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Spoilers of the Range

(aka "The Oklahoma Trail" / "The Prairie Nights")


Columbia Pictures Corporation of California

Production Dates: February 2 - 14, 1939

Release Date: 1939 04 27

Running time: 50 or 58 minutes (6 reels)

Key book (production) number: 313





Plot Summary

Production & Publicity Stills


Movie Block


        "Spoilers of the Range" is an good showcase for the Sons of the Pioneers and would have been a superb one if only the director had allowed Bob Nolan to solo in his own songs. An unidentified pleasant voice was once again dubbed in but it was the last time this would happen. Bob Nolan had loyal fans from four years of Sons of the Pioneers' radio programs, personal appearance shows and tours. His fans wanted to hear Bob's unique voice in the movies, too, and they successfully put pressure on Columbia. We hear Bob in every song in the next film, "Western Caravans".

        Bob was second lead in "Spoilers of the Range" and there are some good scenes, including a comical dance sequence with two children. He was at ease in his character as ranch foreman. The film had the requisite amount of action and hard riding; the music came naturally in community dances and around campfires. The heavy bears the villainous name of "Lobo Savage". For some reason, bales of hay are deemed protection from bullets in gunfight scenes.

        "Oklahoma Trail" was the original name for the movie and at least one publicity photo was printed with that name on it. With this film, Tim Spencer returned to the Sons of the Pioneers and one of his songs, Sagebrush Symphony, is used plus the song he and Bob wrote together, Saddle the Sun.




Iris Meredith as Madge Patterson and Charles Starrett as Jeff Strong


Hank Bell as the Sheriff and Edward LeSaint as Dan Patterson


Bob Nolan as Bob, Jeff Strong's ranch foreman and the Sons of the Pioneers as the ranch hands


Dick Curtis as Lobo Savage and Kenneth MacDonald as Cash Fenton


Edmund Cobb as Kendall and Art Mix as Santos


Stanley Brown (left) as young man in the buggy


Edward Peil Sr as Harper and Forbes Murray as David Rowland, the dam contractor



Songs: We are unsure of the names of the instrumentals.

Saddle the Sun (Bob Nolan / Tim Spencer)

Instrumental (Up and At 'Em?)

Sagebrush Symphony

Instrumental (Dallas?)

Trail Herdin’ Cowboy (Bob Nolan)
Trail Dreamin’ (Bob Nolan)

Instrumental (Then I Said Goodbye?)
Saddle the Sun to end credits

Plot Summary: The film opens in front of the Mesa Verde Water Company building with the Sons of the Pioneers singing "Saddle Saddle the Sun". There is excitement and happiness in the air.




        The townsfolk are gathered around Jeff Strong's ranch hands and one little girl catches the foreman's eye. The foreman, Bob Nolan, mimes a hug to the immense amusement of a little boy.



        The Sheriff (Hank), Madge Patterson (daughter of a ranch owner) and Cash Fenton (saloon owner) come out to enjoy the music.



        Hank makes a little speech encouraging the people to put a donation in his hat to pay for the prizes at the dance contest later in the evening. The Sons of the Pioneers play some more music while Madge Patterson passes the hat while Hank persuades the people to dig deep.



        Cash Fenton calls Hank over and ostentatiously drops a lavish donation into the hat. By this time the music is just too good to resist and a little boy asks the little girl to dance. The exhilarated townspeople soon join in, clapping and dancing.



        Bob pushes his hat forward over his eyes, taps the boy on the shoulder and steals his little dance partner for a dance.



        Before too long the boy cuts in on Bob, grabs his little partner and gives Bob a shove out of the way. Bob puts up his fists and pretends he is ready to fight but the little boy ignores him and whirls the little girl around. The clowning adds to the general hilarity.



        Madge and Hank bring the hat up to Bob just as Jeff and Dan Patterson, her father, arrive. The two men have been watching the new dam fill up and happily anticipate no more shortage of water.



        Hank gives Mr. Patterson the hat money for the prizes and then, tongue in cheek, asks Madge when he can pick her up for the dance. Jeff butts in and it looks as if a fight may ensue but Madge solves it by refusing to go with either man. She later relents and tells Jeff she'll expect him at 8 o'clock.



        Cash, standing back and watching everything, is called into the saloon by his bar keeper. Lobo Savage and his men are waiting for him at the bar. Cash invites Lobo into his office and we now find out that Cash is the snake in the grass. He plans a giant theft, the whole valley, and he needs the aid of Savage and his vicious band of outlaws.



        Cash tells Lobo that there is $50,000 in the Water company's safe, the last payment the towns people are making on its construction. Lobo is to steal the money tonight while the dance contest is on.



        Back at the community hall the Sons of the Pioneers are providing more music for the dancers, this time "Sagebrush Symphony".



