Above is the cover of the pressbook for CALL THE MESQUITEERS
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
Call the Mesquiteers 'wanted'. That is the central theme of the film. The story itself, which I've dubbed "Climax in Cosmopolis", is a routine adventure. But for my movie interests --- which are broader then the theme --- this film offers many interesting aspects. Our heroes are accused of robbing silk shipments from the Desert Express and killing Brakeman Henley who happened, unfortunately, to descend into the railroad car when the robbery was in progress. It's a sure thing, too, that the earlier silk train robberies will be pinned on the boys as well.
The movie opens with a Southern Pacific steam-powered freight train slowly winding through the Southern California mountains. In a close-up view, three thugs, dressed in 1930s business suits wearing hats, are making their way across the cat walks on top of the freight cars in search of the one containing the silk. How did they keep on those chapeaus in the face of a blowing wind on top of the moving train?
No info is provided on how they got there but, if hoboes could mount moving trains, I guess that bad guys could do it too. They gain entrance to the car via a roof hatch. Roof hatches were found on older refrigerator cars, which, in those days, required periodic icing to preserve California produce in transit to eastern markets. Once inside, they pry open the main box car door and start to throw the silk bales out along the railroad right-of-way. There, other members of the mob with three rack trucks will pick up the swag. Poor Brakeman Henley, who enters with the robbery in progress, is shot dead by an evildoer toting a 45 ACP. Note the classic Hollywood death scene including facial expressions and body movements by the actor portraying Henley. As he falls to the floor clutching his chest, he drops his lantern. Its beam illuminates a label FRAGILE HANDLE WITH CARE. A great job! After cleaning out the boxcar, these silk thieves jump without injury from a moving train. Amazing!
In reality, a valuable shipment, like silk, would have been dispatched in a secured Railway Express Car under the watchful eyes of armed guards, especially if there had been a history of robberies. These bad guys leap from a moving train without a dent? They must have Clark Kent blood in their veins! But, alas, this is not reality.
After picking up the swag, one of the three silk trucks speeding down the highway toward a rendezvous in Cosmopolis crashes into a ditch. The three occupants, second class, nameless Republic bad guy actors we have seen a million times before, are now in need of new transportation. They decide to highjack the next vehicle coming down the road. You will never guess whose truck that will be.
The 3M have been out on the rodeo circuit again. We see the boys squeezed into the cab of a 1930s rack truck with Stony at the wheel, Tucson riding shotgun, and Lullaby in the middle where he belongs. Their conversation discloses that they are returning from the Cheyenne Rodeo where they cleaned up on prize money. Tucson flings a dig at Stony about the blonde with the 'give me eyes' he met there.
Being good Samaritans, the3M stop to give aid to the occupants only to become prisoners of the silk robbers. A slip of the lip from one of the bad guys discloses Cosmopolis as their destination. After loading the silk on to their truck, the boys and bad guys are off on the highway again.
By now a 'calling all cars' message has been flashed across the countryside with descriptions of the suspect trucks, which off course match the 3M's vehicle. All law enforecement will be on the lookout for these thieves. And it does not take long for them to be spotted.
Does anyone know where the highway scenes for this movie were shot? We need the geographical expertise of a resident southern Californian familiar with the area. In one of the highway scenes, we see a general store bearing the name SOLEMINT in large fonts across its facade. A check of a 25-year-old Standard Oil map of California indicates a small town or crossroads with that name being located northeast of Santa Clarita, California. Maybe a few hours northeast of Hollywood? Another check of the Internet searching on Solemint gave me a virtual tour of US Highway 6 in southern California. Is this the road that Republic used for filming? In the movie the two-lane highway with broad shoulders had quite a few of those A-frame bridges so popular in highway construction during that era. Would appreciate hearing from some of the southern California fans with clarifying information.
What follows has to be a first in B westerns. Two California Highway Patrolmen give chase to the 3M's speeding truck. So here we have a running B western firefight between the two CHPs on motorcycles and the two bad guys in the back of the truck with Lullaby. The CHPs must have done well with their marksmanship as they shot both of the bad guys. Lullaby manages to throw a bucket of feed in the face of the bad guy riding in the cab when he tries to fire at the pursers. Two open top cars bearing a local sheriff's posse have now joined the pursuers. Feeling that their rescue is at hand, the boys bring the truck to a screeching halt.
