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Thundering Frontier


Columbia Pictures Corporation

Production Dates: June 18 - 26, 1940

Release Date: 1940 12 05

Running time: 55 minutes (6 reels)

Key book (production) number: 325





Plot Summary

Production and Publicity Stills


Glass Slide

This movie is available on DVD.





        Although no credit is given to him for songwriting, this film is a fine showcase for Glenn Spencer's music. Other than "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" over the credits, Glenn wrote all the songs including an unusually beautiful, very moving rendition of "So Long to the Red River Valley" featuring Bob Nolan.

        The film is the story of two sons of a banker, one fine and the other rotten. There are four song sequences, possibly the best part of the film. Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers are ranch hands and Bob is comfortable in his part. At this point in his personal life, Bob Nolan was content with life and his joie de vivre shines through.


Right: Charles Starrett as Jim Filmore and Iris Meredith as Norma Belknap

Left: Raphael Bennett as Ed Filmore


Bob Nolan and The Sons of the Pioneers as Filmore ranch hands


Alex Callam as "Square Deal" Scottie and Carl Stockdale as Andrew Belknap



Left: Fred Burns as Hank Loomis

Right: John Dilson as Carter Filmore and George Chesebro as a henchman


Francis Walker as Stub

Others in the cast:

John Tyrrell as Mac

Ray Jones as a henchman

Blackie Whiteford as a henchman



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

2. I Love the Prairie Country (Glenn Spencer)

3. So Long to the Red River Valley (Glenn Spencer)

4. Jubilation Jamboree (Glenn Spencer)

5. Moonlight Melody (Glenn Spencer)

6. Jubilation Jamoree / Tumbling Tumbleweeds over closing credits

Plot Summary:
        The story opens with a hayride. Bob is driving the Sons of the Pioneers on a loaded haywagon on the Filmore horse ranch.



        They jump and slide to the ground and start pitching hay in time to "I Love the Prairie Country" while Bob teases Pat.



        They are interrupted by the unusual sight of the owner of the ranch, Carter Filmore, and his son, Ed. Both these men are in banking and they go inside the house to await the second son, Jim, leaving the Pioneers to wonder what's going on. They walk over and Filmore sadly tells them they'll have to pack up and leave because he has sold the ranch. They are shocked for Jim's sake because he knows nothing of it.



        Meanwhile, Ed is on his way home but he is sidetracked by the senseless cruelty of a muleskinner with a stuck wagon. The man, Stub, has lost his temper and is mercilessly whipping his animals.



        This is something Ed cannot let happen and he stops. The muleskinner threatens to whip him. Ed yanks the whip from his hands and they fight tooth and nail, rolling around the ground.



        Just as he has matters in hand, owner Andrew Belnap rides up with his attractive daughter, Norma. On being told that the man has been beating his mules, Mr. Belknap fires him.



        Jim asks about the outfit and is astonished to find that Mr. Belnap is building a telegraph line. Norma tries to hurry her father back to work and takes over Stub's place as driver of the mule team. For some reason, she is annoyed with Jim but he pushes the wagon and the mules take it away.

        When he reaches the ranch house, he is surprised to see his father and brother there ahead of him.



        He is stunned to hear the ranch has been sold without his knowledge. His father was overextended when he invested in the new telegraph service.



        Jim is certain that his brother and his shady deals had something to do with the decision. His father orders him to work in the bank, Jim refuses and they leave. It is obvious Mr. Filmore is in poor health.



        Jim tells Bob he has been a fool but doesn't elaborate. Bob is puzzled but says nothing.



        In town, Scottie nods to Ed Filmore as he drives his father to the bank. It is apparent Scottie was silently questioning Ed and received the right answer.



        Mr. Filmore enters the bank and Ed hurries back to meet Scottie in his office. Scottie is pressing Ed for money. Scottie is blackmailing Ed. He realizes Ed can't get all the money to him right away so suggests he keep Belnap from finishing the line, then take it over when he could not pay his loan. Ed hesitates but Scottie has him over a barrel.



        In his office in the bank, Mr. Filmore is changing his will. Before he has a chance to sign it, Ed enters the room and tries to persuade his father that they deserve any money Belnap makes because they loaned it to him in the first place. Ed declares that from now on he is running the bank. Finally realizing that his son is a crook, Mr. Filmore springs angrily to his feet and starts to tear up his will. The two men struggle for the document then Mr. Filmore drops with a massive heart attack. Jim arrives too late. Ed sends Jim for the doctor, straightens out the will and forges his father's signature.



