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Outlaws of the Prairie

(aka "The Singing Rangers")

 

Columbia Pictures Corporation

Production Dates: October 22 - November 5, 1937

Release Date: 1937 12 31

Running time: 58 minutes

Key book (production) number: 300

 

Credits

Cast

Songs

Plot Summary

Production Stills

Posters

Sheet Music

Glass Slides

This movie is available on DVD.

 

        Outlaws of the Prairie is the old story of mysterious stagecoach holdups, lost payrolls and gold. It is also the story of vengeance. It is the horror filled tale of a young boy who had his fingers cut off by the man who killed his father and his growth into a young Ranger who finds the perpetrator. To lighten the grim tale, the Sons of the Pioneers sing songs composed by Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer and Roy Rogers although the latter two men were not in the film.

        This film foreshadows Bob's role in these Starrett movies. Although Donald Grayson is the second lead, Bob has some scenes important to the story and the camera is on him frequently.

        Only four of the Sons of the Pioneers appear in this film: Bob Nolan, Lloyd Perryman, Hugh Farr and Pat Brady. Leonard Slye had gone over to Republic to eventually become Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer had resigned from the group and Karl Farr was ill. Karl was, however, present when the songs were recorded. His guitar is easily recognized.

        Unfortunately, the quality of our video is very poor and the sound worse. We will replace both the images and sound files if and when we find a better copy of the film.  



Cast:

 

Charles Starrett as Dart Collins, Iris Meredith as Judy Garfield

 

Left: Dick Curtis as Dragg and Norman Willis as William Lupton

Right: The Sons of the Pioneers as Rangers

 

 

Centre: Donald Grayson as Slim Grayson

Right: Edward LeSaint as Lafe Garfield and Edmund Cobb as Jed Stevens

 

Hank Bell as Ranger Jim

 

Others in the Cast:

Art Mix as Lawton, henchman

Steve Clark as Cobb

Earle Hodgins as Neepah, the Medicine Showman

Lee Shumway as Ranger Captain MacMillan

George Chesebro as uncredited townsman

Jack Kirk as uncredited ranger

Frank Shannon as Dart Collins Sr., uncredited

Joe Yrigoyen as uncredited outlaw


Songs:

1. Open Range Ahead: (B. Nolan) 
2. My Saddle Pals and I: (R. Rogers)
3. Blue Prairie: (T. Spencer / B. Nolan)
4. Song of the Bandit: (B. Nolan)
5. Open Range Ahead to credits.

Plot Summary:

        The story opens on the verandah of the Ranger station with Donald Grayson leading the other Rangers (the Sons of the Pioneers) in song. Their performance of "Open Range Ahead" is interrupted by Dart who is practicing fanning his six-gun at targets.

 

 

 

        Dart has two fingers missing on his right hand so cannot pull the trigger, thence the practice. The Ranger captain is drawn outside by the racket and talks it over with Jim, another ranger. No one knows how Dart lost the fingers because he never discusses it. Don throws a can up for him and four out of five bullets hit it while it is still in the air.

 

 

        Another ranger gallops up to the porch and falls from his horse. The men carry him into the station but he dies before he can name the leader of the outlaws.  The captain tells the rangers that he intends to stop this gang if it takes all his men.

 

 

        Jim suggests a plan that would have most of the rangers arrive in Oro Grande masquerading as a medicine show while Dart and Don enter the town separately.

 

 

        Ten miles out of Oro Grande, Dart and Don pause before an old grave and Dart finally tells the story behind his two missing fingers.

 

 

        When he was still a little boy, he and his father arrived in the country as pioneers, chose their site and started to unload the wagon. The government had opened up the land to homesteaders and they were within their rights to settle where they were.

 

 

        The owner of a large ranch wanted the land for himself and had Dart's father shot in the back. Little Dart, watching from the brush, shot at one of the ranchers when he saw them set fire to his wagon home.

 

 

        The boy was caught quickly and two of his fingers were cut off in punishment. The man accidentally left his knife behind him and on the hilt were carved two letters, "BL", the only clue as to his identity. Dart told Don that he was still looking for the man. He still had the knife and it was his only clue.

 

  

 

        In Oro Grande, the stagecoach arrives, the guards carry the gold shipment out of the building and load it. The worried mine owners stand around, including Jed Stevens, Lafe Garfield and his daughter, Judy. Lupton holds the notes on all the mines and this shipment is critical.

 

 

        Drag and his partner wait on top of a hill to await the shipment. When they see it coming, they race down with their gang of men, shoot the Sheriff who is riding shotgun and the stagecoach guards run off. The gang removes the gold from the coach then sends the coach back to town. It is obvious to Dart and Don, watching from the hill, that this has all been preplanned. They are sorely tempted to intervene but decide they must wait to know more about what is going on before they show their hands. Dart asks Don to meet the boys while he goes into town to observe what happens when the stage arrives.

 

 

        Drag gets to town first and strides in to gloat with Lupton who is obviously his cohort in the crime. The stagecoach returns and and they walk out to the porch to watch. Pretending to be shocked at the loss of the payroll and the driver, Drag attempts, without success, to incite the townsfolk to form a posse.

 

 

        Dart follows Lupton back into the Post Office where the doctor is caring for the Sheriff. Under the pretext of writing a message, Dart watches and listens while Lafe Garfield and Jed Stevens walk in and accuse Lupton of organizing the whole thing.

 

 

        Lupton starts to draw on the old man but Judy steps between him and her father and begs Lupton to let her talk sense to him. Because Judy is his secretary and because it suits him at that moment, Lupton listens to her but warns the two men that he is foreclosing on them.