The lawmen are hardly convinced that the boys are nothing more than innocent bystanders. Looks like the CHP never heard of the good reputation of the 3 Mesquiteers, especially after they cleaned up Trails End in the last movie. When some members of the sheriff's posse, Jack Ingram in particular (what's he doing as a good guy?) start to talk lynching, the 3M get the drop on the lawmen and take off in the truck.
A fuel stop at a Mike's Garage turns into the only fight scene in the movie. The garage happens to be a way station controlled by the silk thieves who try to corral our heroes and recover their swag. Looking closely at the fight scene, I think we can detect the presence of Yak stunting for Tucson. He has his hat pulled down so far on his head, but his build and a different two-gun rig are unmistakably not Tucson's. A momentary shot of Stony duking it out with a bad guy leads me to believe that Yak also stunted for Livingston in this brawl too.
After the fight and with the approach of additional motorcycle mounted CHPs, the boys take to their horses and enter the high country to shake their pursuers. Another first --- a horse-motorcycle pursuit accompanied by some great chase music featuring blaring brass horns, which we first heard in TRIGGER TRIO. As the high country gets increasingly rugged, the CHP drops out of the chase.
In order to clear themselves, the boys decide to head for Cosmopolis. What an interesting name --- it sounds like some place on the planet Mongo.
In route they come across another stranded wayfarer in the person of Doctor Irving played by the omnipresent Earle Hodgins. Like the silk thieves, Doctor Irving asks for their help because his vehicle too has broken down a few miles down the road. Now where have the boys heard that story before? Could Earl be another stranded member of the silk thieves gang? Probably believing that to be the case, Stony even draws his six-gun when the good doctor goes into his spiel. We know what it takes to change Stony's mind --- a young female. So when he learns that the Doctor has a daughter who is with the stranded vehicle, Stony convinces his partners to render assistance. Many will remember Hodgins in this classic role as a medicine show huckster. In contrast, most of my film recollections of him were usually in straight roles occasionally peppered with some comedy. I remember him in the Hoppy movies where he could be seen playing an Indian agent, a Texas Ranger officer, or a town marshal.
The boys decide to tie in with Doctor Irving as cover, despite the objections of daughter Irving who is overruled by her father when he hears of the boy's rodeo prize money. Doctor Irving has a son Tim played by Sammy Mc Kim. Also along is Hockshaw (sp?), Tim's German Shepard, who will prove himself to be just as smart, if not smarter than any human in the movie. With the Doctor Irving's truck in tow, it's off to Cosmopolis.
Cosmopolis is an interesting place. A deserted, modern town whose streets are filled with blowing tumbleweed. Its sole inhabitant seems to be Hardy, a half crazy, old desert rat played by Eddy Waller. Waller would later go on to be a sidekick to Western stars like Tim Holt and Allan Lane. Today, however, beneath his raggedy clothes, wig, and beard, he is the leader of the silk thieves.
Hardy invites the hungry visitors to join him for lunch in the dining room of the local hotel. After taking their dinner orders, the visitors realize that Hardy is missing a few marbles when he instructs his cat Wang Po to prepare the meal! Tucson and Lullaby decide to ride to the neighboring town of Canyon Springs for supplies.
If you look closely, the hotel and the city set on the Republic lot appear to be around the corner and parallel to the western set. Some faraway shots of our heroes and the Irvings when they are exploring the town reveal the western set in close proximity. In particular, note the western set buildings, especially one that more often than not has served as the jail in other 3M movies. It's the one located on the corner with an arch to its immediate right rear. All 3M fans are familiar with that building. It's the one where, most recently in THE PURPLE VIGILANTES, Tucson incarcerated Stony when he was masquerading as a Purple Vigilante.
Across the street from the jail and to the right when facing the jail, you also note an outside stairway leading to a second floor office. That's the stair case Stony and Tucson climbed in THE PURPLE VIGILANTES when they made their roof top approach to the Bonanza. On the other side of the street directly across from the stairway is the Purple Vigilante loan office. In an upcoming movie, OUTLAWS OF SONORA, it will be the bank robbed by the Stony Brooke look alike impersonating my favorite cowboy. Does anyone have a detailed layout of the Republic lot? Down from the stairs on the same side of the street, you can also see the billboard, which in past 3M movies listed Republic's most current releases. In my video, unfortunately the billboard was too blurred to see what was being promoted.
