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The Colorado Trail

(aka "West of Santa Fe")


Columbia Pictures Corporation of California

Production Dates: June 24 - July 2, 1938

Release Date: 1938 09 08

Running time: 55 min (6 reels)

Key book (production) number: 307


Plot Summary
Production and Publicity Stills


        The Colorado Trail is another tale of a young hero with a mysterious past, a pair of crooked villains and a group of vicious hired gunslingers. The survival of a town hinges on the action of one man against apparently insurmountable odds.

        Although Charles Starrett is the hero, The Colorado Trail features the Sons of the Pioneers, particularly Bob Nolan. However, you will not hear his solo voice in the songs. Not until "Western Caravans" in 1939 did Columbia relent and let him do his own solos. In this film, as in the six previous to it, an unidentified pleasant voice is dubbed in for Bob's unusual baritone. Pat Brady, Lloyd Perryman and Bob comprise the trio so you can hear Nolan sing - but not in the solo parts.

        Bob Nolan was responsible for writing all the songs in the film and the Farr Brothers provided the instrumentals. A minor but interesting detail concerning the song sequences in the Starrett movies is demonstrated by a photo given to us by Karl E. Farr. The picture has the production number (309-4) for a later film, Rio Grande, but the song sequence was "Bound for the Rio Grande" by Bob Nolan and used in The Colorado Trail.

        This video is newly available from www.sinistercinema.com. Sound is poor but the picture quality is outstanding.



Left: Bob Nolan as a ranch hand, Charles Starrett as Grant Bradley

Right: Sons of the Pioneers as ranch hands


Left: Hank Bell as Tombstone Terry and Iris Meredith as Joan Randall

Right: Edward Peil Sr. as Hobbs, Edmund Cobb as Cameron and Edward LeSaint as Jeff Randall


Left: Dick Curtis as Slash Driscoll, Al Bridge as Mark Sheldon and Robert Fiske as Deacon Webster

Right: Jack Clifford as Judge Bennett


Left: George Chesebro

Right: June Gittelson


Others in the cast:

Dick Botiller

Stanley Brown


1. Bound for the Rio Grande (Bob Nolan)

2. Firebugs (instrumental by Hugh & Karl Farr)

3. Cottage in the Clouds (Bob Nolan / Lloyd Perryman)

4. Pioneer Waltz (instrumental by Hugh & Karl Farr)

5. Texas Crapshooter (instrumental by Hugh & Karl Farr)

6. Lone Buckaroo (Bob Nolan)

7. Bound for the Rio Grande (Bob Nolan)

Plot Summary:

        The story opens on the Sons of the Pioneers grooming their horses while they sing "Bound for the Rio Grande" under the appreciative eyes of Tombstone Terry.



        A tall stranger lopes in through the gate on his beautiful white horse and teases the boys about their singing. We find they are practicing for a surprise party for Joan Randall, the boss's daughter. We also learn that Tombstone is an inveterate match-maker. For each match he makes, Tombstone carves a notch in his gun.



        The elderly owner of the ranch, Jeff Randall, approaches and the stranger introduces himself as Grant Bradley. Everyone is surprised but definitely aware of who he is - the fastest gun in three states. Grant tells Randall that he has heard that the ranchers are preparing for a range war and are hiring gunfighters. Mr. Randall chuckles and says no shots have been fired for twenty years. That's funny, responded Grant. A friend of his had told him that twenty gunfighters had just been hired by one of the ranchers. Randall believes someone has been joshing Grant who then asks him for a job. Randall has a full rota but tells him the Cattleman's Association is meeting in town and all the ranchers would be there. He should be able to get a job with someone.



        Grant rides in with the Randall outfit to Willow Springs, the local town. Randall tells his boys they have a half hour to kill before the stage comes in and dismisses them. Just before he walks over to the cattleman's meeting, he tells Grant that in about 20 minutes all the ranchers will be coming out and to watch a certain door.