        Cash enters the hall just as the first dance ends and Bob Nolan introduces the speakers, first of all Mr. Patterson and then David J. Rowland, the contractor. Their subject is, of course, the new dam and all it will mean to the valley.



        Cash claps loudly to draw attention to his presence in the hall.



        Rowland reminds everyone that they all owe a great debt to Jeff for his original idea and then all the time and effort he put into organizing the building of the dam. Jeff is persuaded to make a speech and he thanks all the townspeople for pinching and saving to make it possible. He reminds them that tomorrow the final payment will be made to Mr. Rowland.



        Now the dance contest is about to begin and Bob chooses the judges, including Hank who promises that Jeff will win no prize tonight!



        Cash slips out unobserved, meets briefly with Lobo and his men and returns to watch events unfold.



        The three judges take their jobs seriously during the next dance. Jeff and Madge are suggested as possible winners but Hank shoots that idea down.



        An explosion sends everyone out into the night in time to see several riders vanish into the darkness. The sheriff, Jeff and Bob send a few futile shots after them before they run for their horses.



        As the town empties of men, Lobo quietly returns to Cash's office with the saddlebags full of money. Cash places them in his safe.

        The posse easily loses the bandits in the dark. Hank and the posse continue their search while Jeff goes back to the office where he finds the Pattersons and Rowland staring at the empty safe.



        Jeff attempts to have Rowland make an extension to their final payment of the loan and Rowland is willing but he, too, has obligations. The theft is an immense tragedy to the whole valley.



        They all head over to see if Cash will loan them the money. Although they are unaware of it, Cash loans them their own stolen dollars. They unwittingly fall right into his trap by offering him the dam as security. The ranchers have two to three weeks to round up their cattle and sell them to pay Cash back.



        The Sons of the Pioneers sing "Trail Herdin' Cowboy" as they round up the cattle and, with renewed hope, head them for Boulder Pass.



        Kendall, after checking out the Pass, rides back to meet them with the bad news that gunmen are blocking their way. Jeff, Bob, Madge, Kendall and Harper leave the herd and ride ahead to see what is happening. At this point no one is aware that Lobo Savage is in cahoots with Cash Fenton and they cannot understand why anyone should want to homestead the Pass.



        They find Lobo Savage and his armed men behind the locked fence that will keep the cattle from going through to market. There is no viable alternate route. Taking the cattle through Boulder Pass is the only way to get the money in time to pay Cash or lose the dam.



        Lobo has settled on the land legally and will not budge. Madge offers to pay anything reasonable for passage and Lobo sets the price at $5 a head. She refuses with flashing eyes and calls him a robber.



        When Lobo tells Madge to "put up or shut up", her father reaches for his revolver and Savage shoots him in the shoulder.



        Shocked, the others go for their guns but Jeff stops them and manages to keep a fiery Madge from drawing her own revolver. Her father calls her back and Jeff asks Bob to turn the herds back.



        Back in town, a grim Hank asks Madge how her father is going to be while Cash watches from the sidewalk. Her father will recover fully but she is angry at Jeff for doing nothing.



        Jeff arrives and the men ask him what they should do next. He advises seeing Cash once more to see if the time can be extended. Madge is hostile. Jeff calls Cash out to the sidewalk. He pleads for more time but Cash says he does not know why he is the one who has to suffer. He wouldn't, he said, let a bunch of gunmen stop him. Madge agrees and the crowd starts to get angry.



        Jeff and the Sheriff both advise the crowd to wait because the law is on the side of Lobo Savage. Madge insists that the only law he knows is gunsmoke and that the ranchers will handle it in their own way.



        Jeff suggests Hank ride to Boulder City to see if Savage has indeed homesteaded the Boulder Pass. Hank wonders if he will be able to will get through the pass but Jeff has a plan. He will provide a diversion and Hank will ride through unmolested. Meanwhile Madge is inciting the ranchers to take the law into their own hands. She suggests they start the drive first thing in the morning and stampede the herd through. They all agree.



        Early next morning, while it is still dark, Jeff and Hank race out to the Pass to reconnoiter. When they see there is only one man on guard, Jeff rides near the camp and the outlaws pour out of their tents and follow him.



        Hank sees his chance and tries to sneak through but they see him. Lobo says he will follow Jeff and orders the rest to follow Hank who loses them quickly.



        Jeff dismounts, hides in a wash and holds Lobo up. A fierce fight ensues. The other outlaws give up on Hank and head back to Lobo. It is a race between finishing the fight and the arrival of the outlaw gang but Jeff manages to knock Lobo out and escape.



        Lobo, regaining consciousness, tells his men he is going in to see Cash and they should continue to guard the Pass.



         Jeff, watching from the trees, follows him right to Cash's office. For the first time, he makes the connection between the two men.



        Lobo is worried that, while Hank is in Boulder City, he will find out that Savage is wanted. Cash calms him by saying all he has to do is make sure the sheriff does not get back. Leave that to me, Savage assures him.



