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The Durango Kid

(aka "The Masked Stranger")



Columbia Pictures Corporation

Production Dates: May 9 - May 17, 1940

Release Date: 1940 08 23 (Laurence Zwisohn has August 15, 1940)

Running time: 61 min (6 reels)

Key book (production) number: 330

Location: Agoura / Albertson Ranch


Plot Summary
Production and Publicity Stills


This is the first "Durango Kid" movie. It was never intended to become a series but the film was so popular that the producer decided to continue it. The Sons of the Pioneers have a prominent part and there is a happy-go-lucky feeling throughout. They obviously enjoyed working with Charles Starrett and each other. In this film, Bob Nolan dons the Durango Kid costume himself as a blind to the villain. He has become a good rider by this time and makes a very acceptable hero. In the film, he is actually the second lead with a lot of dialogue and action as well as singing to do. Tim and Glenn Spencer were responsible for writing the songs. By this time, the Spencers and Bob Nolan would write for alternate films. This freed up Bob for better acting parts and his acting is very good, much better than in the later Republic Roy Rogers movies. This movie is available on DVD.




Charles Starrett as Bill Lowry or The Durango Kid, Luana Walters as Nancy Winslow and Bob Nolan & the Sons of the Pioneers as the ranch hands.


Kenneth MacDonald as Mace Ballard and Francis Walker as Steve


Forrest Taylor as Ben Winslow and Melvin Lang as Marshal Trayboe


Frank LaRue as Sam Lowry



1. Introduction

2. There’s a Rainbow Over the Range (Tim Spencer)
3. The Prairie Sings a Lullaby (Glenn Spencer) cleaned
4. The Cherokee Strip (Glenn and Tim Spencer)
5. There’s a Rainbow Over the Range to credits


The story opens on the Sons of the Pioneers painting a shed. Tim is on the roof, Karl is lazily stirring the paint in a large trough as he accompanies them on his guitar as they sing "There's a Rainbow over the Range".



There is a lot of good-natured horsing around and Pat, intent on painting in rhythm to the song, wipes paint on the wall and on himself. Lloyd is filling the paint buckets from the trough.



From his perch on the roof, Tim can see what a mess Pat is making and silently points him out to Bob.



Bob, chuckling over Pat's unconscious antics, beckons the boys over to take a closer look but the last laugh is on Bob.



Bob pretends to bawl Pat out for the patchy job he's making on the wall.



While Bob stands on one leg adjusting his pant cuff, Pat moves the paint can and Bob steps into it.



Bob sits down and orders Pat to pull his boot off and clean it for him. Pat is unaware that Bob has chosen his seat with an eye to revenge. If his boot comes off in a hurry, Pat will sit down with a splash in the trough of paint. Pat pulls the boot off but, by quick stepping, manages to avoid the trough. It doesn't take him long to see what Bob had planned.



Just as Pat is about to give Bob a piece of his mind, their boss, Sam Lowry, drives up in a buckboard and beckons Bob over to him. Pat trips over the pail and ends up in the paint trough at last.



He asks Bob to stay around the house this afternoon because he is expecting his son, Bill, home any time. He asks Bob to let his son know that he is on his way over to Mace Ballard's to complain about the way the homesteaders are being treated. 



Bob lets the boys know what's happening just in time to prevent them from dousing Pat in the horse trough to clean him up. It is plain to see that they think the homesteaders are getting a bad deal and they admire the boss's son a lot.



At the same time, Bill Lowry is approaching the home ranch and stops on the hill to watch cowboys take down a fence. Realization dawns and he recognizes the work of the enemies to the homesteaders that his father had warned him about.



 He heads downhill at a gallop and the fence breakers scatter, firing their guns for good measure. Bill chases them. The Pioneers hear the firing and ride to his aid.



Bill doesn't recognize the Pioneers until they've given up the chase.



They ride together down to talk with the homesteader, Ben Winslow, and his daughter, Nancy.



Nancy states that they should have the Durango Kid to help them. Bill thinks they can do without more outlaws around. In a friendly way, Nancy and her father refuse their offer to help put the fence up and they ride off.



Meanwhile, Bill's father is meeting with Mace Ballard and his men, objecting strongly to the way the homesteaders are being treated and wondering why no one knows who they are.



To Ballard's disgust, Steve bursts into the room with the news that someone chased them away from the fence they were removing. Lowry, shocked, threatens to report them all to the sheriff and leaves the room. Ballard, who does not intend him to get very far, buckles on his gunbelt and leads the way outside.



Mr. Lowry drives his buckboard along the road to town and is an easy mark for Mace Ballard as he rides cross country and ambushes him. The startled horses head for home at a run.



Back at the ranch, Bob has been bringing Bill up to date on events when the team thunders up the long driveway to the house.



The men stop the horses and Bill climbs into the buckboard and lifts his father.



Suspecting it is already too late, Bob quietly asks if he should go for a doctor. Bill shakes his head. His father had been shot in the back.



