(aka "North of Texas", "Call of the Trail" and "Rio Grande Stampede")
Columbia Pictures Corporation of California
Production Dates: August 25 - September 2, 1938
Release Date: 1938 12 08
Running time: 58-59 minutes
Key book (production) number: 309
Rio Grande is of special interest because, although Bob Nolan wrote all the songs for the film, Columbia hired another more conventional baritone to sing the solo parts for him. To his obvious amusement, Bob was forced to lip sync during the singing scenes. He was second lead to Charles Starrett and his character was integral to the story. He did some of his own choreographed fight scenes but the real rough and tumble was done by stunt doubles. Bob had done his homework, though, for his timing was excellent - and so was his fast draw.
Wally Wales, an early western series film star, appears in this film as a tragic hero. Before too long he would resume his own name (Hal Taliaferro) and accept roles as a villain or character actor in the Republic films.
Ann Doran as Jean Andrews and Charles Starrett as Cliff Houston
Left: Bob Nolan as Bob Stevens and the Sons of the Pioneers as Houston's ranch hands.
Right: Dick Curtis as Ed Barker and George Chesebro as Kruger
Edward LeSaint as Banker Sanborn, Wally Wales as Bart Andrews and Hank Bell as Hank, the Andrews' foreman
Edward Peil Sr. as Banker Hayes and Art Mix as Durkin
Other is the cast:
Lee Prather as Goulding
Stanley Brown as the man who refuses a job
Fred Burns as Jackson, rancher
Ted Mapes as Slim, a cowhand
Forrest Taylor as Jud
1. The West is in My Soul (Bob Nolan)
2. Bronco Pal (Bob Nolan)
3. Slumber Time on the Range (Bob Nolan)
4. The West is in My Soul (Bob Nolan)
The film opens on a ranch in Texas with Bob Stevens and the Sons of the Pioneers washing their clothing outside while they sing The West is in My Soul. Bob Nolan is sitting a little apart from them, repairing his boots. (He lip syncs the solo parts to his song.) Pat is vainly trying to keep ahead of them, hanging the wet clothes as they are tossed to him. Just as they finish the song, Pat's clothesline snaps and all the clean clothes fall to the ground.
The owner of the ranch, Jackson, drives up in a buckboard, bearing the mail. The Pioneers and Cliff Houston all crowd around, hoping for letters, teasing one another. Pat opens his new ventriloquist course, mispronouncing it beautifully. Cliff, on the other hand, has a letter that sobers him. He asks his employer if he can take some time off to go to the aid of his friend, Bart Andrews, and is given permission to go to Crescent City.
Meanwhile, in Crescent City, Bart Andrews and his sister, Jean, are driving in to the bank to see about obtaining a loan. Town villain, Ed Barker, and his side man, Kruger, watch them come in. Barker intends to get his hands on the Andrews ranch and has already tried to buy it from the Andrews. His offer was insulting and Bart is clearly antagonistic toward him.
Bart walks into banker Sanborn's office and discusses the situation with him. He is refused a loan because Sanborn himself is afraid of Barker. If Barker withdraws his money from Sanborn's bank, the bank will go under.
Because none of the buyers ever show up at the Andrews ranch, Bart hasn't been able to sell his cattle. Heading back to the buckboard, Bart meets another rancher, Jud, and asks him for help. He asks Jud if he can borrow some of his crew to help him take his cattle to market. Jud has to refuse, too. No one will buck Barker.
There are strong words between Bart and Barker that are leading into a gunfight until Jean runs in front of her brother and persuades him to leave town with her. As the brother and sister leave town in their buckboard, Barker tells Kruger, "I'll be back in a little while."
Barker rides up into the hills, ambushes them and shoots Bart. Jean gets Bart home and into the house but he dies shortly after.
Two weeks later, Cliff rides into town and heads into the bar to get directions to the Andrews Ranch. The bartender tells him of his brother's death while Barker and Kruger drift in out of curiosity. Thinking Cliff is a cattle buyer, Barker introduces himself and warns him away from Andrews. Cliff, instinctively distrusting Barker, plays along.
Back at the ranch, the crew all quit because they don't want to get involved in anything this violent. They were hired as ranch hands not gunfighters. Foreman, Hank, understands and sympathizes but he stays with Jean.
