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The Stranger from Texas

(aka "The Stranger")


Columbia Pictures Corporation

Production Dates: May 21 - August 14, 1939

Release Date: 1939 12 18

Running time: 54 minutes (6 reels)

Key book (production) number: 317





Plot Summary

Publicity or Production Stills


This movie is available on DVD.


        This film showcases the Sons of the Pioneers and Bob Nolan who plays second lead to Charles Starrett, a United States Marshall. Bob does his own riding and does it well. There are four new songs introduced although it must be noted that "Yippi Yi Yippi Yo" is written by Glenn Spencer who was not given credit for it.

        The story is the old one of unscrupulous men pitting one rancher against another in an attempt to rustle all the cattle. It leads to murder, lots of action and fast riding. Pat Brady has a small comic part in a foreshadowing of his future roles in both the Starrett and Roy Rogers' vehicles.

        Hal Taliaferro's character is a grubby, tobacco-chewing Wells Fargo agent completely antithetical to his immaculate Wally Wales hero image. But his riding skills are not diminished and we see him do a beautiful fast mount to rival any stunt rider in the business.




Charles Starrett as Tom Murdock, Dick Curtis as Bat Stringer and Lorna Gray as Jean Browning

(This is a publicity still and the scene did not occur in the film.)


Charles Starrett (US Marshall) and the Sons of the Pioneers as his deputies:

Karl Farr, Tim Spencer, Lloyd Perryman, Starrett, Bob Nolan, Pat Brady and Hugh Farr

(Courtesy of Ed Phillips)


Left: Richard Fiske as Ned Browning

Right: Edmund Cobb (with Dick Curtis) as Carver


Left: Jack Rockwell as Sheriff Fletcher

Right: Al Bridge as Jeff Browning


Left: Edward LeSaint as Dan Murdock

Right: Hal Taliaferro as Clay Billings


Left: Edward Hearn as Marshal Ritchie

Right: Edmund Cobb, George Chesebro as Barker, and Dick Curtis



Others in the cast:

Ethan Allen as Taylor

Dick Botiller as Rankin

Art Mix as a henchman


1. "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" (Bob Nolan) over credits.

2. "Ridin' on the Sunshine Trail" (Tim Spencer)

3. "Coyote's Serenade" (Bob Nolan)

4. "Yippi Yi, Yippi Yo" (Glenn Spencer) uncredited

5. "Old Pioneer" (Tim Spencer)

6. "Ridin' on the Sunshine Trail" (Tim Spencer) to end.


Plot Summary:

        The film opens outside the US Marshall's office in an unnamed centre with the Sons of the Pioneers singing "Ridin' on the Sunshine Trail". Marshall Ritchie rides up, distributes the mail and then reads a letter from a Sheriff Fletcher that will affect them all. He announces that Marshall Tom Murdock and his deputies, the Sons of the Pioneers, will go to Buffalo Springs to sort out the problems there. Two ranchers, Jeff Browning and Dan Murdock, have had their fences cut and their cattle run off. Each man blames the other.



        Bob is sent to find Tom who is topping off a bronc in the corral. To Bob's delight the horse unloads his rider into the dirt but Tom slaps the dust off himself, laughs, and the two men return to the Marshall for their orders.



        Dan Murdock is Tom's father so Tom has a special interest in the case. He decides to arrive in town incognito, as Tom Morgan, cattle buyer, with the Sons of the Pioneers as his ranch hands. Bob Nolan acts as his foreman and rides a beautiful pinto pony.



        Meanwhile, in Buffalo Springs,  Jeff Browning is loading a wagon with barbed wire, assisted by his son, Ned, and his foreman, Bat Springer. They are angry because their fence has been cut again and more cattle rustled. They are certain that Murdock is behind it all and Jeff declares he will start shooting if it happens again. Just as they finish the job, Tom rides into town and they watch him stop at the Sheriff's office.



        Tom hunts up Sheriff Fletcher to get the history of the rustling incidents. Before he does, he reminds the Pioneers that his name is "Morgan" not Murdock. Curious that his father has not been arrested with all these charges against him, Tom is made aware that the Sheriff is certain that neither rancher is to blame but he needs help to get at the root of it all.




         Tom asks how he can meet Jeff Browning. The Sheriff points him out across the street then goes out to get him. Bat is supposed to go back to the ranch with Ben on the wagon but he persuades that young man that his father will be safer if he waits and rides back with him.





