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West of the Santa Fe

("West of Santa Fe")


Columbia Pictures Corporation

Production Dates: July 29 - August 6, 1938

Release Date: 1938 10 03

Running time: 57-60 min

Key book (production) number: 308




Plot Summary

Production and Publicity Stills


Press Book

Glass Slide


        Another near-perfect vehicle for the five Sons of the Pioneers, "West of the Santa Fe" is fast-moving and enjoyable. Charles Starrett doesn't appear until twenty minutes into the film but the familiar cast of the Sons of the Pioneers, Iris Meredith, Hank Bell and Dick Curtis keeps our interest.

        Bob Nolan, although Columbia was still not allowing him to sing his own solos, had an excellent part. Bob wrote all the songs in this film.

        LeRoy Mason, instead of the evil-eyed heavy he became in later years, is an exceptionally good-looking and effective lawman. Even Iris Meredith has a more believable part than usual. The sound is not good at the beginning but improves as the film progresses. We obtained our copy of the video from Sinister Cinema.



Left: Iris Meredith as Madge Conway and Charles Starrett as Lawlor, US Marshall

Right: Bob Nolan and The Sons of the Pioneers


Robert Fiske as Parker, Dick Curtis as Matt Taylor, Hank Bell as Hank and LeRoy Mason as McLain



Left: Buck Connors as Hardpan

Right: Edmund Cobb as Barlow and uncredited as the doctor

Others in the Cast:

Dick Botiller as Foley

Clem Horton as Hager, henchman

Edward Hearn as Crane

Bud Osborne as a henchman

Blackie Whiteford as a henchman

Wally Wales as a henchman


Tumbling Tumbleweeds (Bob Nolan) over opening credits

When the Prairie Suns Says Good Mornin’ (Bob Nolan)
Hello, Way Up There (Bob Nolan)
Song of the Prairie (Bob Nolan)

When the Prairie Suns Says Good Mornin’ (Bob Nolan) to closing credits

Plot Summary:

        The story opens with the five Sons of the Pioneers riding behind a herd of cattle with Madge Conway and Hank, singing "When the Prairie Sun says Good Mornin'". A couple of non-singing cowboys are controlling the herd.



        They catch up with their herd of cattle and Madge rides home to let her father know that things are going well. From the casual conversation of the Pioneers, we learn that there is a real problem with rustlers on the range and they are glad their herd is still as large as it is. They also discuss their lady boss until Pat interrupts with his plea for food.



        Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Matt Taylor (cattle buyer) and Frank Parker (banker) gallop up to the verandah of the Conway home and tie their horses. Taylor expects some trouble with Conway who doesn't like him but he manages to persuade the old man to join forces with him against the rustlers. In fact, Parker, Conway's banker, advises that they should so. Conway has one condition - continue to give the small ranchers the same price for their beef that they always have. Taylor objects and assures Conway that he can handle the rustlers.



        Conway, groping for his cane, stands up and accuses Taylor of being one of the rustlers himself. The courageous little man sees Taylor's purpose and refuses to sell out the small ranchers, thereby signing his own death warrant. Taylor lunges across the table to grab Conway but is stopped by Madge who is holding a gun on him. He attempts to ingratiate himself with her but she orders him off their land.



        After they leave, Madge gives her father the good news about the size of their herd and he lets her know how proud he is of her business sense.



        In the town of Sandstone, Arizona,  Taylor and Parker enter Taylor's office and tell a man named Barlow that they are going to have to get rid of Conway before he lets the other ranchers know Taylor's plan. Parker objects weakly and Taylor sends him back to the bank. Barlow tells Taylor that they are going to have trouble with Parker but Taylor assures him that he will be taken care of when the time comes.



        That night, Taylor and Barlow with a large group of riders armed with flaming torches set fire to ranches up and down the valley, running off the herds as they go.



        In the ranch house, Conway and Madge hear them and grab their rifles. Bob Nolan and the boys burst out of the bunkhouse, firing as they come.



        A torch is thrown through the house window. Conway manages to put the fire out but, in its light, Taylor is able to shoot him through the window.



        Another torch sets fire to the house and Madge is unable to move her father.