As they are considering their options, a stranger to them rides up on a white horse - Cliff. Not realizing that he is Bart's close friend, they suspect he is one of Barker's men. Jean stays in the house and grabs a rifle while Hank sneaks around behind Cliff to get the drop on him. After a bit of discussion, the three of them get their facts straight and go into the house to decide what to do about Barker.
Knowing that her ranch hands have all quit and believing she is now in a vulnerable condition, Barker and Kruger ride up to offer to buy Jean's ranch again. (Cliff stays hidden behind a curtain in the house until he feels Jean is being unduly harassed.) She refuses unconditionally and virtually accuses Barker of murdering her brother. He starts threatening her and Hank reaches for his gun. So does Kruger and things look ugly until Cliff fires a warning shot and comes out of the house. He informs Kruger that he is going to run the ranch himself and then runs him off.
Cliff arranges to send for his boys down in Texas. His "boys" are, of course, the Sons of the Pioneers. Cliff rides into town to attempt to hire some extra men but none are interested in crossing Barker.
Jean and Hank show Cliff around the ranch. Barker and Kruger wait to see them leave and then head off to steal their herd. Jean and Cliff eventually find their herd being driven off and Cliff gives chase, unaware that he is being maneuvered into a position where he can be shot. Barker takes a long shot at him and Cliff falls from his horse, dragging from a foot caught in a stirrup. When he finally frees his foot, Cliff lies still for a moment while Jean and Hank ride up - but he is unhurt although he teases Jean into thinking he is.
Shortly thereafter, the Sons of the Pioneers ride in from Texas, singing Bronco Pal. They are carrying their instruments (including Pat's bull fiddle) and Bob is lip syncing his solo part over the hired baritone voice once more.
Out in the yard, Cliff, Jean and Hank hear them come and Hank announces the arrival of a medicine show. Cliff tells him that, no, this is his crew from Texas.
The meeting is cordial until Hank makes a crack about Pat's bass fiddle. Pat responds by using his new skills as a ventriloquist to call him names. Hank's temper rises as he is unable to find out which man is mocking him. Cliff laughs it off and explains about the ventriloquism course. Hank is immediately eager to learn how to throw his own voice. Pat assures him condescendingly that, sure, he could learn how to do it "...but with me it's a gift," he says. A small war has been declared and skirmishes take place between the two men throughout the rest of the movie.
Bob and Cliff discuss the problem of Barker while Jean and the men go off to the bunkhouse. Jean goes into the house to prepare something to eat but Bob and Cliff decide to skip lunch. They mount and ride. Cliff has tried to hire men before without results but this time he has another idea.
Cliff rides into town alone, Kruger reports his appearance to Barker and, as he goes into the saloon again, Barker orders Kruger to find out what's going on. As Cliff passes them, Barker stops him and elicits the fact that Cliff is going to rustle all of Jean's beef. He needs extra riders so Barker promises to supply them. He sends Kruger out to round up six riders.
Shortly after that, Bob Stevens rides into town, "discovers" Cliff in the saloon and goes for his gun. Cliff shoots it out of his hand. They have a rousing good fight and mess each other up a bit. All the hangers-on in the saloon, including Barker, are convinced that they are deadly enemies. The bartender finally puts an end to the fight with his shotgun and Cliff walks out in time to meet the men Barker has lent him.
Bob leaves the saloon after Cliff and pretends he's going to shoot him in the back. He's restrained by Barker who engages him in conversation then offers him a job. Bob asks Barker if Cliff has offered to go halves with him on a job and then tells him it's a scam. He's pulled that before and people have been killed. Barker isn't worried and Bob accepts the job of watching over Cliff so no one kills him until Barker is ready. Bob says that's all right with him as long as he can do the killing himself. Barker accepts that and they shake on it.
The scene changes and we find Hank back at the ranch, with his feet up on an outside table, instructing Pat how to keep busy. Hank hastily removes his feet and stands up when Jean comes out of the house, worried about Cliff's delay. Hank is about to look for him when Cliff arrives with Barker's men. He sends them to the bunkhouse out of earshot and explains the setup to Hank, Jean and the Pioneers. The drive of the thousand cattle is to start in the morning and should take a week.