Watching from that jail buildings are other members of the gang who identify the 3M to Hardy as the guys sought by the police with a $5000 reward. Why not turn in these 'bad' guys, do their civic duty and collect the reward? Did you ever know a bad guy who would turn a way from the chance to earn five grand? Two silk thieves follow Tucson and Lullaby to Canyon Springs and point them out to the sheriff. That sheriff, played by Hal Price, happens to be the lawman who took part in the earlier highway chase.
In Canyon Springs, Lullaby takes center stage for some comedy. He is rather upset when he reads his own less-than-flattering description on a wanted poster. He winds up donning a minimally effective disguise created with some glue and horsetail hair. Shortly thereafter, the sheriff gives chase. It's back to Cosmopolis where they leave the supplies with the Irvings, pick up Stony, and ride again for the high country to shake the pursuing lawmen.
Back in Cosmopolis, after things clam down, Hardy enters the old sheriff's office building and goes through a cellar trap door in the floor. Through that door we find an apparent underground garage where the silk thieves are staging their stolen goods for a trip to El Paso. Once there, they plan to meet their fence. 'Super sleuth' Hockshaw has followed Hardy and Tim has followed Hockshaw. With aid of Hockshaw who literally opens the trap door, Tim descends into the cellar and over hears the bad guy's plan. As he tries to escape, Waller collars him. Fear not for Sammy! For Waller's instructions are to drop Tim off when they cross the county line. Maybe they will encounter the gang from the Bonanza hanging out at the county line! You just never know who you will meet hanging out at 'the county line'.
With Tim in tow and the trucks loaded with the silk, it's off to the west Texas town of El Paso. We will never know how Hockshaw managed to pickup the trail of the trucks after they left the underground garage and got on the road, but he did. I guess we just accept that on faith knowing Republic's stable of celebrity animal stars are collectively brighter and more intelligent than their human counterparts. Hockshaw evens knows a short cut which will allow him to reach a point where he will be able to jump into the truck to rescue Tim.
In a campsite along the path of silk thieves' trucks are our heroes. After a night under the stars, Tucson is grousing about their apparent no-way-out situation, being pursued by the cops and the bad guys as well with no one to help. Their grousing comes to an abrupt halt when they hear trucks and see Hockshaw running after the last of the two vehicles. Aren't those the same kind of trucks driven by the bad guy we so conveniently helped the other day? They sure are!
The boys decide that this might just be the one opportunity to clear themselves of the robbery charges and catch the real crooks. So we now have our human heroes following the wonder dog Hockshaw in chasing the trucks.
After some hard riding, the 3M corral the silk truck driven by bad guy Phillips rescuing Tim who is joyfully reunited with Hockshaw. I guess that this has to be another first in B westerns too with mounted men pursuing and ultimately pulling over a 1930s rack truck. Leaving Lullaby in charge, Tucson and Stony are off to snag the second truck.
The second vehicle with five gang members will not be as easy a catch. Luckily they had decided to pull over to let the truck driven by Phillips catch up. At the moment Stony and Tucson arrive in proximity and, after Stony's very un-western remark, "Let's plug the tires", they do just that!
In the ensuing firefight, note the momentary shoot-off-the-bad guys' hat contest between Tucson and Stony. The deadlock is broken when the other truck with Phillips at the wheel approaches. Little do the bad guys know that Tim and Lullaby have concocted some chicanery to bring the battle to an end. Tucson and Stony are confused as well and cease firing.
Phillips tells his cohorts to get in the back of the truck. What the bad guys don't see is Tim crouched down in the front seat holding a gun to Phillips' leg. Conveniently, each bad guy individually gets into the truck only to be slugged by a billy club wielding Lullaby. By the time the other 3M get to the truck, Lullaby has things under control. The 3M are no longer to be called Wanted.
A few concluding comments --- I would rate this movie at two and one-half six guns. Routine in story line but with many other interesting things we have already discussed.
The time warp aspect of CALL THE MESQUITEERS permeates the entire film. The film, which starts in the 1930s, runs through the 1930s and ends in the 1930s, and includes old rack trucks, deserted modern towns, 1930s clothing and an early 1900 steam locomotive on the Southern Pacific Railroad.