While the men stand around in silent shock, Mace Ballard and his two henchmen ride up and give their version of events: they had heard the shot and saw a nester ride away. Ballard did all he could to put the blame on the homesteaders, not realizing that Bill wasn't believing a word he said.



That evening, the men gather quietly on the verandah and sing "The Prairie Sings a Lullaby" softly.




Bill listens from a short distance. After the song ends, Bob hesitatingly approaches his boss and suggests he learn to forget it all. Bill vehemently swears he will never forget it and he will run the murderer down.



Just then, the quiet night air explodes in gunfire and the men realize that the Winslow ranch is being attacked.



Nancy and her father are taking turns shooting from a window at the group of men with torches galloping round and round the house.



The house blazes up quickly and threatens to burn down around them because the men outside do not let them leave.



Just then the Lowry crew rides in and gives chase while Bill rides down to Nancy and her father to see if they are unharmed. Nancy fiercely repeats her request for the Durango Kid and this time, Bill agrees with her.



Mace enters his office with his three henchmen, opens his safe and pays them off with a twenty dollar bonus to Steve for a job well done. He expects the Winslows will be leaving the country in the morning. He is unaware of a masked man in a snowy white Stetson outside his window.



Just then a knife flies in the window and pins a reward poster against the wall. For a moment no one moves then Mace opens the poster and realizes that it's a good chance the Durango Kid left his card.



The crooks all leave the room in haste but Mace remembers that he left the safe open and cautiously re-enters the room. Relieved that the safe hasn't been touched, he locks it and lights the lamp.



The Durango Kid appears out of the shadows, holds him at gunpoint and orders him to reopen the safe. Cautiously, Mace reaches toward the safe and the Durango Kid fires to warn him not to reach for his gun. The mirror shatters and Mace retrieves the money from the safe.



He places the money in a bad and hands it to the Durango Kid.



Durango shoots the gunbelt off Ballard and has him kick it under the desk before he disappears into the night.



We next find the Durango Kid handing the money over to the Winslows. He suggests they join the rest of the homesteaders at Hidden Valley where they have been hiding.



Next day finds the Pioneers doing chores in the sunshine, singing "The Cherokee Strip". Bob takes the first verse as he adjusts the stirrups on his saddle.



Hugh sings the second verse between blows on a horseshoe.



Tim sings his verse as he strums his guitar beside his horse and Karl, wiping a large black streak across his face, is greasing a wheel on the buckboard.



Pat does a little dance through his verse and by this time Bill Lowry has joined them.



The boys start teasing Pat and send him off to the kitchen to do some more painting.



Lloyd comes racing in, does a flying dismount and runs in to tell Bill that he has spotted Mace and Steve heading for town.




Bill quickly hides and throws his lasso up into tree so the noose end of it dangles down into the faces of the two crooks. Disconcerted and a little suspicious, the two men demand an explanation.



Bill gives them a cock and bull story about a wildcat and ends up inviting himself to town with them to see the marshal. Marshal Trayboe, states Ballard indignantly, has to do something about this thieving and then he tells Bill about being held up by the Durango Kid. Tongue in cheek, Bill agrees that something should be done - the Durango Kid has been losing Bill a lot of sleep!



The three men troop into the Marshal's office and Bill keeps making comments about not needing the Durango Kid if the settlers were invited back. The Marshal wonders aloud why the Durango Kid only picks on Mace Ballard. Bill makes a veiled comment to the effect that Steve could probably put an end to the raids himself. Steve lunges at him and the marshal has to separate the two men.



To make both sides happy, Marshal Trayboe makes Bill a deputy marshal and gives him a badge. Bill's sole job is to bring in the Durango Kid. Ballard reiterates that he wants action and Bill, tongue firmly back in his cheek, promises to see that he gets it.



As Bill walks out of the Marshal's office, he notices the Winslow buckboard across the street. Nancy and her father are loading up with supplies. Bill saunters over and pretends to be dismayed to hear they are moving away. He tells them he had planned to invite them to stay with him. Nancy takes over the conversation before her father starts mentioning the Durango Kid whom she wants to protect. When she hears that Bill's sole job is to find the Durango Kid, she is aghast and Bill can't resist teasing a little.



Mace Ballard becomes angry when he sees Bill talking with homesteaders and calls him over to warn him he might lose his job. After Bill leaves, Ballard sends Steve to get the men to gather another herd to sell to a man named Haggerty in Paiute City.



As he leaves Haggerty's office in Paiute City, Ballard is disconcerted to find the deputy marshal there, too. Bill questions him about the herd he sold and pulls his leg about the Durango Kid. During the entire conversation, Bill is building a little paper boat.




They take the same stagecoach home so Bill can act as guard. Ballard is nervous and sweating heavily. He is carrying all the money from the cattle sale in a pouch around his waist.



On their way, the stagecoach meets a couple of homestead wagons and Bill asks the driver to pull up while he talks with the nesters. The Durango Kid has coached them to say they were leaving the area when, actually, they were on their way to Hidden Valley.



