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Western Caravans

(aka "Arizona Cowboy" / "Silver Sands")

 

Columbia Pictures Corporation of California

Production Dates: March 31 - April 11, 1939

Release Date: 1939 06 15

Running time: 56 minutes (6 reels)

Key book (production) number: 314
 

Credits

Cast

Songs

Plot

Production and Publicity Stills

Posters

Glass Slides

This movie is available on DVD.

 

        Set in the late 1800s, this is the story of a rustler, disguised as a ranch hand, keeping the cattlemen and legal settlers at war with each other so he can steal their cattle himself. The sheriff is torn in two directions. He has sworn to uphold the law and the settlers but his sweetheart is a rancher's daughter.

        Although the story line is thin, the photography is excellent and the songs, written by Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan, are lively. Bob Nolan is wagon boss for the settlers' wagon train. (Although he is fast on the draw, Bob still winces when his gun goes off. He was never able to overcome that reaction in all the years he was in the movies.) Hal Taliaferro has a meaty part and Hank Bell is second lead after the heroine, Iris Meredith.

        Watch for an amusing scene when a woman extra dressed a la 1939 crosses the street in a movie set in the late 1800s.

 

Credits

 

Cast

Iris Meredith as Joyce Thompson, Charles Starrett as Sheriff Jim Carson and Hank Bell as Hank, the deputy.

 

Left: Bob Nolan as Bob, the wagon boss

Right: the Sons of the Pioneers as settlers

 

Russell Simpson as Winchester Thompson, Edmund Cobb as Tex, Dick Curtis as Mort Kohler, Ethan Laidlaw as Scanlon, Jack Rockwell as Cole and Rick Anderson as Agent Jennings

 

Hal Taliaferro as Joel Winters and Sammy McKim as his son, Matt Winters

 

 

Songs:

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

2. Wagons Westward Ho! (Tim Spencer)
3. Moonlight on the Trail (Tim Spencer)
4. Chant of the Wanderer (Bob Nolan)
5. O Susannah
6. Wagons Westward Ho! to the end credits.

 

Plot:
 

        The story opens on a wagon train led by Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers who are singing Wagons Westward Ho.

 

 

        Hank, a deputy sheriff, watches their approach from the top of a hill.

 

 

        Back in town, Sheriff Jim Carson nails up a bulletin inviting the new homesteaders to record their claims. The townsfolk, led by ranch hands, gather with a sullen murmur. Jim advises them all to make the settlers welcome.

 

 

         Joyce Thompson gallops up to the sheriff's office on her paint pony to ask Jim if there's been any sign of the homesteaders. She told him that her father and the ranchers were getting the cattle drive ready and Jim, relieved, lets her know that he hoped to get the settlers settled before the ranchers returned home. This would avoid conflict because, as Jim was well aware, the ranchers resented the arrival of homesteaders - and fences.

 

 

          Two of the ranch hands who have been standing around with their hands in their pockets turn to take this news to their boss, Mort Kohler. They pause to listen when Hank, the mustachioed deputy, gallops in to announce the imminent arrival of the homesteaders.

 

 

        Jim decides to meet the settlers and persuade them to keep out of town until the ranchers leave on their drive. Jim, Hank and Joyce mount their horses and gallop out of town. One of the ranch hands, Tex, rides out to bring the news Kohler, the Thompson Ranch foreman. He is secretly the leader of the rustlers.

 

 

        Meanwhile, the happy and excited occupants of the wagon train are suddenly on the alert when Jim, Hank and Joyce race up to them. They raise their rifles but quickly lower them at Jim's order.

 

 

        They let Jim know that they are aware of the ranchers' hostility but they feel they are prepared to meet them. Jim advises them to stay at Indian Wells until the ranchers leave on their drive. The land recorder has not arrived yet so there is no real hurry.

 

 

        Joel Winters brings up the question of supplies and Joyce suggests that she, Jim and Hank do the shopping for them and bring the supplies in to them tonight.