I wonder how many Stony Brooke outfits the Republic wardrobe people had in their inventory. If you look closely at Stony's shirt just below the right pocket, you will see a large stain. In the next movie he'll wear that same shirt with that same stain. Couldn't someone throw that shirt in the washer? Wasn't there a clean one somewhere?
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
At Mike's garage, after the brawl ... and is anybody paying attention to the guy on the left with the six-shooter in his belt? From left to right are: Tex Hall, Bob Livingston, Max Terhune, unidentified player, Loren Riebe and Ray Corrigan.
(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - Corrigan and Terhune are in the center of this lobby card from OUTLAWS OF SONORA (Republic, 1938), and the muscular Corrigan is shown on the right. The supporting player with the green pants is Tom London, a veteran of hundreds of western films.
Which Stony is Stony?
To be sure, there are outlaws but they are not operating in the Mexican state of Sonora. Their venue is the imaginary Mesquite County - the home range of our heroes. A vicious, cold-blooded killer named Dude Brannen, who happens to be an exact double of Stony Brooke, controls the gang. You can contemplate the consequential problems that the 3M will confront as a result.
I found this to be an exceptionally entertaining movie. Up front I would rate it as being worth at least 3 six guns.
It is entertaining because it has a greater deal of comedy coming from unexpected sources. As a matter of fact, this movie has more comedy than any of the previous 3M films. Was this just a fluke or a decided effort by Republic to make a subtle change in the series? The usual providers of comedy are there --- Lullaby and Elmer --- doing a commendable job as they have been doing so effectively in the past. Unfortunately, there is no supplemental comical character like a Willie Fung or a Fred Toones. The incremental comedy comes from members of the outlaw gang and at times from Brannen himself. That loveable assembly of familiar Republic bad guys (two of them bracket Livingston on the commercial packing for this video) we have seen so many times before displays its comedic ability. Just watch and listen closely! I especially remember Jack Ingram's response to Livingston when he was playing Dude. Desirous of having plastic surgery to hide his identity, Livingston asks Ingram to find him a doctor. Jack responds that there is a vet in the next town. Angered, Livingston retorts, "What do you think, I want to look like a horse?" Listen closely throughout for many more!
The plot of the movie --- a criminal double --- puts Stony outside the law for no good reason. It creates a situation where only action filled adventure can only prove his innocence. Another compelling aspect of this film is its uncertainty --- when you see Livingston on screen; is he Stony or Dude?
Playing a dual role must have been a challenging acting assignment for Livingston. He undoubtedly was still looking to move on to bigger and better parts. Perhaps this occasion might have offered him the opportunity to demonstrate to the Republic gods that he was far more capable than just the acting we have seen in the previous 3M movies. Without any authoritative source, we can only speculate about that! Never the less speculating is one thing that we love to do in these write ups.
In actuality Livingston was playing three roles. Role 1 is Stony Brooke. The part that he has played for the past dozen or so movies. This was easy - he has done it so many times. He has created the mold for that character. He is that character! Role 2 is bad guy Dude Brannen. This was something new for him and it's a good bet that he might have enjoyed the change. At least, it allowed him to smoke in front of the camera. In those 1930s B western movies wasn't it only the bad guys who smoked that evil weed tobacco and drank alcohol? Role 3 was his portrayal of Dude Brannen impersonating Stony Brooke. That could be a challenge. For here he must play that role well enough by integrating the characters of Dude and Stony into a single persona. This performance must be credible enough to induce the Red Rock Bank president to freely hand over the money (which he does not) and, more importantly, to convince the movie audience (does he?). In that, I think he did a wonderful job.
Perhaps the Dude character was a harbinger of roles and events to come for Livingston. After playing so many heroes (Stony Brooke, the Lone Ranger, the Lone Rider, Revere, etc); in later western movies, like the GRAND CANYON TRAIL we find an aging Livingston playing a bad guy.
What other interesting souls do we find in the cast?