        Bob and the Pioneers, seeing the house go up in flames, drag Conway out and try to make him comfortable. The old man knows he is dying and reminds Madge of her responsibility to the people of the valley who have always depended on them for leadership. Her father asks her to carry on. His last message to the boys is to stand by Madge and drive Taylor out of the country.



        Next morning, Taylor speaks to assembled townsfolk and ranchers. He tells them rustlers took the life of "the best friend we've ever had - Jeff Conway."



        He tells them that only yesterday he had joined forces with Conway to drive out the rustlers. Taylor promises to take Conway's place and, furthermore, has persuaded the banker to lend them enough money to rebuild their homes. The small ranchers are almost willing to believe Taylor and hopefully discuss what this will mean to them. It is apparent, however, that there are skeptics in the crowd but Taylor and his crew exchange smug glances, certain that everything is going peaccording to plan.



        Just then, led by Madge, the Conway crew lopes into town.



        Madge dismounts as Taylor, mouthing hypocritical condolences, walks out to meet her. Without hesitation, she accuses him of the murder of her father and then faces the ranchers. She lets them know about Taylor's visit to the ranch and how he threatened her father's life. She also tells them of Taylor's plans to squeeze out the small rancher. She turns to Taylor and tells him that she can't prove anything yet but he will hear from her soon. She mounts and rides out of town with her crew. The ranchers are sympathetic but they are still half-inclined to believe Taylor's promises.



        Later in Taylor's office, Parker lets him know that he is uneasy about the ranchers' easy acquiescence to his lower prices. Taylor shows him their profits to date but Parker is increasingly uncertain.




        In a room in another part of town, the ranchers are worried about the non-appearance of Madge who has been encouraging them to sell at a loss for reasons that aren't plain to them. Finally, Madge rides up with the Pioneers.



        She and Bob Nolan approach the door but Bob stays outside to stand guard while she goes in to see the ranchers. Before long, Bob bursts in, "They're coming!"



        The ranchers are puzzled but she insists that all remain in the room while she and Bob take Crane outside with them. Crane and Madge watch from the shadows as the outlaws ride in and enter Taylor's office with saddle bags full of money. No problem with rustlers, they joke with Taylor.



        Taylor orders Parker to put the money in his bank vault but he refuses. He says he can't get Conway out of his mind and wants to get out of the whole business. Barlow thinks he is going soft. Just then, Bob bursts in the door, gun leveled, with Madge and the boys right behind him.



        They hold up the outlaws, steal the money and leave. Sarcastically, she thanks Taylor for selling her herd for her.



        Just as they leave, Bob shoots out the light. Madge and the boys quickly turn the saddlebags over to the assembled ranchers before they race out of town ahead of the posse. For better or for worse, they are now wanted criminals.



        There is a lot of shooting but the Conway crew escapes unscathed. Taylor explains to the town that Madge has turned outlaw. Parker is found dead in the street and she is blamed for that, too.. Taylor offers a thousand dollar reward for whoever brings her in, dead or alive.



        Two weeks later, a reward poster catches the attention of an unshaven cowboy. He notices a group of horsemen trotting into town and turns to watch them.



        The posse led by Matt Taylor draws a crowd of ranchers and townsfolk. Matt, obviously angry with them, derides them for not helping him catch Madge Conway making it impossible for him to make any shipments himself. He threatens the ranchers with not buying their herds if they don't bring her in. Matt wants her hung for the murder of Parker.



        Hardpan, a little man with a burro, stops Crane and asks what is going on. He has been with Madge and the boys in camp and assures Crane that none of them have hurt, or want to hurt, anyone. He is in town to get supplies for them.



        The two ranchers promise to keep quiet about Madge's whereabouts. The stranger smiles when he hears this then, unobtrusively, he follows Hardpan out of town.



        As the stranger leaves town, a United States Marshal rides in. He reads the wanted poster while two curious ranchers wonder who he is and why he's here.



        The marshal asks for the sheriff and, on being told there is no sheriff, he wants to know who runs the town. They direct him to Matt Taylor's office. Crane asks the marshal who who he's hunting - and is ignored.



        The marshal walks into the cattle buyer's office and asks for Taylor, who begins to act a little nervous.