        Two ranchers, Hobbs and Cameron, meet Randall at the door and they all watch the Sundown Ranch's owners, Sheldon and The Deacon Webster, ride in with a batch of new hands. Another rancher recognizes them as gunmen.



        One of them, Slash Driscoll, introduces his perverse sense of humour by tripping a shopper who falls, spilling all his groceries in the dust. The new Sundown crew guffaws. The shopper picks himself up and prepares to fight until he notices Driscoll's hand is on his gun. He quietly picks up his groceries and leaves while Bob and Grant watch from the porch, shocked by the stupidly vicious act.



        Inside, the cattlemen are facing buyer Mark Sheldon. They are in an amicable mood, ready to deal with him until Sheldon states that all he can offer them this year is 1 1/4 cents per pound. (For the past 3 years he has been paying five times that amount.) Randall responds angrily that they could drive their own cattle and still come out ahead. Sheldon agrees but points out that the only way they could drive out of the valley would be through Little Creek Pass which he has purchased and fenced off. Now the assembled men understand why Sheldon has hired the gunmen.



        Bob and Grant, still outside watching the hired gunmen, feel that "there's smoke in the air." The cattlemen all file out of the building and Grant joins them, hoping to find a job. Sheldon and The Deacon leave last, on their way to buy more barbed wire.



        Just then the stage drives up, carrying Randall's smiling daughter.



        Before Joan alights from the stage, the same practical joker, Driscoll, shoots at an old-timer's boots to make him dance and the driverless stage team takes off at a dead gallop. The gunmen all roar with laughter.



        Grant runs for his horse, closely followed by the Pioneers, Tombstone in his buckboard and Randall on his horse. Grant quickly halts the team by jumping from his stallion, Raider, and climbing onto the roof of the stage.



        An impressed but not at all frightened Joan Randall, the lone passenger, is suitably grateful and interested in this stranger.



        The Pioneers soon arrive to greet their boss's daughter and Pat warns her that Tombstone will be matchmaking before too long. Bob introduces Grant. Tombstone asks Joan if she'd like to ride back in his buckboard.



        Mr. Randall offers Grant a job and, now that he is one of their crew, she asks him if he will drive her back to town. He refuses. Irked, Joan returns with Tombstone. Grant has urgent business in town himself with the Slash Driscoll but he does not tell that to Joan.



        Grant lopes into town and approaches Slash who is lazing in a chair outside the saloon with his group of gunmen. Grant asks who fired the shots that frightened the stage team. Driscoll said he did and Grant knocks him down. The fight is on.



        Bob and the Pioneers ride in right about then and cheer Grant on. The Deacon arrives and, seeing Grant, is visibly shaken. The fight continues with Grant the winner, of course, egged on by the Pioneers and watched by Joan and Tombstone.



        Grant dumps Slash into a horse trough and now the laugh is on him. Grant offers to drive Joan's buckboard and is refused.



        Her father laughs and says Joan is a spitfire, fancy schooling notwithstanding. Bob claps Grant on the shoulder and told him it was a sign that she likes him.



        Driscoll starts toward Grant once more but The Deacon stops him. Unimpressed with Grant's reputation as a gunfighter, Driscoll thinks a rifle will cut him down to size. Right then Sheldon appears and derides Driscoll's reputation as a fighter. On being told who Grant is, Sheldon beckons The Deacon out of earshot. We learn that Sheldon taught Grant all he knows about gunfighting. Sheldon states that they have to get him on their side or get rid of him.



        The next scene opens on Joan's party which must a "barn" dance, if the cow in the partition next to the dancers is any indication. Joan is dancing with Tombstone and Grant has drawn a very large lady who keeps stepping on his toes.



        Tombstone tries without success to get Joan to dance with Grant.




        Pat does a comical step dance and then Bob introduces "Cottage in the Clouds".




        During the buffet luncheon, the ranchers discuss the coming problem with Sheldon.



        While the Pioneers play an instrumental Tombstone casually mentions the "fact" that Joan thinks Grant is the clumsiest dancer she's ever seen. Unaware that he is being manipulated by an expert, Grant angrily strides over and cuts in on Joan to Bob's glee.