The next scene takes place at night around a campfire with Lloyd Perryman and the Pioneers singing the lovely "Slumber Time on the Range". (Bob is not in the scene but his voice is.) When the men go out to relieve the others on herd duty, Cliff heads alone for town to see what's happening to Bob.
Bob is in the saloon gambling with some of Barker's men when he notices Cliff peeking through the window at him. Cliff goes around to the doors and enters, guns drawn, demanding why Bob is there with Barker. Barker assures him that they're both working on the same team and to relax.
Barker introduces him to the buyer, Goulding, then Cliff leaves. The game resumes and Bob overhears Barker and Goulding laughing about the fact that Goulding's cheque will be no good. He plays a bit longer then pretends weariness and goes out to warn Cliff but Kruger goes with him, afraid he will go gunning for Houston. Bob had to do some quick thinking so he stops and lights a cigarette near where Cliff is hiding in the shadows and jokes with Kruger about the bad cheque.
Back on the drive next morning, Cliff sees Bob on the hilltop and makes the mistake of riding up to see what he wants. Bob was making sure that Cliff had taken the hint last night and to tell him that he knew now that Barker had killed Andrews. Unfortunately, Durkin sees them together and is puzzled.
In the next scene we see Cliff, Jean and Hank ride in to town. Cliff meets Goulding who prepares to write him a cheque but Cliff refuses a cheque, saying that he wants to have cash so he can split with Barker before he leaves town. That sounds reasonable to Goulding and, since he doesn't know what else to do, he plans to meet Cliff at the bank, then quickly crosses to the saloon to tell Barker and Bob and asks what to go. Barker tells him to go ahead, that Bob will soon enough be taking care of Cliff.
Just then, Durkin comes in and asks who Bob is, recognizing him from earlier in the morning on the hill. Barker is suspicious but Bob says he's been with Kruger all the time and Kruger agrees. They all leave for the bank.
Jean watches from an alleyway and Hank leans against a wall, waiting for their cue. Right on time, Jean enters the bank just as Cliff leaves with the money. She takes the money from him and asks the banker to deposit it into her account.
It is all neatly and naturally done but Kruger smells a rat, draws a gun on Cliff and disarms him. Barker decides that Bob Stevens must have told him about the deal beforehand. Cliff, pretending anger, asks for a gun so he can take care of Bob. Barker smiles and tells Durkin to bring in Bob. Barker gives Cliff a gun and he holds up all the villains, Bob stepping to his side. The gun turns out to be empty, both Bob and Cliff are taken captive and pushed into a room with Kruger to guard them. Barker goes to Jean's hotel room and tells her the men are hostages, demanding her ranch as ransom.
Back in the guarded room, Bob asks for a cigarette from Kruger and goes to sit on a box to smoke it. When Bob creates a disturbance by upsetting the box, Cliff disarms Kruger. The noise they make brings Durkin to ask if everything is OK. Kruger, Cliff's gun at his throat, assures him that everything is fine. Hank is watching from across the street, not knowing what is happening. He walks up to talk to Durkin and peeks through the window to see Cliff nodding to him. Cliff quietly opens the door behind Durkin, holds him up and Hank hustles him back into the room.
In the hotel room, Jean has just signed her ranch over to Barker, unaware that he plans to kill Cliff and Bob, anyway. Goulding sees Cliff coming across the street and shoots at him. Cliff returns his fire and hits him. Barker leaves through the window and rides out of town. Cliff drops out of a second storey window onto Raider and gives chase. Jean and Bob mount and follow. They arrive after Cliff has bulldogged Barker from his horse and bested him in a fist fight.
The film ends with the whole troupe riding down the trail to the tune of "The West is in My Soul". Hank, using his new ventriloquist skills, imitates Cliff's voice and asks Jean if she'll marry him. She accepts an astonished Cliff who turns and thanks Pat. Pat is shocked and Hank answers in Pat's voice. Hank assures him that with him it's a gift!
Charles Starrett and Ann Doran
Karl E. Farr Collection
Charles Starrett, Pat Brady, Hugh Farr, Bob Nolan, Karl Farr and Lloyd Perryman
Calin Coburn Collections ©2004
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
Charles Starrett and Dick Curtis
Charles Starrett, Hank Bell and Art Mix
Hank Bell, Charles Starrett, Ann Doran, Dick Curtis and George Chesebro
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
Press Kit (courtesy of Les Adams)
courtesy of Les Adams