Tom London stands out. Was there ever a Republic western without him? He was unquestionably a movie monument! Les Adams' Prolific Performers list has London with nearly 500 sound film credits, and that includes 300+ westerns and 50 serials. What a prolific actor! One can only imagine what a wonderful drama coach he could have been. Tom could usually be found as the town law officer, an old desert rat, maybe the father of the heroine, a sidekick or even a bad guy. We will see him as a villain in an upcoming 3M flick RIDERS OF THE BLACK HILLS.
Also there is Irish Jack Mulhall, with that distinctive voice echoing a slight New York accent, whose Hollywood career spanned almost 50 years. He plays Dr. Martin, a close friend and ally of the 3M, who is convinced of Stony's innocence. Having treated the real Stony for a shoulder gunshot wound, he is the one person able to discern the real Stony by the bullet wound scar.
Speaking of shoulder wounds, did you ever notice that most gun shot wounds suffered by western heroes are rounds taken in or near the shoulder? To be fair, we could also add that the second most popular wound was a graze to the temple. As if these wounds were mere scratches! Yet they are very close to vital areas of the body, like the heart or the brain. In this and many other movies, the hero sustains a wound, which, in no way, impedes his physical ability. After clutching the wounded area or being half shot out of the saddle, the hero remarkably recovers with no pain or impact on his mobility. He regains full strength almost instanteously, gallops along, jumps from his horse on the bad guy he is pursing, or brawls with at least 10 bad guys. Later he pays the price by collapsing in the arms of his partners or, better, in the bosom of the heroine! Aaah ... being a hero is a tough life!
Enough commentary. Let's get to the movie.
Opening scenes, using action stock footage from earlier 3M movies and displaying banner headlines from the front pages of the Mesquite Sentinel (did you ever wonder what happened to those phony newspapers which were probably trashed after the picture was completed), depict the terror this gang of eight desperados is inflicting upon the area. Surprisingly no victim has yet recognized the similarity in appearance between Dude and Stony!
To insure safe passage for their money from the Red Rock Bank back to Mesquite during this difficult time, the local cattleman's association has drafted Stony, (take note of the stained shirt) to be their currier. After receiving instructions and a letter of authorization from George Cleveland ('Gramps' from LASSY TVer) and Earl Dwire, Stony rides off to Red Rock. Note the wonderful background scenery framing his ride --- an arid plateau supported by a wall of large stone pillars; and a desert setting with appropriate vegetation. Concealed among those cacti is bad guy Merrill Mc McCormack who has acquired information on Stony's mission.
After a few long-range rifle shots, the bad guy chases Stony. Funny, the Stony I know would not have run from a single rifle-toting thug. There are some splendid shots of Livingston astride of Starlight as he attempts to evade his pursuer. Just love those hard riding scenes (and the great action music) with Livingston in the saddle.
As the scenery changes abruptly from desert to woodlands (maybe the Iverson Movie Ranch?), Stony is cornered by the rest of the gang. Here, for the first time, the doubles come nose to nose. After learning that Stony was only on the way to obtain funds, Dude instructs him to disrobe and hand over his clothes. Donning Stony's clothes, Dude rides to Red Rock to collect the cash. As he rides down the main street of Red Rock and enters the bank lobby, his presence is acknowledged by many of Stony's friends, female and male alike, including Dr. Martin.
However, he cannot fool the banker who accuses him of being an impersonator. In a flash, Dude shoots the man in cold blood, grabs the loot, and rides out of town pursued by a posse. Shocked townspeople, including Tucson and Lullaby who were also witnesses to the activities, can hardly believe their eyes. A coroner's inquiry finds Stony guilty of murder.
A reward of 5 grand is put on his head. We see him in wanted posters dressed in a black hat with white trim and a black shirt. Does anyone ever remember seeing him in that outfit before or do you think that this was a special photo solely for the poster with Stony (or Dude?) garbed in black to convey a sense of evil?
Despite the best efforts of Tom London and his posse to bring them to justice, the gang continues to rob and pillage with all the blame accruing to Stony
We see Dude and the gang planning their next move over dinner at their hideaway. Anxious to show his "appreciation" to Stony before he is to be shot, Dude grabs Jack Ingram's grub and desert along with a Wanted Poster and has them delivered to the Stony's cell. Listen for some more comedy in this otherwise serious scene.
