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Western films, from silent to today

The Texas Rangers (1936)

The Texas Rangers (1936) posterJim Hawkins (Fred MacMurray), Sam McGee (Lloyd Nolan) and Wahoo Jones (Jake Oakie) are partners in crime. Jones hires on as a stage driver, setting up holdups for his two buddies.

But when the law catches up with them, they’re forced to scatter. All roads lead to Texas, where McGee starts a new gang and Hawkins and Jones — desperate for a grubstake — hire on as Texas Rangers.

Hawkins sees it as a temporary and perhaps convenient detour from a life of crime. Somehow, he figures to convert his Ranger days into a big payday for himself and McGee.

Jones, on the other hand, starts to think he wouldn’t mind going straight, especially after the duo save a young boy during an Indian attack.

Eventually, McGee becomes a prominent enough outlaw that the Rangers make capturing him a top priority. Hawkins would rather rot in jail than turn on a friend; Jones has no such qualms.

Rating 4 out of 6Review:

King Vidor and company manage to make a Western that’s still entertaining decades later. Especially well done, given the period, is an Indian attack in which a few remaining survivors of Ranger Company B — Hawkins and Jones included — wind up surrounded and vastly outnumbered.

Jack Oakie has the best role as Wahoo Jones. Not only does he provide comic relief, he’s the buddy who will try anything to lure Hawkins into a lawful life, even if that means playing matchmaker between Hawkins and pretty Amanda Bailey (Jean Parker).

With the focus on the trio of friends, Parker’s role is a secondary one. She continued appearing on screen through the 1950s and most of her later films were Westerns, including “The Gunfighter (1950), “A Lawless Street” (1955) and her final movie, “Apache Uprising” (1965).

MacMurray, future star of “My Three Sons,” wouldn’t return to Westerns in earnest until the 1950s.

Jean Parker as Amanda Bailey and Fred MacMurray as Jim Hawkins in The Texas Rangers (1936)Directed by:
King Vidor

Fred MacMurray … Jim Hawkins
Jack Oakie … Henry B. “Wahoo” Jones
Jean Parker … Amanda Bailey
Lloyd Nolan … Sam “Polka Dot” McGee
Edward Ellis … Major Bailey
Benny Bartlett … David
Frank Shannon … Capt. Stafford
Frank Cordell … Ranger Ditson
Richard Carle … Casper Johnson
Jed Prouty … District Attorney Twitchell
Fred Kohler … Jess Higgins
Gabby Hayes … Judge Snow

Runtime: 98 min.

Memorable lines:

Jim Hawkins, after watching a Ranger gun down two bandits: “Texas Rangers, huh??”
Wahoo Jones: “If that’s a sample of the way they work, I’m going to stay clear of them. They got no sense of humor.”

Maj. Bailey: “We don’t ask too many questions when a man joins the Rangers. Courage. A good head. And a better aim. That’s about all that’s required.”

Jim Hawkins, upon meeting Amanda Bailey: “I’ve stayed clear of her kind for this long and I’m satisfied.”
Wahoo Jones: “Her kind? What’s the matter with her kind?”
Hawkins: “She’s the home-building, settling-down-for-life kind. Once a gal like her gets her apron strings around a man, that’s his finish.”

Amanda Bailey to Jim Hawkins: “Just leaving? Somehow, you’re always just leaving. What are you afraid of — the measles?”

Sam McGee to Jim: “Trust me, I learned early in life that the honest dollar is the hardest one to make.”

Sam McGee to Jim: “I’ll kill you as sure as a rattler throws poison.”

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