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The Thundering West

(aka "Trail of the Tumbleweed ")


Columbia Pictures Corporation of California

Production Dates: October 10 - 18, 1938

Release Date: 1939 01 12

Running time: 56 minutes (6 reels)

Key book (production) number: 310





Plot Summary

Production and Publicity Stills


Glass Slide

This movie is available on DVD.


        There is an interesting twist to this tale. The hero, Jim Dale (aka Laramie Kid) is a bona fide outlaw who, meeting a lovely girl, changes his life around and becomes Sheriff. His old robber boss, a vicious killer, tries to blackmail into working with the old gang without success.  According to Les Adams, the film is a remake of "The Lone Rider" (1930) and "The Man Trailer" (1934) with Buck Jones and also 1932's "Texas Gun-Fighter" with Ken Maynard.

        Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers are in most scenes and there is a lot of music. As well as Bob Nolan's lively songs, the Farr Brothers are headlined with their instrumentals. Unfortunately, Columbia elected to replace Bob Nolan's well known vibrato with the voice of an unknown baritone.



Left: Iris Meredith as Helen Patterson and Charles Starrett as Jim Dale / Laramie

Right: Bob Nolan and The Sons of the Pioneers


Dick Curtis as Wolf Munro and Hank Bell as Tucson


Left: Edward Peil Sr as a townsman, Wally Wales (Hal Taliaferro) as Frank Kendall

Right: Edward LeSaint as Judge Patterson


Left: Robert Fiske as Harper, the bartender

Right: Fred Burns as a stage driver


Edmund Cobb as Dagger and Art Mix as Kirk, a henchman



Others in the Cast:

Eddie Laughton as a townsman

Clyde McClary as a townsman

Slim Whitaker as Roper, a henchman

Blackie Whiteford as a henchman

Charles Brinley as the stage guard

Buel Bryant as a henchman

Steve Clark as a guard

Tex Cooper as a townsman

Art Dillared as a henchman

Bert Dillard as a townsman




 0. Tumbling Tumbleweeds (Bob Nolan) over the opening credits

 1. Rocky Roads (Bob Nolan)

 3. Swing Ding (Hugh & Karl Farr)

 4. Cody of the Pony Express (Bob Nolan)

 5. Echoes from the Hills (Bob Nolan)

 6. Rosita's Papa (instrumental aka Ensenada) (Hugh & Karl Farr)

 7. Dancing with You (instrumental) (Hugh & Karl Farr)

 8. It's Too Late (instrumental) (Hugh & Karl Farr)

 9. Heart to Heart (instrumental) (Hugh & Karl Farr)

10. Rocky Roads (Bob Nolan)


Plot Summary

The Sons of the Pioneers entertain the crowd with "Rocky Roads" before a meeting in the town of Oro Grande.



        As they sing, a group of rough men pull up outside the door and each man quietly takes his pre-planned place. Four of them enter the town hall as the song concludes.



        An elderly man, Judge Patterson, steps up onto the stage and reminds the townsfolk how twenty years ago they drove the lawless element from their town and made it the thriving community it is. Now that gold has been discovered, he warns, outlaws and thieves of all descriptions will come flocking and he encouraged them to prepare to fight once more. The towns people are in vociferous agreement. The leader of the outlaws, Wolf Munro, leaning casually against the bar, sneers.



        Judge Patterson continues by introducing the Wells Fargo agent, Frank Kendall. The three outlaws leaning against the bar straighten up slightly. They are surprised and pleased at the presence of Wells Fargo. Kendall, in his speech, tells everyone Wells Fargo will be open for business within a week. The bartender speaks up then. He will be glad, he says, to stop being the bank for everyone.



        As the speech concludes, the Sons of the Pioneers begin to play an instrumental and Wolf strolls over to the bartender. He places a sack of gold on the counter and asks if there is room in the safe for it. The bartender writes out a receipt and carries the gold into a back room where Dagger and the rest of the gang have hidden themselves. Dagger waits until the safe is open then holds a gun on the bartender.  The youngest outlaw waits at the bar while Tucson and Wolf slip out the back way. After the outlaws have emptied the safe, Wolf cold-bloodedly kills the bartender. Out in the saloon, the youngest outlaw shoots down the light, throwing the room into darkness.



        The rest of the outlaws gallop off while the younger fellow, Laramie, hides in the shadows. He hadn't been prepared for shooting and is shocked to hear the bartender was killed. The outlaws reach their hideout in the safety of the darkness and Laramie joins them while Dagger is tending Tucson's shoulder wound.



        Wolf and the others intend leave Tucson behind and Laramie announces that he and Tucson are out of the gang as of now. He doesn't like the way Wolf is running things and he doesn't like the idea of cold-blooded murder. Wolf starts to draw but Laramie beats him. Wolf snarls at him and warns them to stay off his territory then he and his pack leave, taking ALL the gold dust with them.



