead of him! Guess I cannot blame him! But he does learn of the town party scheduled for that afternoon. Here is another opportunity for him to make a move on Marion.
For the town party, the set switches from Lone Pine to the area behind the adobe fort on Republic property. This was the same location used for the orphanage in ROARIN' LEAD. The new town, called Three Score and Ten, has elected Judge Warren as mayor. As a part of the entertainment, Tucson decides to pry Stony from Marion's side by volunteering his services as a singer. Getting Stony up on the stage gives Tucson the opportunity to swoop in which he does. You have to watch that scene to see the trading of facial expressions, patomining, and gestures among Stony, Tucson, Lullaby, Sammy McKim, and the leading lady. While you are doing so, you can enjoy the fine baritone voice of Stony as he does a superb job with "When the Campfire is Low on the Prairie". Lullaby also chimes in with some outstanding animal imitations. While singing and animal calls are far from a harmonious blend, this is probably the best scene in the movie.
At the end of Stony's gig , we learn the real truth behind the land swindle. The Gunsmoke tract is on the brink of condemnation for the construction of a dam. This is another theme which surfaces in a later 3M movie. Flagg still holds the deeds to all the Gunsmoke tracts making him their official owner. He fooled the settlers by only issuing them sales contracts. So now he stands to collect condemnation money for the sale of developed real estate. The sweat equity of the settlers in transforming their raw land into developed property will now flow as more sales dollars into Flagg's greedy pocket. A real sweet deal for that scoundrel!
Looking down the barrel of Stony's 44 held closely to his temple, Phineas Flagg completes an unqualified deed granting Judge Warren clear title to his property. Dutifully, Stony pays the necessary two grand to close the deal. Now to get the deed filed in the court house in the country seat. No small task since the spy is keeping Flagg current on happenings in Three Score and Ten. Phineas realizes that the filing of one clear deed will derail his entire scheme. Consequently, he resorts to planning violence as his next step.
Before the coming round of gunplay, it's time for some comedy and courting. Stony seems to have effectively removed Tucson as a competitor for Marion's attention. In a quid pro quo arrangement, Stony agrees to dry dishes if Marion will ride with when their task is completed. Meanwhile, outside the open kitchen window with ear shot , Tucson and Lullaby recount in great detail the trail of broken hearts that Stony has left in his wake. Apparently this amorous individual has a gal in every corral! They did not mention Rita Hayworth from ROARIN' LEAD. Maybe Marion would be more responsive if she knew that she was in the same league of Stony Brooke flames as Ms. Hayworth!
No sooner is the kitchen caper completed, then in rides the spy Williams bound to his horse. A ransom note attached to his saddle horn demands the deed in exchange for the safe return of the kidnapped Judge Warren. Further instructions give the specific location of where the deed is to be delivered.
Back to some spectacular Lone Pine mountain scenery. Our heroes have delivered the deed at the drop-off spot. As they exit the canyon, Sammy McKim, who had been following them, fires a slingshot projectile at a hidden bushwhacker. Alerted to the presence of this sniper and his cohorts, the 3M exchange gun fire with the bad guys as they ride out of the canyon. Did you ever take notice of the distinctive sounds of the rifle and pistol blank rounds used by Republic Studios? They are so distinctive, at least to me, that when I am in a room away from a TV set, hearing the pinging sound of those blank rounds is a clear indication that a Republic Picture is on screen. Besides Republic, the audio of the blank rounds used in early Warner Brothers movies were also uniquely discernable.
Now the nerve racking wait for the return of Judge Warren consumes our heroes. The manner in which Judge Warren is returned to his family demonstrates just how vicious Flagg and his mob are. The Judge has been dragged by his horse with his foot secured into a hammered stirrup on his saddle. Tucson shows his compassion and medical skills by tending to the Judge's fatal wounds. After asking for the proverbial "hot water", Tucson's expression becomes grim as he realizes that the Judge is gone.
Carmen/Thayer, Sammy McKim, the Mesquiteers and other cast members look on during the death scene of Judge Warren.
Taking center stage as a strategist, Tucson conjures up a plan to trap Flagg by baiting him via Williams, the spy. Knowing that Williams will pass the word along to Flagg, he tells the gathered settlers that they are taking the seriously injured Judge to the hospital at the county seat. After Flagg receives the report from Williams, he utters another classic cowboy quote, "Round up the boys". How many times have you heard that line?