        Back at the ranch, Bob and Tim are loading a wagon with their personal belongings in preparation to leaving. Pat and Hugh are feeding puppies from bottles and they are all sadly singing "So Long to the Red River Valley".



        When Jim returns he tells them his father died of heart failure.



        Next morning, Mr. Belnap rides in to the bank, gives his condolences to Ed and gets the last $18,000 loan. Ed gives him a week to pay it back, claiming his is protecting the depositor's money. He is so insulting, he makes Belnap angry and he rides away with the money bag obvious in his hand.



        He is observed by Scottie who walks over to talk to Ed. When he learns about the money in the bag and the supply train is due in today, he turns to leaves with new plans in his head. Just then Jim rides in and Ed tells Scottie to stay hidden in the office.



        Ed meets him warmly then gives him the job of watching Belnaps to look out for the bank's interest. That includes the ranch hands.



        Ed is pleased with himself but Scottie thinks he is crazy. Ed explains that, when Belnap's money is stolen, no one will suspect him because he sent his brother out there to help him. Scottie reluctantly sees the wisdom in this but warns him to come to him before he makes more plans for himself. 



        Jim and the Pioneers ride out to Belnap's camp.



        The Pioneers wait while Norma meets Jim and apologizes for her behaviour with the mules. He asks her where he can find her father. On being told that he is bringing a wagon train of supplies in, he asks if he can stay until he returns then he introduces himself as the banker's son, Jim Filmore.



        Norma's manner changes immediately and she gets back to work, trying to ignore him while he sits laughing at her. He lifts her down, moves the trunk and calls the Pioneers to help him unload the wagon. Norma, feathers still ruffled, walks away.   



        Belnap's wagon train is being watched by Scottie and his henchmen from the bush. Scottie gives orders to attack the wagon train. Jim and the Pioneers hear the gunfire and ride to help.



        Belnap whips his mules up and makes a run for it but his wagon overturns and he is thrown out. While he is unconscious on the ground, one of Scottie's henchmen rides over and picks up the bag of money.




        Jim sees him do it and races after him but loses him.



        When he returns to the Belnaps they are searching for the money on the ground. Jim tells them he saw someone pick it up and ride away. Belnap is suspicious of the banker's brother but when Jim assures him he and the Pioneers will make sure the line is built on time, he is reassured. He promises that when the line is complete, they will throw a big celebration for the whole town.



        Norma apologizes for the second time.



        The telegraph line is complete and the celebration is in full swing with the Pioneers singing "Jubilation Jamboree".



        Scottie and Ed exchange a glance, affirming a conspiracy.



        A pretty girl gazes admiringly up at Pat so Bob takes his place at the bull fiddle leaving Pat free to dance with her. Scottie and his henchmen watch from across the street.



        Norma walks out and takes her place at the telegraph key. Her father tells the crowd that Hank Loomis is out at the way station at Buffalo Creek ready to receive and transmit messages. He also announces that all messages today are free and he asks for the first customer. An elderly man walks up and writes down his message which Norma transmits to Hank.



        Right about this time, Scottie's henchman rides up and gives Scottie a message.



        Jim notices Scottie's henchman ride up and draws Bob's attention to him. He recognizes the man as the one who picked up Belnap's money. He heads across the street and Scottie orders his henchman to leave. Jim asks Scottie who that man was but Scottie denies seeing anyone.



        Hank gets the message and, since it is a slap at him, gets angry. He sits down to return the message and Norma starts receiving.



        But a gang of outlaws with burning torches gallop down to his little building and a burning brand lands on the roof of the way station and sets it alight. He runs outside and is shot down. Back in town, Norma cannot contact him and it isn't too long before Jim and the Pioneers mount and ride with her to see what is wrong at Buffalo Creek.



        By the time they get to Buffalo Creek, the station has burned to the ground. They see Hank on the ground and load him onto Pat's horse to get him back to town and a doctor.



        Jim stays behind, searching for clues and finds a barrel stave that had been used as a torch. Barrel staves suggest a saloon and Scottie is a saloon keeper.