 

 

        Lupton leaves the building, meets Drag and gives him the pay for the men he had hired for the holdup. He also warns Drag that Garfield and Stevens have to be watched.

 

 

        And so the medicine show travels to Oro Grande with Bob Nolan twirling his gun while they all sing "My Saddle Pals and I". The outlaws watch from the hill and then go down to question the men, thinking they might be lawmen. When they find out they are a medicine show, they laugh and leave for town. [Notice the man behind Bob, practicing his rope tricks and roping Bob all the way through the song. This amuses the Pioneers. Also notice how Pat is miming Karl's guitar picking with pizzazz!]

 

 

        Dart keeps to the shadows in town to see what he can see. When he thinks he is unobserved, he goes to his saddle and, from a little cinch pocket, he removes his identification paper. With the paper in his pocket, he walks to the Garfield house and, when he is invited in, pulls down the blind and identifies himself as a Ranger. They discuss ways and means of solving the problem of the robberies and Judy promises to help from her position as secretary to Lupton. Judy is to discover the combination to the safe so Dart can open it and look at Lupton's personal bank deposit totals, then compare them with the payroll losses.

 

 

 

        Around their campfire that night, Don and the Sons of the Pioneers sing "Blue Prairie" until Dart arrives.

 

 

        Dart and Don discuss ways and means, finally deciding on having a shooting match and then starting a fight.

 

 

        Bright and early the next day, the rangers ride into town to the tune of "Song of the Bandit", attracting the attention of the whole town, including Lupton and his rannies.

 

 

        The "medicine man", Nee-pah, announces a shooting match, pitting Bob Nolan ("The Great Nolan") against anyone for the prize of $25. Bob stands there grinning and twirling his revolver.

 

 

        Dart allows himself to be persuaded to compete. Bob finally misses a shot, pretends to turn sullen and bumps Dart as he takes his final shot. Dart draws his gun on Bob and Dragg steps up beside him to back him. Bob apologizes. The apology is grudgingly accepted.

 

 

        Lupton stops Dart and they go into his office, past Judy. Lupton is about to hire Dart as a gunslinger when they are interrupted. Judy and her father are apparently unable to hold back Jed Stevens as he bursts into the office with his gun leveled.

 

 

        Dart shoots the gun from Jed's hand and Dragg punches him for good measure. Dart stops Dragg from shooting Jed and Lupton orders Stevens put into jail. Lupton thanks Dart for saving his life because, for once, he was caught without a gun. He swears it will never happen again and he goes to the safe. Dart signals Judy who stands unobtrusively behind him and memorizes the combination.

 

 

        Lupton takes out his guns and Dart notices the initials "BL" on the holster. Frozen in shock for a few moments, he realizes he has found his father's killer. He takes himself in hand and carries on with his original plans. Dart goes out, meeting Dragg in the doorway. When Lupton signals Dragg to go into the office with him, Judy hurries out to give Dart the combination numbers.

 

 

        Dragg, suspicious of Dart, follows him in the dark to Garfield's home. While Dart is making plans with the Garfields, Dragg finds the identification paper in the secret pocket under the fenders on Raider's saddle.

 

 

        Dragg takes the paper to Lupton who is not unduly upset because he has plans to "take care of both of them when the time comes".

 

 

        Garfield collects a group of men to back him when he asks Lupton to let Stevens out of jail. This is a diversionary tactic to get Lupton out of the office to give Dart time to get into the safe.

 

 

        Judy closes the door and lets Dart in the back.

 

 

        Dragg gallops into town before Dart has found his information but Judy manages to divert Dragg to the jail. Judy lets Dart out of the back door and he kisses her quickly before he disappears.

 

   

    Outside, Stevens is telling Lupton loudly that he is still suspicious. He wants the mine owners to make a shipment on their own without Lupton's assistance in any way. Lupton agrees.

 

 

        Dragg enters the office with him and Judy quickly leaves. Dragg and Lupton plan to kill all of them when they hold up the stagecoach.

 

 

        Dart finds a personal bank account in the name of William Bagley with totals that tally with all the gold that has been stolen. They decide that Bagley is Lupton.

 

 

        On Saturday, the mine owners load the stage. Stevens drives the stage and Garfield rides shotgun. Dart and the others are aware the outriders are part of Lupton's gang. Dart rides along with them. Down the road a piece, a group of men race to the stagecoach.  The outriders are horrified to see the rangers instead of their own gang.

 

 

        The outlaws are forced to trade clothes with the rangers who now become the outriders. Stevens and Garfield are left in charge of the prisoners.

 

 

        Out in the hills, Lupton's gang rides down into the trap and they are dispatched quickly by the rangers.

 

 

        Dart goes back to town, this time without his badge. Now it is a personal act of vengeance - to get Lupton.

 

 

        He forces his way into Lupton's office, disarms him, draws his knife and lays it on the desk. Lupton, shocked, asks where he got the knife and Dart reminds him. Dart gives him a chance, backs out of the door and awaits him across the street.

 

        Dragg arrives on the scene, realizes what is going on and climbs onto the roof above Dart. He signals to Lupton to get Dart to come out from under the awning but Dart suspects what he is doing and calls Lupton. Lupton fires, is killed by Dart. Dart turns and shoots Dragg but is wounded himself.

 

 

        The story ends with with Dart, Judy and the rangers leaving town, singing "An Open Range Ahead".

 

 

        Dart points out his father's original homestead and they decide to make it their home.

 

       

 



 

Production Stills

 

Courtesy of Jan Scott

 

Courtesy of Jan Scott

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Ed Phillips

 

 

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

Courtesy of Jan Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Jan Scott

 


 

Posters

 

 

 

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey

 

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey

 

 

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey

 


 

Sheet Music

 

 

Glass Slides