        Laramie tends Tucson's wound and, as he does, Tucson tries to persuade him to quite outlawry. Laramie thinks it's much too late for that and stares gloomily out of the window into the darkness.



        Back in town, the Sons of the Pioneers are back in the community hall singing "Cody of the Pony Express", in a successful attempt to cheer up the towns people waiting for the stage. Judge Patterson makes another speech welcoming Wells Fargo and speaking of his hope for the future of Oro Grande. The stagecoach will be the first linking Oro Grande with the outside world.



        The stagecoach rounds the rocky bends and Laramie and Tucson watch and wait. Just then Wolf and his pack arrive on the other side of the valley with the same intention. He positions his men close to the road and they stop the stagecoach.



The guard on the coach is wounded and one of the outlaws drags the driver off his seat. As another attempts to remove the strong box, Laramie shoots. The shot stops the man from getting the box but it also causes the horses to run away. Laramie orders Tucson to stay and cover him. Tucson drives off the outlaws while Laramie races after the stagecoach. He manages to stop it and, as he begins to remove the strong box, he realizes that a woman is in the coach.



He stares at the beautiful face, speechless, not because of her beauty but because she is throwing a monkey wrench into his plans. The spunky young woman steps out and thanks him for saving her. Now he is in a bind.



She asks him to take her back to see about the injured men, thereby foiling his theft of the strong box. He introduces himself as Jim Dale when she tells him she's Judge Patterson's daughter. He makes one more attempt at the strong box but is foiled again when she reminds him that he's forgotten to tie his horse to the back of the coach.  Unable to find another way out, he meekly climbs up onto the driver's seat, scowling all the while.



        As they return to where the holdup took place, Jim sees that the driver and guard have Tucson. He assures them that Tucson is his partner and, weakened from loss of blood from her earlier wound, Tucson obliges by fainting.



Helen jumps from the coach and, overriding all their objections, takes over. Helplessly, Jim sees Tucson loaded into the coach on the way to see the doctor in Oro Grande and he can do nothing but get up and ride guard as Helen orders. From the opposite hill, Wolf and his pack watch. He sends the men back to the hideout and he follows the stagecoach into town.



        In town, the people are delighted to see the stagecoach arrive until they see it stop at the doctor's office.



Judge Patterson assures himself that his daughter is uninjured and then Frank Kendall starts questioning the driver after Dale follows Tucson into the doctor's office.




The driver succeeds in raising Jim Dale up to hero status and they all decide to offer him the sheriff's job. Kendall walks into the office and tells Dale that Judge Patterson would like to see him.



Assuring Tucson that they've been in tighter places, he walks out expecting anything just as Wolf rides up to the back of the crowd. Judge Patterson asks the flabbergasted Dale to become Oro Grande's sheriff. He tells them he can't give them an answer yet.



If his partner doesn't pull through, he states, meeting Wolf's malicious gaze, he will have a job to do. The doctor emerges once more to tell Dale that his friend is asking for him and Dale returns to Tucson.



        The doctor assures the townsfolk that Tucson will recover and Helen persuades Jim to let her move him to her ranch until he's better. As before, Jim is helpless to resist the dynamic young lady who is used to getting her own way.



        Out on the Patterson Ranch, Pat Brady is taking his ease and having yet another snack as Bob and Hugh finish tacking up a very wobbly-looking fence. They agree the flimsy thing will hold the cattle and Bob orders them all to ride back to the ranch with the exception of Pat. Pat, who has done no fencing, will have to pack all the equipment back for them.



        Bob and the Pioneers, laughing at Pat's expression, pause to look for Jim. When they find him deep into conversation with Helen, they chuckle and leave without him.



        Helen is telling Jim that Tucson is one of the family already and Jim agrees, adding, "That's why it will be hard to leave." Helen has taken it for granted that they will both be staying and she sobers immediately. When she can't get Jim to tell her why he can't stay, she leaves in a huff.



        As Helen canters off, two of the Wolf pack ride down to tell Dale that Wolf wants to talk with him. Jim reluctantly agrees to go with them.



        Back at the ranch, Helen gallops in alone and Tucson wonders where Jim is.



        At the hideout, Wolf walks out and sarcastically makes Jim welcome. He asks Jim to do him a favor. He orders Jim to take the sheriff's job and they can all rake in the dough. Jim tells him he's broken with the gang for good but Wolf threatens to let the townspeople know who he is unless he throws in with them again. As Jim leaves, Dagger warns Wolf that he will cross them up yet. Wolf disagrees - Jim Dale, he says, will not live long enough to do that.



        While Helen watches the Judge and Tucson play checkers, the doctor drives up to check on his patient.