        Jeff follows the Sheriff into his office where he is introduced to Tom Morgan. Listening to Browning's side of the story, Tom is inclined to believe that the Sheriff is correct in suspecting a third party so he instructs the two men to let it be known that Browning is selling his herd. They hope this will cause this unknown third party to show his hand. Browning invites Tom and his boys to be guests at their ranch.




        Springer is alarmed at the news of the impending sale because he and Carver, Murdock's foreman, have been responsible for rustling cattle from both ranches, changing the brands and shipping them by rail from a distant siding. When the Sheriff and Tom ride around the corner where Carver and Springer have been talking together, Springer punches his friend in the jaw to avert any suspicion of collusion.



        Right about then, Jeff's daughter gallops into the scene with the news that more fence has been cut. Everyone mounts and rides after her. They reach the herd but lookouts had been posted and the rustlers scatter before the posse reaches them.



        The posse gives up the chase. Tom is introduced to Jeff's daughter, Jean. They take an immediate liking to each other.



        In the evening, the Pioneers gather out in the yard and sing Bob Nolan's "Coyote's Serenade". Bob reclines on the hay wagon and the rest are seated on bales of hay while the Brownings are gathered near the fence, listening. They ask for another song but are interrupted by the approach of two riders in the dark.



        The riders are the Sheriff and Dan Murdock, Tom's father. The Sheriff suggests that Jeff have a talk with Dan who has something urgent to tell him in private. As he passes Tom, Dan silently indicates that he recognizes his son but says nothing. They go into the house alone while the Pioneers sing another song, Glenn Spencer's "Yippi Yi Yippi Yo".



        Meanwhile, in the house, Dan tells Jeff that both ranchers are the victims of rustlers. He has discovered where the cows are shipped from and how the brands have been changed. Just as he tells Jeff that Ned's is the name on the shipping order, he is shot dead by Bat who hits Jeff over the head with a revolver then slips back into the shadows and throws Jeff's gun into the bushes.



         Everyone comes running when they hear the shot. They surround the house and then, joined by Bat under cover of darkness, go inside but some time is lost as a lamp is lit. They discover the body of Murdock and then Browning staggers in. He tells them what he happens but omits the part about his son, Ned.



        Things look bad for Jeff until Tom suggests they check his gun. If it hasn't been fired, he'll be in the clear but his gun is missing from its holster. Everyone files out to look for it and Starrett sees Bat find it and kick it under the bushes.  Later he sees him pick up the gun under the cover of darkness and button it into his shirt. The Sheriff is forced to take Jeff to town to jail and, as they ride away, Tom takes Ned and Jean into the house to tell them what he's seen.



        The next day, Tom rides alone into town to see the Sheriff and Jeff Browning. The Sheriff asks Clay Billings, the Wells Fargo agent, to watch the jail for him while he and Tom ride out to Murdock's Lazy M Ranch.



        About the same time, Bat and his gang of hoodlums meet at the Lazy M Ranch. Bat takes out Browning's gun and fires it twice into the ground because he plans to produce it at "the right time" to convict Jeff. They also look for a package Dan had been carrying. Since they don't know exactly what they're looking for, they blow the safe to see what it contains. Unknown to them, Tom and the Sheriff are on the hilltop looking over the ranch and hear the explosion followed by a gunshot when Bat opens the lock on a box.



        The rustlers have been making so much noise that they don't hear Tom walk in on them. Carver draws but Tom shoots the gun out of his hand.



        The Sheriff asks the men to explain their presence there so Bat quickly makes up the tale that he has secretly been working for Murdock all the time; that he was hired to keep an eye on Browning. The Sheriff appears to accept that and looks through the papers himself. He finds a piece of cowhide with the Box X brand on one side. Tom turns it over and shows that it had originally come from a Lazy M cow and how simply it had been changed into the Box X. There's a letter with the leather stating that the brand has been recorded in Ben Browning's name.



        Everyone mounts and rides to see Ben at the Browning ranch. The Sheriff lets him read the letter and Bat accuses him of being the rustler. Ben goes for his gun but the men wrestle it from him.



        Jean comes running and, as she reads the letter, she is convinced it is somebody's idea of a joke. Tom reassures her as best he can as they watch the Sheriff ride away with her brother, on their way to join Ben's father in jail.



        While the Sons of the Pioneers are supposedly repairing a fence [it looks pretty shaky when it's done!], they sing Tim Spencer's "Old Pioneer".



