Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Texas Rangers (1951) - Fast-Paced Western

The Texas Rangers 1951 film poster
"The Texas Rangers" (1951).

"The Texas Rangers" (1951) is a classic oater from the days when the good guys wore white hats, the bad guys ate led, and everything turned out fine in the end. Either you like the white hats/black hats thing or you don't. "The Texas Rangers" has lots of action and fine acting, so strap in for the ride if you want to see the cream of the crop of the bad guys wiped out.

George Montgomery, as Johnny Carver, stars in this wild tale about prisoners inducted into the Texas Rangers in order to fight a gang of notorious outlaws, led by Sam Bass (William Bishop). The outlaws, all essentially independent operators, have joined forces because the Texas Rangers had become too effective against them and threatened their livelihood.

The Texas Rangers 1951 title screen
No, not THOSE Texas Rangers! The real Texas Rangers!

There isn't a whole lot of realism to this Western. In "The Texas Rangers," Bass leads a gang composed of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, John Wesley Hardin, and many lesser outlaws who also receive attention in the history books. They are opposed by newly inducted Rangers Johnny Carver and his sidekick, Buff Smith (Noah Beery, Jr.). Carver and Smith, who used to ride with Sundance, have been sprung to help the Rangers subdue the outlaw gang. Carver, though, only seems interested in getting the one outlaw, Sundance, who betrayed him during a bank robbery. Once that score is settled, it becomes unclear until near the end whose side Carver is on. He appears to be playing both sides against the middle, and at one point actually tries to run away but is stopped by Smith and his own devoted brother, also a Ranger, played in low-key fashion by Jerome Courtland.

Along the way, we are treated to various gunfights, bank jobs and train robberies. The ending battle is a corker where Carver has to act alone to take on the worst of the bandits or be considered a traitor by the Rangers. Realism aside, there is terrific gunplay and valiant actions as we approach the conclusion.

The Texas Rangers 1951 Noah Beery Jr.
Noah Beery Jr., at far right, always seems strangely happy in "The Texas Rangers."

For a Western, the scenery is not that impressive. Monument Valley it isn't. You either come to care about the character played by Montgomery, or you don't, the vistas and the plot and so forth aren't likely to grab you. Fortunately, he turns in a solid performance, and there are enough twists and turns to keep things moving. Always dependable Gale Storm is along as Helen Fenton, a newspaper editor who blames Carver for the death of her father, and she turns in an effective, if often annoying, performance as a woman who doesn't seem to have anything good to say about anyone.

John Dehner is a standout as Hardin. His cool, measured presence lends an air of seriousness and coolness to the outlaws, who otherwise appear simply brutal. Beery is good playing his usual down-to-earth Sancho Panza figure. Overall, the acting is solid by everyone.

The Texas Rangers 1951 lobby card
Deal those cards AGAIN or you eat lead! Lobby card from "The Texas Rangers."

"The Texas Rangers" is exciting and fast-paced, if sketchy history. How many times and in how many different ways did Butch and Sundance get killed in these various Westerns, anyway? I'm surprised they didn't throw Billy the Kid in there for good measure. Worth the time, a good, solid Western.


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