        The marshal brings out a much worn wanted poster and we recognize the face as the unshaven stranger. His name is Steve Lawler and he's wanted for murder. The marshal also offers to help find Madge but is turned down by a much relieved Taylor. After the marshal leaves, Taylor turns to Barlow and instructs him to tell his band not to make a move until the marshal leaves town.



        Out in the badlands, Hank sits out his lonely vigil as sentry on a big rock overlooking the Conway camp while the boys sing "Hello Way up There". Madge is cooking something in a large pot and Bob is carving a roast while they all sing quietly.



        From his viewpoint, Hank sees Hardpan riding up the trail to the camp. Hank whistles to attract the attention of the Conway crew below.



        Bob is a little worried about Hardpan's premature appearance.



        Hidden in the bushes but close enough to hear, Steve Lawler watches them.



        Hardpan tells them about Parker's death, how it is blamed on Madge and that she is wanted dead or alive. Everyone is horrified.



        Bob immediately takes the blame for Parker's death and then Hank butts in and said he did it.



        Madge thanks them for their loyalty but tells them she will go into town and give herself up because no jury would convict her. Bob and Hank convince her that Taylor would not let her get as far as a trial. Hardpan makes them promise to stay put while he goes back to town to reconnoiter.



                Listening to all this, Lawler smiles again, formulates his own plan and heads back to town.



        Loping into Sandstone once more, Steve ties up in front of Taylor's office. Taylor, about to leave the office, glances out the window and sees him. He immediately hides his revolver in his desk drawer and seats himself.



        When Steve walks in, Taylor holds him up and prepares to give him to the marshal. Steve tells him he knows where the Conway girl is and he'd better listen. They get their heads together to "talk business".



        Across the street, the marshal notices the white horse, adjusts his gun belt and walks over to Taylor's office.



        The marshal walks into Taylor's office with his gun ready and informs Lawler that he is under arrest. Lawler hits him, grabs both his and Taylor's guns, throws them under the couch and leaves on the run.



        The two men in the office regain their guns and run after him, shooting. As Lawler passes him, Barlow takes a shot at him and wings him.



        A posse is formed but Lawler easily eludes it and rides straight to a little shack hidden in the trees.



        Before too long, the marshal arrives and it becomes obvious that Lawler, too, is a lawman. They decide that Lawler should go to the Conway hideout and work from that end.



        The marshal attends Lawler's flesh wound and they are about the leave the shack when they hear horses coming and see three of the posse. 



        Steve gives the marshal his gun, leaves the shack as an arrested man and they all head back for town.



        In town, Taylor watches them all ride in. He throws his cigarette angrily. This does not tie in with his plans. McClain puts Steve behind bars while Taylor and Barlow discuss how best to get Steve out of jail.



        They need Lawler to show them where Madge is hidden. McClain asks Taylor for someone to guard Steve while he leaves to send in his report. Taylor walks in and makes a deal with Steve to let him go in exchange for showing where Madge can be found. Taylor gives him Lawler's gun and tells Barlow to let him get away.



        Barlow meets the doctor and takes him in to dress Steve's wounded arm. He unlocks the cell door, Steve gets the drop on them and leaves on his horse. Barlow runs out shooting, bringing the townspeople and the marshal in a hurry. The marshal heads out after Steve. Taylor and Barlow are happy with themselves. Everything seems to be working with them.



        Back at the hideout, Pat and Hank are both on watch now as Steve and McClain arrive quietly.



        McClain leaves for the Taylor ranch to find evidence of the vigilantes who burned out the ranchers while Steve mounts Raider and heads for the camp. 



       Hank whistles and the Pioneers all come to the top to look down on Steve who promptly falls off his horse.



        Madge asks her men to bring him up so Bob and Hank volunteer to go down.



        Bob removes the apparently unconscious Lawler's gun first and then they check out his convenient shoulder wound before deciding it would be safe to drape him over his horse and take him into their camp.



        McClain, still watching, decides that their plan is going to work and leaves for Taylor's ranch. The Pioneers carry Steve into the tent and lay him on a cot.



        Madge brings water and a cloth and attends to his wound. Bob searches him and finds the wanted poster.