As the buckboard slowly rumbles across the flatlands, the assembled bad guys move in for the kill. No sooner has the buckboard turned a bend in the road when a trap is sprung on Flagg. Wagon loads of rifle firing settlers surround the now outnumbered and out gunned mob. This was truly a great show down scene, probably the handiwork of Yak, with wagons turning over, men falling from their horses and horses tripping. Realizing the futility of further resistance, Flagg and an accomplice make a break. Despite all the noise, dust, and other distractions, Stony and Tucson observe their departure and are hot on their trail. A well aimed shot brings Flagg out of his saddle, but like Judge Warren, his foot is caught in the stirrup dragging him to a very painful, but justly deserved, demise.
The movie concludes with another comical moment as Stony is still trying to convince Marion that they should go riding. After she finally agrees, up ride Lullaby and Tucson. In the presence of Marion, they make good on their bet with Stony where he said that he could get her to ride with him. With the $10 winnings in his pocket, Stony rides on embarrassed but alone.
This great movie deserves a 3 and 1/2 six gun rating. It has the right balance of comedy, romance, action, and adventure. Each of the Mesquiteers has ample opportunity to demonstrate his character skills and abilities. Capping all this off is a great score under the musical supervision of Raoul Kraushaar.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above - Max Terhune as Lullaby Joslin warms up the bunkhouse trio during the wedding sequence in COME ON, COWBOYS ! (Republic, 1937), one of the Three Mesquiteers films. Playing the fiddle is a hatless Oscar Gahan and the accordion player is Harley Luse, a regular musician in many of the Tex Ritter films for Grand National. The guitar player may be Charlie/Charley Sargent. This is one of the countless impromptu groups that are seen in the ol' B western.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above is Ray Corrigan in his famous simian costume. Corrigan had the gorilla suit made to his specs. It was constructed with human hair, and to add some realism, the nostrils even pulsated.
Come on cowboys ! Who is beckoning our heroes? And for what purpose? What are they to do? And why are they being called? The answers to these questions can be found in the 54 minutes of action-overflowing, celluloid entitled, COME ON, COWBOYS !.
The call was issued by Rigby, played by western regular, sometimes good guy, sometimes bad guy, Ed Cassidy. A partner with Harris in a financially troubled traveling circus, Rigby has called upon his friends of long standing, the 3M, to become headline performers in his show.
What a way to boost ticket sales! Now wouldn't you go to the circus if the headline performers were the 3M? I'd be there in a flash! Remembering that Rigby had helped them at a time of need, Stony, Tucson, and Lullaby willingly respond to his call. The opening frames of this movie reveal a carnival stage where each Mesquiteer will strut his shtick.
Lullaby is first up with Elmer and some slick ventriloquism followed by a card trick sequence. Take special note of those card tricks since you will see them at the conclusion of this movie. Following Lullaby is Tucson, the muscular weight lifter shrouded in a skin tight outfit. A true 1930s hulk! Wearing Tucson's double holster, Stony bats third with an exhibition of trick shooting. The scene concluded with a dose of comedy as we learn that the tin can which Stony was to keep airborne with rapid pistol firing was held aloft by a string and long pole in Lullaby's hands. Apparently, Lullaby fell asleep at the pole and the can remained airborne after Stony had ceased firing! Comedy has become an enduring fixture in the 3M films. The well meshed blend of comedy and action make this a superb motion picture.
This being the last show of the season, the circus now heads for winter quarters. Those quarters are located in the old abode fort on the Republic lot. As the circus entourage enters the fort, we learn that there is friction between Rigby and his partner Harris who actually has been using the traveling circus to distribute his counterfeit money. Some of that funny money is stashed in hollowed bars of the lion's cage.
This is another of those "time warp" movies, mixing the 1880s and the 1930s. It is amply sprinkled with 1930's jargon like "federal dicks" and "wisenheimer" and the repeated use of the word "swell". A great John Wayne movie, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, is famous for the use, or is it over use, of the word "swell". For more references to the 1930s, listen closely to the conversation between Stony and Tucson in the sheriff's office after they bring in some confessed counterfeiters.
Speaking of "federal dicks", as Rigby and Harris are paying their employees, two nattily dressed federal agents come on the scene and discover bogus bills in the payroll cash. Both men are arrested and held for trial. This creates a major family problem for Rigby whose young daughter, Nancy, and her governess, Ellen, are shortly due to arrive in town. Rigby has wisely taken steps to appoint the 3M as guardians for Nancy.