        Tombstone and Bob dance together so they can keep an eye on how Tombstone's machinations are progressing.



        Tombstone steers a clumsy Bob around adroitly until they bump into Grant and Joan. They see the hatchet has been buried and are very pleased with themselves.



        Grant dances Joan out of doors and they apologize to each other for their morning's behaviour. They bump into a man in the shadows - Deacon. Joan walks out of earshot. Deacon wants Grant to go meet with Sheldon. Her father comes out to find Joan in time to see Deacon leave.



        Mr. Randall asks Grant if The Deacon is a friend of his. Just an old acquaintance, responds Grant. "He's no friend of mine."



        Grant asks Joan for the next dance but her father insists he meet some of the ranchers instead. (Back in the dancehall, the Pioneers are playing Texas Crapshooter.) After introductions to Cameron and Hobbs, Randall asks Grant what he thinks should be done about the Sundown's insulting offer. The ranchers suggest they hire gunfighters, too, and fight it out to a finish. Grant counsels a mass meeting where, hopefully, someone will have an idea. He said there's always a peaceful way out of any trouble.



        The next morning, as Tombstone compliments himself to Pat about his success with the young couple, Grant discovers a folded paper in his saddle. The note from Deacon Webster asks him to meet at the west boundary gulch.



        Grant uses his ignorance of the size of the spread to take a look around it and, at the same time, meet The Deacon. Joan arrives on the scene and, after a few words, goes on her own ride in a different direction. But, because she is interested in this handsome stranger, she rides where she can keep an eye on him.



        When Grant finds The Deacon and hears that Sheldon wants to see him at the ranch, he removes Deacon's gun and Joan watches them ride on together.



        Riding up the long driveway to the Sundown ranch house, Grant and The Deacon first meet Slash Driscoll and his gunmen on the stairs. They draw their guns but The Deacon stops them.



        Inside, Grant meets Mark Sheldon who is really his estranged father, a robber and murderer. Grant saw his father kill a man in cold blood and stayed away from him from then on.



        Sheldon had a proposition to place in front of Grant. Although he has no fatherly feeling toward Grant, he's wise enough to want him on his own side in a fight. He offers him a share of the whole valley with him and the Deacon. Grant refuses and his father warns him that one day they will have to shoot it out.



        Grant draws his gun again and leaves, taking the Deacon outside with him until he is safely out of gun range.



        In town, the whole Sundown crew rides up to the saloon and when they see there is a meeting going on across the street, they walk in on it.



        Inside, Grant is trying to talk sense into the ranchers who are ready to fight. He has some unexpected help from Mrs. Forbes who reminds the assembly that they have never seen a range war and they don't know what they're talking about.



        When Sheldon and his crew arrive, the ranchers are ready to evict them but Grant invites them to listen to his advice. He advises the ranchers to petition a court of law to see if they can move Sheldon off the Pass. Sheldon and his crew walk out.



    Slash stays behind to see what more he can learn and he hears Grant make plans to find the circuit judge and bring him back within the week.



        Joan tells Grant, just before they leave the room, that she's glad to have him on their side although she admits she was puzzled to see him ride over to the Sundown with The Deacon. Grant lets her know that they tried to bribe him.



        As the Sundown crew walks out, Slash catches up with Sheldon and tells him Grant plans to go to the county seat for a judge. Sheldon gives him permission to get even with Grant now for the beating but he is to bring him in alive. He plans to keep him under cover until the week is up and the cattlemen are forced to sell out to him.


        Grant and Joan meet the ranchers coming back with the signed petition as they leave the building. Grant folds it up, puts it into his pocket and prepares to leave. The Pioneers offer to go with him but he refuses. He gives Joan a quick kiss and he's off.



          And so Grant leaves town with the hopes of the valley in his pocket and a vicious gunman on his trail. Slash gets ahead of him, lies in wait and ropes him from his saddle. Grant plays possum until Slash comes close enough to kick him. Grant grabs his foot and the fight is on.