        Just then, Lawler comes to and tells them a marshal has been trailing him but did not follow him here.



        Hank studies Lawler's face and has a feeling he's seen him before. He stands back, still puzzled.  Steve seems to fall asleep and they leave the tent to discuss what to do with him. They decide to wait until Hardpan comes next day and get his advice. Steve relaxes and finally gets a much-deserved rest.



        Later, Pat is complaining about having to get in the firewood alone when Steve emerges from the tent, shaven and in clean clothes borrowed from the Pioneers. He and Madge walk up to the lookout together to talk.



        Bob and Pat are both puzzled by the man because he simply does not seem like their idea of a murderer.



        Madge and Steve send Hank down to help Pat while they keep watch and discuss Parker's murder. Steve suggests that Parker had been forced to work with Taylor and when he became a problem, Taylor killed him.



        Steve tells her he'll be leaving tonight and asks her to send Hardpan into town to talk to the marshal and tell him everything.



        In the deepening twilight, the Pioneers sing "Song of the Prairie" while Steve saddles Raider and prepares to leave.



        Madge watches from her elevated position on a rock. Steve bids them all goodbye and, as Madge says her goodbyes, Hugh remarks that he kind of likes the man. Bob replies that Madge is going to miss him, too.



        Just then, Hardpan walks in holding the marshal at gunpoint. Steve attempts to behave like an outlaw but right then Hank recognizes him as a marshal, too. Madge is stunned and hurt but McClain lets her know quickly that Steve never did believe her guilty. Steve, he said, has been investigating Taylor.



        The two lawmen decide they must go to Taylor's ranch and collect the torches as evidence. The Pioneers and Madge volunteer to go with them and Madge mentions friends in town who would help. They send Hardpan back to town to round up the dependable citizens who would be prepared to stand by until they're needed.



        Morning finds them overlooking the Taylor ranch.



        Steve rides down quietly to reconnoiter and as he pauses in front of the house, two of Taylor's hired hands emerge from the bunkhouse. He sees them but is unaware of a third coming from a different door. Steve holds up the first two but the third man holds him up.



        Barlow grabs Steve's gun and then they are interrupted by the sound of hooves as the Conway crew thunders up. Steve takes advantage of this diversion and disarms the outlaws.



        While the men find the torches, Barlow sneaks away and rides to town to warn Taylor.



         Unaware that Barlow is ahead of him, Steve rides for town to see Taylor, too. Barlow brings Taylor up to date on all that's happened.



        Taylor looks out the window to discover that a suspiciously large number of ranchers are watching his office. He instructs Barlow to bring up this own men through the back door.



        Steve, unaware that he has been exposed, rushes in on Taylor who holds him up and brags about all of the murders. Steve is trapped.



        Just then the marshal arrives with the Conway crew. He shouts orders to them and the other ranchers and townsfolk, giving them instructions and their positions. Steve watches helplessly from the window with Taylor, Barlow and the rest of the outlaws.



        Taylor decides to use Steve as hostage and ride out of town free. At Madge's pleading, McClain lets them go and Taylor tells Steve to mount.



        Steve chooses a horse in the centre and, as he gets into the saddle, he leaps over another horse, knocking Taylor to the ground. The fight is on! Taylor runs into his office and the furniture collapses all over the room under the weight of the two big fighting men. Steve finally emerges with a beaten Taylor. The marshal promptly handcuffs the murderer.



        Later that evening, while Steve and Madge made a floor plan of their new home, the Pioneers sing "When the Prairie Sun Says Good Mornin'".



Production & Publicity Stills

Courtesy of John Fullerton


Courtesy of Ed Phillips


 Courtesy of Roy Rogers Family Trust


 Courtesy of Roy Rogers Family Trust


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey



Courtesy of Jan Scott




Calin Coburn Collections © 2004




Courtesy of Jan Scott


eBay image


Courtesy of Les Adams


Edward le Saint, Charles Starrett, Hank Bell


Courtesy of Earl Bryant






Courtesy of Les Adams


Courtesy of Bruce Hickey


eBay Image


Courtesy of Earl Bryant





Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant


Courtesy of Earl Bryant



Press Book



Glass Slide