        Late that evening, Bob Nolan races in to the doctor's office and hammers on his door. Jeff Strong, he says, is badly injured after a run-in with Lobo Savage.



        Listening from the shadows, Cash can't understand this apparent change of plan.



        Madge rides out of town with Bob and an uninjured Jeff holds them up. Madge doesn't appreciate his idea of humour, draws her gun and demands he get his hand off her bridle. Bob grabs her gun and cautions her to at least listen to Jeff's plan. The two men take her to the camp with them.



        At the camp, the ranch hands are singing "Trail Dreamin'". Jeff, Bob and Madge ride in quietly and wait until the song is through.



        Bob offers Madge a cup of coffee and the hands play some soft music while the three of them discuss what has to be done. For the first time she hears of Cash's duplicity and that Hank has ridden to Boulder City for information.



        Fenton rides to the Pass to find out from Savage just what happened to Jeff Strong. Savage is puzzled by the tale but Fenton begins to see what Jeff is up to and he reminds Lobo to be sure the sheriff does not get back.



        The ranchers gather, waiting for Madge, watched by an unseen Santos who reports back to Savage. Tired of waiting for her, the ranchers begin the drive without Madge.



        Santos reports what he has seen to Lobo.



        Meanwhile, Jeff and his hands wait with Madge for Hank's arrival. Just as the ranchers begin the drive, Hank arrives with the news that although the homestead is in Lobo's name, it was Cash Fenton who had filed on it.



        Jeff decides to "run a bluff" on Lobo and tells Madge it's up to her to hold the ranchers back. She is sure she can and sets out to do it.



        Now begins the race between the ranchers and Madge. All may be lost and much blood shed if the ranchers force the cattle through as planned.



        Hank and Jeff separate from the ranch hands and deliberately ride right into Savage's gunnies who hold them up and take them to camp.



        Madge rides furiously to head off the ranchers and the huge herd.



        Lobo is pleased with the capture of Jeff and Hank but he is puzzled by their obvious amusement at his expense, unaware that Jeff's men are positioning themselves under the trees.



        Jeff and Hank are tied to chairs inside the tent, not realizing that they are totally helpless in the path of a cattle stampede.



        Lobo hears Jeff and Hank joking to each other and wants to know more. Jeff explains what is happening but Lobo thinks he is bluffing. Jeff tells him to look outside.



        Bob wonders aloud to Lloyd if he can shoot the hat from Lobo's head - and does. The outlaws dive for cover behind bales of hay.



        The ranchers start their stampede.



        Madge, from a rise in the ground, recognizes the danger and changes direction, racing to the tent where Jeff and Hank are bound to chairs.



        The outlaws see their own danger and run. Madge manages to free Hank and Jeff just before the cattle tear through the pass, knocking everything down in their path.



        The outlaw band heads for town with Hank, Jeff and his men right behind them.



        Jeff sends Madge for the ranchers while Jeff, Hank and the Pioneers follow the outlaws straight to Fenton's saloon. There is plenty of action and gunsmoke.



        Crouched behind the questionable shelter of a bale of hay, Bob does his share of firing, wincing with every shot.



        When the outlaws are trapped in the saloon, Lobo decides to go up onto the roof to pick off Jeff but Mr. Patterson shoots him, thereby saving Jeff's life.



        They rush the saloon and Hank shoots Fenton.



        The Pioneers sing "Saddle the Sun" once more as they ride toward Boulder Pass with the Pattersons and Hank. They find Jeff is sitting under a corrected sign. Officiously, he tells them that they cannot go through. The Pioneers grin, wondering what comes next.




        Jeff agrees to let them pass through only if Madge will marry him. Madge asks her father what he thinks - and he agrees!




Production & Publicity Stills


The first name chosen for the film.


Courtesy of John Fullerton






Calin Coburn Collection ©2004


Hugh Farr



Karl Farr


Tim Spencer who has just rejoined the Sons of the Pioneers and now helps Bob write the music. 


Lloyd Perryman courtesy of his song, Wayne Perryman.




Private Collection




Courtesy of Jan Scott


Courtesy of Jan Scott


Courtesy of Jan Scott


Courtesy of Jan Scott


Calin Coburn Collections © 2004


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Hank Bell

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Iris Meredith and Hank Bell

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey





Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Ed Phillips



Courtesy of Earl Bryant



Courtesy of Jan Scott



Courtesy of John Fullerton


Calin Coburn Collections © 2004


Calin Coburn Collections © 2004


Calin Coburn Collections © 2004


Calin Coburn Collections © 2004


Courtesy of Ed Phillips


Courtesy of John Fullerton


Calin Coburn Collections © 2004










Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Les Adams


Calin Coburn Collections © 2004


Courtesy of Earl Bryant




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey





1952 re-issue courtesy of Earl Bryant



Movie Block