A few miles farther on, the stagecoach is held up by a large group of men led by Bob Nolan disguised as the Durango Kid and riding Raider.




Bob demands Ballard's money and gets it.



As they ride off, Ballard reaches for his gun but Bill bumps against him as he jumps from the coach. Bill runs after the Durango Kid's gang, firing his gun and apparently hitting one of them.



Bill orders the coach driver, Scotty, to drive on while he gets the injured man's horse and follows the Durango Kid. What he really does is mount the horse and the rider jumps up behind him.



They join the fake Durango Kid and the money is counted. Bill thinks Bob would make a great Durango Kid but Bob says he isn't interested in being shot at six days a week.



Bob laughs to think of what Ballard has to say to the marshal.  Bill sends him off to Hidden Valley with the money - $6,000 this time.



By the time Ballard reaches town, he is fuming and very suspicious. He sounds off to Marshal Trayboe and Bill interrupts them when he walks in. Ballard blames the nesters and when Bill responds that there are only six nester families left, Ballard angrily lets them know that there are only 3 days left before the government will take over the homesteads because there are no improvements on them. (He should know. He's burned the improvements off each homestead.) When the three days are up, he states, he's ripping up the fences and running his cattle through them, regardless of what the marshal says.



When Ballard and Steve leave the building, Bill apologizes about making Ballard angry. The marshal reassures him that his job of finding the Durango Kid is still his. Bill calls Ballard aside and warns him that if he tears down the fences before the law says he can, the marshal will likely send him out to run him off. Do you think you can, queries Ballard. Bill didn't know but it might not be so difficult if the Durango Kid had a hand in it. Anyone who could shoot a gunbelt off a person without hitting him would be a force to reckon with. When Bill walks away, Steve asks how he knew about the gunbelt. But now Ballard knows that Bill is the Durango Kid and everything falls into place.




Now out in Hidden Valley, the homesteaders are patiently waiting. There is one day left before Ballard can legally take over their land and they are frightened.




The Durango Kid rides in with the last money from Ballard which brought the grand total to $30,000. Some of the nesters want to divide the money and leave but the Durango Kid would like to see them wait until Ballard's wings are clipped. Then they would bring in the lumber and quickly throw up new homes before the inspectors could come.



After he leaves, however, they decide that is much too risky and it would be better to leave now. Nancy tries to reason with them but they don't listen to her.



Nancy volunteers to put the money in the strong box and, instead, takes all of it.



She knots it into her apron, jumps on a horse and heads to town and Bill Lowry. She is unnoticed by the homesteaders who are packing their wagons.



Up in the hills, Ballard and his men spot her and are curious about why she is in such a hurry. They stop her and question her. Ballard takes the money and sends her with his men to his ranch to wait for him.



Ballard prevents Steve from hitting Nancy and takes him along to town. He enjoys walking into the Marshal's office and confronting Bill Lowry with all the money.



After Bill sees that the money has been wrapped in Nancy's apron, he fears for her but hides it.



Unknown to both of them, Marshal Trayboe has been watching Ballard, too, and sees Bill follow him out. Inside the quiet facade, the marshal's mind has followed everything and he knows that Bill is Durango. He prepares to help.



Nancy is held captive in Ballard's house and they wait the arrival of the Durango Kid.



Nancy pleads with Ballard to no effect while outside the Durango Kid has arrived. Durango knocks out one guard, slips around the others and quietly opens the door. Nancy sees him out of the window but says nothing to Ballard.



An over confidant Ballard pours himself a drink, lifts it in mock salute to the girl and the Durango Kid, coming in through the door behind him, takes it neatly from his hand and sets it down. He holds his father's killer at gunpoint and Nancy comes to stand beside him.



He forces Ballard to open the safe again but Ballard gets the drop on him, unmasks him and holds him at gunpoint.



Still smarting from the time the Durango Kid shot his gunbelt off, he shoots at Bill's scarf.



Bill turns his back on him, reminding him aloud how his father died. Ballard told him that his father was very foolish and had to be put out of the way. Bill grabbed something from the desk in front of him and hurled it at Ballard, then grapples with him. They fight all over the room until the marshal comes in with his men and Ballard's men.



Marshal Trayboe lets Ballard know that he heard his confession of guilt. Ballard makes a dash for the door and Bob Nolan holds the crooks at gunpoint while Bill runs after his arch enemy. Ballard takes a rifle from a saddle scabbard and fires at Bill then ducks behind the barn door.



Bill shoots through the barn door and Ballard falls out, dead. Bill looks at the body wearily and says, "I gave you more of a chance than you gave my Dad."



Back in town, Bill prepares to give himself up to the marshal but Trayboe, with a twinkle in his eye, tells him that when he killed Ballard, he killed the Durango Kid. Bill asks if he'd been aware who the Durango Kid was all the time and the marshall answered cryptically, "What do you think?"



Outside on the porch, Bill pins his badge on Nancy and puts his arms around her while the Pioneers sing, "There's a Rainbow Over the Range".




Production and Publicity Stills:


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Calin Coburn Collections ©2005




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