        It comes out that Jim and Tucson are leaving soon and the Judge asks Tucson if Jim would leave without him. Tucson doesn't think so, quickly catches on to the Judge's line of thinking and falls weakly back into his chair, to all appearances sick again. The doctor lifts up a corner of Tucson's luxurious moustache, inserts a thermometer and takes his pulse, just as Dale walks up. The doctor meets him at the gate and the doctor tells him that Tucson has relapsed and needs more rest.



        Dale talks with Tucson who reminds him of the talk they'd had about them both going straight. He encourages Jim to take the Sheriff's job and to stand up to the Wolf. It's a showdown, agrees Jim, and he won't let the town down. Dale makes up his mind, finally, and tells Judge Patterson that he is the Laramie Kid. The Judge is not surprised and tells him he believes the Laramie Kid died out there on the road when the stage was held up. He tells Jim he believes and trusts in him. Jim is moved and they shake hands. Jim rides in to see Kendall to set that straight just as Helen comes out on the porch with Tucson's lunch. Her father tells her what Jim has told him and that they are believing in him and giving him a chance to go straight.



        To welcome the new sheriff, the town gathered for a dance and the Sons of the Pioneers start out with "Echoes from the Hills".



        Karl follows this with "Rosita's Papa" and they hand Pat a serape then speed up the rhythm until he can hardly keep up his solo dance. He finally collapses on the dance floor and Bob and Hugh carry him off.



        Outside in the dark, the Wolf's pack gathers while everyone is dancing to "Heart to Heart". Wolf walks in and stays at the back, observing. 



        The Judge gets everyone's attention and introduces Jim who accepts the position of Sheriff. The Judge swears him in while Wolf smirks. Helen pins the star on the new sheriff. Helen forces Jim to make a speech and he promises to back up the star to the limit.



        Wolf strides up to congratulate him and asks him to accompany him outside for a moment. At the sound of Wolf's voice, Tucson places his revolver under his sling. Another dance begins.



        Outside, the gang holds a gun on the new sheriff and forces him at gunpoint down to the Wells Fargo office where they once more steal the gold. They put the guards into a closet.



        Back at the dance, Frank, the Judge, Helen and Tucson go to look for Jim.



        The Wolf pack leaves town forcing Jim to go with them. Frank and the Judge find the safe open and the guards tell them that the new sheriff tricked them. All the men pour out of the hall and mount their horses. Bob Nolan and Frank Kendall lead them after the outlaws whom they believe are heading for the border.



        The outlaws are jogging along when Dale manages to escape. He heads back to town, limping.



        In town, his friends are wondering if he really betrayed them or if he was forced into it when he walks in, looking for help. When he realizes that the posse will likely shoot him on sight, he borrows Tucson's gun and heads out after them. He has a plan.



        Next morning, the posse has grouped and is waiting for the Pioneers to return from the border. The Pioneers race down the hill with no good news. No sign of Dale at all.



        They glumly discuss what is to be done when they see Dale on his white stallion atop a distant hill. Lloyd yells, "Look! that's him now!" They head out after him at a run. This is what Dale wanted. If the posse chases him, they will actually be following him to the hideout and he will have their help. He keeps ahead of them, just out of rifle range.



        The guard at the hideout fires a shot, giving warning to the Wolf pack. The posse takes cover and so does the outlaw gang.



        The outlaws are picked off, one by one and Wolf sneaks off to save his own skin.



        Jim has been watching and follows him.




        Wolf races into the cabin, lifts up a rug and opens a trap door to expose filled saddle bags. He's removing the gold from the hole in the floor when Dale tells him to hold up his hands. They fight.



        The outlaws wave a white flag and give up but Wolf and Jim are still going hard at it in the cabin.



        Wolf shoots Dale in the arm but Jim manages to knock him down just as Kendall and Bob come in the door. Dale explains what has been happening then collapses at their feet.



        To the tune of "Rocky Roads", Dale and Tucson agree that they've been looking for a place like this all their lives.





Production and Publicity Stills

eBay image


Calin Coburn Collections 2004



Private Collection


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey




(Courtesy of Bruce Hickey)


Hal Taliaferro, Iris Meredith, Karl Farr, Charles Starrett, Pat Brady, Edward LeSaint and Hugh Farr

(Courtesy of Bruce Hickey)


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey



Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Private Collection


Courtesy of the Roy Rogers Family Trust and John Fullerton



Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey



Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Earl Bryant




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Earl Bryant



Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Earl Bryant



Courtesy of Earl Bryant



Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Charles Starrett with Tex Cooper

(Courtesy of Bruce Hickey)


This still was used to advertise The Thundering West but was photographed for Law of the Plains.




Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Courtesy of Ed Phillips


Iverson's Ranch

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


Iverson's Ranch

Courtesy of Bruce Hickey






Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant







Glass Slide