The next scene opens in a court room. Here a rather stern looking judge is sitting on the bench absorbing the damagingly false testimony from Harris' henchmen implicating Rigby. Their goal is to oust Rigby by sending him off to the calaboose for long sentence. When the verdict is handed down, Rigby is given a stiff 10 year sentence while Harris is let off with a warning to mend his ways. Needless to say, our heroes are bent out of shape. What to do next? You know Stony will contrive a scheme to exonerate Rigby. His solution is to have the mendacious henchmen play the game of "TRUTH" with Tucson the APE!
This "game" is designed to induce the lying henchmen to tell the truth by the threat of locking them in a cage with a snarling, growling ape. That primate is in reality Tucson. In addition to playing the character of Tucson, Ray Corrigan also gave "award winning" performances when cast as a hirsute simian. Check IMDB for the specifics on his ape antics. Any way, Stony button holes the two liars. Things are running according to plan with Stony covering the two as they approach the cage. He calmly advises them of their fate if they are not now truthful. As luck would have it, the balance of the Harris mob enters. Stuntman Yakima Canutt, in a supporting part, is cast in his usual role at the lieutenant of the villain's mob. A brief scuffle follows. The mob is successful in liberating the two liars. As they flee across the parade ground of the adobe fort, Stony and Tucson who is still garbed in his ape outfit are in close pursuit.
While Stony and Tucson are playing "Truth", Lullaby and Charlie, the chief cook and bottle washer at the 3M ranch, are at the local bus station awaiting the arrival of Rigby's daughter and her governess. Charlie is played by Willie Fung. The criticality of Willie's role in COME ON, COWBOYS ! almost qualifies him for status as a fourth Mesquiteer. Willie is a great comedian. He still makes me laugh, whether spouting off in Chinese, mispronouncing English words like "all-lite" for "alright" , or misunderstanding common American speech. He was a great comedy supplement to Lullaby. I wish he would have been a regular in the series.
When the bus pulls up, it is dejavu from GUNSMOKE RANCH. It looks exactly like the same bus and the same bus driver from that movie. Maybe this was the company bus used to transport performers from their dressing rooms to the set. Let the bus and its driver do double duty! Knowing Republic penurious reputation, would you be surprised?
The synergistic Willie Fung - Lullaby comedy interaction throughout COME ON, COWBOYS ! begins with Lullaby explaining to Willie that a governess is not the governor's wife. It continues as they misidentify a matron and a young girl for the Rigby child. As Lullaby and Willie escort the "correct" child and governess to the buckboard, they encounter Stony and Tucson, still in his gorilla grab, chasing the liars. As governess, you can imagine Ellen's reaction as she wondered if these three vagabonds would be suitable guardians for Nancy. We must credit her with an astute perception of our heroes!
Ellen verbalizes that point when she appears before the judge who will sign the guardianship papers. With the best interests of the child at heart, she suggests that the 3M be given a one week probationary period to prove their worth as solid law abiding , responsible citizens before the papers are approved. The boys promise to "be good". Nonetheless, Tucson and Stony are still trying to conjure up another scheme to prove Rigby's innocence.
Scheme "2" has Lullaby phoning Harris pretending to be the sheriff. In a disguised voice he relates that Harris is still under suspicion and for him to watch his step because some more "federal dicks" are coming to search his office. Stony and Tucson have Harris' office under close scrutiny as they are awaiting the egress of some of his henchman looking to transfer the funny money to a more secure location. Are our heroes ever wrong? Sure enough, Stony and Tucson capture two baddies carrying the bogus bills. After coercing a written confession implicating Harris, Stony and Tucson head back to town where they incarcerate the two. Listen closely to 1930s jargon and sarcastic references to the New Deal as Stony and Tucson await the return of the sheriff. Maybe they were anti New Deal, hard line Republicans!
Meanwhile, across the street in the general store, another Lullaby comedy scene unfolds. With his customary kindness Lullaby turns the event of buying a red wagon for Nancy into a fiasco. After falling off a barrel and knocking himself out as he tried to reach the wagon on a high shelf, Lullaby is given some "hard stuff" to help him recover from the fall. He drinks more than he should have and winds up hitching the wagon to his horse and riding out of town as he fires a few rounds in the air. Another side note --- this is the first time we have ever seen a 3M take a drink, no less get drunk.
While Lullaby is "wagon-surfing", Tucson and Stony are presenting their case against Harris to the judge. The judge throws the case out when it is made known that these confessions were coerced at gun point. With nearly everyone in town distracted by Lullaby's antic, Yak approaches the rear window of the jail, unholsters his sidearm , and, with the characteristic spin of his pistol, rubs out the two baddies who have been returned to their cell.