After learning that the gang will shortly leave for Steve's Place, a border hangout where Dude's amour in a singer and dancer, Stony manages to over power the waiter. When Dude enters six-gun in hand, Stony wraps a stool around Dudes' head. The guard outside the door, our old friend George Chesebro, is none the wiser believing its Dude, when Stony casually walks out of the room toward the hitching post. In the chase that follows a round finds its mark in Stony's shoulder. Dude decides to let the sheriff catch Stony and so a quick anonymous call to Tom London gets him started on the way to the 3M Ranch.
Where else can Stony go but to the 3M ranch? So, wounded and slouching in the saddle, he arrives to hear the berating of Tucson who still believes he is guilty. Finally convinced that Stony is innocent, Tucson and Lullaby greet the sheriff who by now is knocking at their door. But not before hiding Stony in the cellar. In a rapid-fire fashion, Stony manages to exit the cellar and ride away. The sheriff finds incriminating evidence in the form of blood stained bandages believing rightly so that the fugitive has recently been there and was treated by Tucson and Lullaby. To cover Stony's escape, Tucson and Lullaby lock the sheriff and his posse in the cellar. (Can they exit the cellar as fast as Stony did? Off course not!)
A second later we see Tucson and Lullaby as Dr. Martin is treating Stony at an undisclosed location. Stony relates that the gang is headed for Steve's Place. Under strict orders from Dr. Martin, Stony must remain under cover and under the covers so that his would heals. Tucson and Lullaby take off for Steve's Place. Wound or no wound, Stony is not one to remain on the sidelines.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above, while Corrigan and Terhune look on, film veteran Jack Mulhall (as Dr. Martin) attends to Livingston.
Without a detailed map of the Republic lot, I would estimate that the building serving as Steve's Place is around the corner from and backs up to the sheriff's office. Here we find two of our heroes observing the action and enjoying the Mexican music and dancers.
With Stony on the loose, Dude feels more compelled to get on with the plastic surgery. He dispatches two of his thugs to bag Dr. Martin. For time warp purposes we can date this movies as occurring in the post WW1 era. Dude makes the comment that Dr. Martin did a lot of that plastic surgery ... after the war. The operation will be performed as Steve's Place but not before Dr. Martin sends a cryptic message to the sheriff in the form of a prescription written in Latin. In the pharmacy, for further dating of the movie, note the candlestick phone so popular in the 1920s and 30s, used by the pharmacist to notify the sheriff.
The climax at Steve's Place capitalized on the question of which Stony is the real Stony. More comedy between Elmer, Lullaby and the Mexican dancers. Jack Ingram enters with Dr. Martin who is hustled upstairs. A moment later, in walks Livingston, stained shirt and all. Is this Dude or Stony? He is greeted by Jack Ingram, who likewise hustles him upstairs. Halfway up, Livingston pauses, glances and winks at his two amigos. This is Stony!
In the 'operating' room upstairs, Stony overpowers Ingram with the help of Dr. Martin.
Seconds later, Dude, accompanied by bad guys McCormack and Chesebro, enters Steve's Place. If Tucson and Lullaby ever had any doubts about there being a double, they are dissolved at that point. Dude goes up to the operating room alone and that's when a massive saloon brawl ensues. Aren't you always amazed how three guys, even our heroes, can take on twice or three times their number in a free for all bar fight and come out as winners without that slightest scratch? That's exactly what happens.
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
In OUTLAWS OF SONORA (Republic, 1938), Bob Livingston had dual roles as both his normal Three Mesquiteers character 'Stony Brooke' as well as baddie 'Dude Brannen'. Above - Ray 'Crash' Corrigan (as 'Tucson') has Merrill McCormick subdued, Max Terhune (as 'Alibi') is taking care of George Chesebro, and Bob Livingston (as 'Stony') is taking care of the duplicate Stony in the barroom brawl finale in OUTLAWS OF SONORA.
As can usually be expected, Dude manages to slip out of the door while the brawl in progress, but not without being seen by Stony. It's back to the desert scenery as Stony pursues Dude past those same beautiful pillar formations we saw earlier. Knowing the countryside allows Stony to take a shortcut to 'head Dude off at the pass'. Leaping from some rocks, Stony takes Dude out of the saddle and finishes him off with one punch. I thought Dude was tough! He must have pooped out from that hard ride! Stony's efforts in capturing the gang and Dude bring him the $5000 reward. Not a bad take for capturing yourself!