        Bob had been sent on a scouting expedition and he arrives in time to check the fence.



         More to the point, he has news which he tells everyone when Tom and Jean join them. He has found the old siding from which the stolen cattle are shipped.




        Jean and Tom head back for town to tell the Sheriff Bob's news. As they ride into town, Bat and Carver, keeping to the shadows across the street, watch them.



        Tom asks who sends telegrams and is directed to Clay Billings at the Wells Fargo office. Jean goes into the cell block to tell her dad what has been happening while Tom talks with Billings. He asks the Wells Fargo agent if anyone has ordered cattle cars to Wolf Canyon in the last few days. The reply is Ned Browning.  Furthermore, Browning always sends a cowhand in with the order; Ned does not appear himself nor does Bat. Tom writes out a phony telegram ordering cars in at Wolf Canyon for himself and asks Billings to let Bat see it if he shows any interest. Then Tom rejoins the group at the jail.



        It isn't long until Bat thinks of an excuse to talk with Billings who shows him the telegram. Billings waits until Bat returns to Carver and then he crosses the street to the Sheriff's office in a hurry - too much of a hurry because it attracts Bat's attention and Bat is immediately suspicious.



        Breathless, Clay tells them that Tom's ploy was successful and they start making plans. Tom realizes that if he organizes a posse in the usual way, Bat will know something's gone wrong. Before he presents a better plan, he lets them know he is Dan Murdock's son.



        That evening, as Billings is clearing away for the night, Bat and Carver walk in. Carver watches the street while Bat beats the truth out of Clay until they are interrupted by the sound of riders in the night.



        They blow out the lamp and watch Tom, Jean and the Pioneers tie their horses. Tom and Bob walk quietly into the Sheriff's office and move the Brownings over to the Sheriff's house. In the Wells Fargo office, Bat ties Clay to his chair and leaves.



        Next morning, Tom and the Pioneers gallop down to Wolf Canyon to set up the trap. There is a small comic interlude when Tom asks Pat for the time and Pat has a struggle to free his watch from his pocket. When he does realize that it's 7:00am, he also realizes that he is hungry! Bob is sent back to town to raise a posse to find the "missing" Brownings.



        Clay Billings continues to struggle with the ropes that tie him to his chair. He hears Bob gallop into town, yelling for the Sheriff and firing his gun to get the attention of the men who will form the posse. Bob collects a group of men and they gallop out of town again.



        Up above the Wells Fargo office, Bat and Carver watch until the posse leaves then they walk in on the Brownings and take the two men prisoner. They are told that they will be helping drive their own cattle across the border. Jean remains unseen in the kitchen.



        Clay Billings finally releases himself, grabs his gun and his horse (making a one-handed mount on a frightened horse look easy) and races out of town.




        When the men leave, JeanS straps on her brother's gun belt and rides to find Tom.



        The next few scenes are full of galloping horses - Bob, the Sheriff and the posse, Tom and the Pioneers, Clay racing to find the Sheriff, and Jean, alone, riding to find Tom. Bob and the Sheriff's posse meet with Tom and the Pioneers and Tom explains the trap he has in mind.



        Just as they are about to take cover, Billings gallops up and tells them that Bat is aware of their plans. The Sheriff gallops off with his posse to try to head them off while Tom and Bob race back to see what's happened to the Brownings. They meet Jean, change direction and the three of them head for the herd.




        When they come up to the herd and see that four men are guarding the Brownings, they return to find the Sheriff. The new plan is for Jean and Tom to show themselves to the outlaws and tempt some of them into following while the Sheriff and his posse surround the others.



        The plan works and the outlaws with the herd give up. Bat and Carver follow Tom and Jean for a mile or so until Tom ambushes them. Carver falls from his horse but Tom and Bat have a real rough and tumble.



        Carver slides over to his gun but Jean anticipates him and covers him.



        The film ends with the whole cast on horseback, heading for town to the tune of the Pioneers singing "Ridin' on the Sunshine Trail".





Professional Stills



Courtesy of Jan Scott





Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant




Courtesy of Kathy Kirchner





Courtesy of Earl Bryant





Courtesy of Earl Bryant








Courtesy of Jan Scott


Courtesy of Earl Bryant






Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey





The Calin Coburn Collections


The Calin Coburn Collections


The Calin Coburn Collections





Courtesy of Bruce Hickey




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Poster from Iceland