After Tucson and Stony finally "rescue" Lullaby, they all return to town to learn that they are now murder suspects. However, in the presence of the judge and Ellen, Zeke, the town vagrant, who witnessed the murder, attests to the 3M's innocence. In more trouble now, the judge, at Ellen's insistence, thinks that confiscating the 3M's side arms will save them for further jeopardizing their guardianship status. Subsequent events prove that the 3M are just as effective without their weapons. After removing their holsters, more interesting 3M conversation ensues about "disarmament " and "Peace Conferences", a reference to the year 1937 as events around the world, especially in Asia, foretold the coming of World War II.
From afar, the Harris gang has observed the "disarmament " of the 3M and, like those nasty 1937 warmongers, now plan to ambush our heroes figuring that they are "easy pickin". The ambush takes place at none other that the famous Garden of the Gods rocks located on the Iverson Ranch near Chatsworth, California, where this picture, and innumerable others (including the battle scenes from the FIGHTING SEABEES) were filmed. When the Harris villains spring their trap, the boys split up with each managing in his own unique way to subdue his pursuer without the use of any firearms. Now that would thrill today's liberal gun control obsessed Congress.
The judge is not a happy jurist as the 3M march their bushwackers back into town bound hand and foot. Rather than focus on the ambush, he views this escapade as a further indication of their unworthiness to be Nancy's guardian. For some strange reasons, he releases the baddies and imposes a new requirement to wit: Any one of the 3M must marry and settle down to a "normal" lifestyle with in three days or he will take the child away!
With Ellen the likely wife, is it Tucson or Stony who will be the groom? To keep the little girl both are reluctantly prepared to make the "supreme sacrifice". The determination of the sacrificial lamb will be left to a draw of the cards. Did we have any doubt that Stony would be the "ram"?
Some more Willie Fung comedy ensues as he prepares the ranch for the wedding ceremony. His first attempt to play some marriage music backfires when the ancient Victrola blares out with "The Death March". Flipping the record, the reverse side is entitled "Don't Ever Marry My Son". After some record smashing and probably some Chinese cursing, Willie finally rounds up a bunk house trio for his musical support. All that remains is for Stony to pop the question to a yet unsuspecting Ellen. Though Ellen initially turns him down, she readily agrees to the marriage as a "purely business relationship" when she learns of the judge's harsh conditions.
While all the "proposing" is going on, Lullaby and Willie have gone to town to execute a plan of their own. They lure Yak into a card game. Being a master card player Lullaby figures that if he can win all of the cash, including any bogus bills, in Yak's possession, he will have the evidence needed to spring Rigby. After each round, Lullaby secretly drops the winning pot into a basket which Willie takes to the bank for verification. When Yak finally resorts to playing with the funny money, Lullaby wins that too, but the bank has now closed. So no verification is possible. Yak has also realized that he has been suckered and follows Lullaby home.
Riding behind Lullaby but out of sight is Willie who observes Yak robbing and kidnapping the senior Mesquiteer. Willie rides back to the 3M ranch lick-ety-split to get help, just in time to save Stony from his walk to the altar. Stony and Tucson ride off to follow a trail of cards which Lullaby literally coughed up leading to the outlaws' hideout. The story climaxes with Tucson rescuing Lullaby who was tied to a runaway buckboard speeding along a curving cliffside road. Meanwhile, Stony and the sheriff clean out the hideout catching Harris and company with the bad "goods".
Notwithstanding the disruption to Stony's almost nuptial, the movie does end with a marriage of sorts as Elmer takes a wife.
Some concluding comments on the movie which deserves a 3 and 1/2 six gun rating. While this movie did not lack for action, it had a greater dose of quality comedy than any previous 3M movie ably delivered by Willie Fung and Lullaby. They made a great pair. Too bad, as noted earlier, Willie was not a regular. With his attempt to purchase the red wagon, we also see that Lullaby is still the kind and loving person we saw in ROARIN' LEAD. Another fact about Lullaby is his liking for some booze now and then. We see Ray Corrigan not only as Tucson Smith but as Tucson the Ape. How many other actors had a career impersonating animals so convincingly? I like the era blending of the 1880s and the 1930s. It makes me think that I am not that far removed in time from that era.
All in all, COME ON, COWBOYS !, the 1937 version, is a class A movie.