        Grant knocks him out and starts to leave but he has a better idea. He removes Slash's boots, and chases his horse away. Slash has to walk home in stocking feet and he's limping before he goes 3 feet. Grant leaves for the County Seat at a gallop.



        Slash once more has to endure the laughter of the gunmen. The Deacon suggests that Grant has won this time but Sheldon disagrees. He has an ace up his sleeve. He will go into town and destroy their faith in Grant by telling them that he is his son.

        The Sons of the Pioneers sing "Lone Buckaroo" for the Randall outfit on the back porch. Hugh is playing the bull fiddle with his hat perched on the end of it. Just as they finish the song, the ranchers gallop up en masse, hot with the news that Grant is Sheldon's son. They are sure he has betrayed them. Joan asks them to reserve judgment until they hear what Grant has to say.



        Right then, Grant rides in. He has left the judge up in the hills where it's safe. He'll bring him in next morning. He asks the Pioneers to go back with him to protect the judge.



        Next morning, Joan is anxiously waiting for the Judge with her father and the ranchers. The ranchers are still rather doubtful about Grant but within a few minutes Grant is galloping up the street with the Pioneers and another man. He introduces Judge Bennett to them and it is soon apparent that the irascible little man is all business.



        The Sundown crew gallops into town and Judge Bennett serves them with an injunction. He lets them know that he is holding court in five minutes and they'd better be there or he'll render judgment by default. They follow him into the building.



        All through the various interruptions, the feisty judge keeps order and delivers his judgment. The law is on Sheldon's side but...and it was a big "but" to the little judge; a furious "but". He lay into Sheldon and Deacon with the side of his tongue and compares them unfavorably with the most ruthless outlaws he knows.



        Sheldon renews his low offer for their beef and says he'll wait for them in the saloon. The ranchers are still wondering if Grant is in cahoots with his father. Mr. Randall kindly says goodbye to Grant but lets him know that they are all licked. Grant is left alone in the courtroom with the judge. He asks the judge to draw up a paper for him.



        Out on the porch, the men have made up their collective mind to give in to Sheldon's demands and they head slowly across the street.



        Grant stops them. He attempts to get Sheldon to sign a paper saying he will give the ranchers right of way through his land. He threatens Sheldon with exposure of the murder he witnessed five years ago. Sheldon tears up the paper and accuses him of not having the nerve to go through with it. Grant hesitates then tells the assembled men that, rather than see his father beggar the whole valley, he will tell everyone that five years ago he saw Sheldon murder a ranger.



        Sheldon backed up, ready to draw on his son. Grant gave his father first chance to draw. Grant beat him and winged him. This started everyone shooting, taking cover where they could.



        Sheldon runs around the building, coming up behind Grant. Just as Sheldon raises his gun to shoot his son in the back, The Deacon kills him.



        The Deacon was hit in the arm and the hired gunmen surrender. Grant thanks The Deacon for saving his life. Deacon responds by saying he and Sheldon were in the wrong.



        Back herding cattle, the Pioneers  happily sing "Bound for the Rio Grande". When Tombstone catches sight of Grant kissing Joan, he gets out his gun and cuts another notch in the handle.




Production & Publicity Stills





This photo has the production number for a later film, Rio Grande, but the song sequence was "Bound for the Rio Grande" by Bob Nolan and used in The Colorado Trail.

(Photo courtesy of Roy Rogers Trust Foundation)





Courtesy of Jan Scott



Courtesy of Bruce Hickey





Courtesy of Jan Scott


Courtesy of John Fullerton


June Gittelson, Charles Starrett, Iris Meredith and Hank Bell

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Jan Scott





Courtesy of Jan Scott



Courtesy of Ed Phillips



Courtesy of Earl Bryant




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey





Courtesy of Bruce Hickey




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant




Courtesy of Fred Sopher


Courtesy of Fred Sopher