        In the Belnap tent, Hank is objecting to having a doctor look at him. Jim comes to see him but Belnap is suspicious of him again. He cannot see who but the bank would benefit from this. Jim says he has a few ideas, starting with the whiskey barrel stave - and Scottie. And if Scottie is behind all this, then the money must be around his place. Norma isn't convinced. She still believes he is covering up for his brother.



    Late that night, Jim rides quietly into town. He stands listening for awhile until he hears spurred boots come along the sidewalk and startles Norma who thought he had come to get the money from the bank. She apologized a third time and asked how she could help.



        Scottie and his bartender are just shutting down so Jim slips into the office window.



        He doesn't get time to see much when he hears Scottie come nearer. By the time Scottie gets into his office and unbuckles his shell belt and hoster, Jim is under the desk. He watches Scottie open the safe then orders him to stand up then back up.



        He backs up near to where he has hung his gun. When Scottie reaches for his gun, Norma smacks his hand with it, hard. Jim orders him into a closet and locks the door. Then he takes Belnap's money from the safe and leaves through the window.

        The bartender enters the room and Norma shoots out the light. The bartender climbs out the window and throws lead at them without effect. By then, Scottie is banging on the closet door and the bartender reenters the window and lets him out. They discover the money is missing and the bartender wants to call the sheriff but Scottie doesn't want the sheriff involved at all. The bartender couldn't give him the identity of the intruder or his partner. All he could see was a white hat. Scottie immediately suspects Jim and then Ed. Ed was the only one who knew the money was there.



        Back at the Filmore camp, the Pioneers are singing "Moonlight Melody" around the campfire.



        Jim and Norma ride in with the money. While he had been in the safe, Jim had found the letter telling about the consolidation plans and how that would mean a lot of money to the Belnaps. None of them can see that the bank would benefit by this. They still do not suspect Ed. Jim sends Bob and Karl for supplies and Jim plans to use the rest of the Pioneers to put up the wire they have.



        Back in town, Scottie has decided to pay a little visit to Ed. He demands the money Jim stole and, when Ed denies any knowledge of it, he forces him to go to Belnap's to take over.



        Out at the camp, the Ed confronts everyone and tells them that there's no way they can pay the loan so he's taking over right now. Belnap is ready to fight but Jim intercedes and tells Ed how he found the money in Scottie's safe and that Bob and Karl are due any time with the supplies. He pleads for more time. Ed sees how he must somehow turn this knowledge to his advantage and appears to back down.



        He returns to Scottie who has been hiding in the bushes, watching it all. Ed tells Scottie about the supply wagons due any minute and Scottie decides to use dynamite to prevent the materials from arriving. This means stealing powder from the telegraph line and probably bloodshed. Ed objects. Scottie forces him to stay with the gang.



        They shoot one man and pistol whip the other.



        When the gang leaves, the pistol-whipped man staggers to his feet and heads for the Belnaps. Back in the Belnap tent,  Jim asks Norma to call White Plains to see how far the supply wagons were along the way. The operator at White Plains checks out his window and lets them know that the wagons are just now passing. They should be arriving shortly.



        The injured man staggers into the tent and tells of the stolen dynamite. They are going to dynamite the upper road and this is the way Bob and Karl are returning with their huge loads of supplies.



        All unknowing, Bob and Karl are enjoying driving the mule teams and the big wagons - until an explosion frightens their teams. Bob is unable to control his and has to jump while his wagon goes over a cliff. Karl stays with his load but loses one of the trailers.



        Hidden in his safe bushes, Scottie watches Jim come up behind Ed. Jim is stunned when he recognizes his brother. Scottie sneaks up behind Jim and, seeing him, Ed awkwardly pulls his gun and shoots him. Jim, thinking Ed is drawing on him, shoots his brother. Before he dies, Ed confesses all before he dies.



        Some time later we find Norma and Jim in the bank. The Belnaps have made $250,000 from the sale of their part of the line. Jim asks her what she wants to do with it. She thinks she will deposit it but Jim talks her out of it. He thinks it would be better, since a man is coming out from Chicago to help him run the bank, if she goes to the ranch to boss Jim while he raises horses. The Pioneers come in singing "Jubilation Jamboree" again.




Production and Publicity Stills




Courtesy of John Fullerton


Courtesy of Ed Phillips


Courtesy of Jan Scott


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey




Courtesy of Buddy Bryant




Calin Coburn Collection 2004


Calin Coburn Collection 2004




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey



Courtesy of Buddy Bryant


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey



Glass Slide