 

 

        Everything appears to be settled amicably when the ranchers, warned by Tex, gallop up. The settlers raise their rifles once more but lower them again at Jim's command. Joyce's father, Winchester Thompson, asks Jim to turn the homesteaders away. When Jim refuses, the ranchers head for town to have a meeting.

 

 

            Bob asks Jim what he is going to do and the sheriff replies that he is going into town to try to reason with the ranchers. He orders Hank to take the wagon train to Indian Wells and promises to bring in their supplies after dark.

 

 

         In town, Winchester and the ranchers meet the townspeople who ask if the homesteaders had been turned back. "No," said Winchester, "but we warned them." Kohler, always ready to make trouble, stirs up the crowd and they angrily push their way into the town hall for a meeting.

 

 

        Kohler incites them to wipe out the settlers and they surge toward the door. Jim and Joyce arrive at the same time, counseling patience. Joyce points out that it would be wholesale murder of innocent women and children. Her father replies that the rancher cannot just stand by and see their range stolen, law or no law.

 

 

        Joyce warns her father that, if he goes through with the slaughter, she will never set foot on his ranch again. The ranchers leave the hall, intending to stop the squatters once and for all. Kohler instructs one of his men to have his crew ready at a moment's notice to grab their cattle. He tells his other henchman to watch every move the sheriff makes.

        Joyce follows Jim into the sheriff's office, wondering what to do next. Her father strides in and asks Joyce to come home with him.

 

 

        She agrees to go with him if he promises to leave the settlers alone. Angry, he calls her stubborn and she agrees. She is his daughter, after all. Then Joyce's face softens and she goes into her father's arms, regretting their war with words. Her father holds her and reminds her that everything he does is for her, to make life safer for her. Jim tries to reason with him, too, and Winchester misunderstands. He believes that Jim, too, is against him but Jim is only trying to drum some sense into him so he does not do something he will regret for the rest of his life. 

 

 

 

        Joyce tells him her will stand behind Jim and, to her horror, her father leaves. Jim tries to comfort her.

 

 

        Hank arrives with the settlers' grocery list and they get to work loading a wagon of provisions.

 

 

        Back at the settlers' camp, the pioneers gather around the fire singing "Moonlight on the Trail". Bob sings the solo parts.

 

 

        While they are singing, the guard intercepts Jim, Hank and Joyce coming into camp with the wagonload of food. For awhile, everyone is busy distributing the food and provisions until they are interrupted by a gunshot. The guard has spotted Tex.

 

 

        Tex rushes over to Kohler to tell him that he was spotted. They ride back to their outlaw camp in the hills and Kohler tells them that the raid is off for tonight because Winchester's girl is in the camp. But tomorrow, he assures them, he will stir up the hatred between the two factions when they come to town to register their claims.

 

 

        In the settler's camp next morning everyone is busy with chores. Pat listens to the busy sounds and finds a rhythm in them that he has to join. He picks up his bull fiddle and adds to that rhythm.

 

 

        The rest of the Sons of the Pioneers join in with "Chant of the Wanderer".

 

 

        Even the children add to the rhythm with whatever they can find to beat or blow.

 

 

        Jim rides up with the news that the recorder has arrived and it is time to go to town to register their land. He warns them that the ranchers are gathering and they will have to be careful. Bob assures him that they will follow his orders. Joyce decides to ride in with the settlers.

 

 

        In town the ranchers are, indeed, gathering. Tex and Scanlon are making sure tempers are kept at white hot heat.

 

 

        Kohler rides in ahead of Winchester and takes control but just then Jim rides into town.

 

 

        The crowd, led by Kohler's henchmen, heckle him and Jim ignores them until Tex suggests taking his gun away. Jim turns and faces them, silencing them. The recorder agrees that the ranchers look like they mean business. Inside the office, Jim wonders where Hank and the deputies are. He and the recorder decide to get on with it, anyway.

 

 

        The wagon train arrives, preceded by Hank. He warns Jim that not a man in the valley will help the sheriff. Jim, picking up the little table to take outside, turns to the old recorder and tells him that the problem is not his and that he should keep under cover. The feisty little man follows him out to face the jeers and laughter of the crowd. Kohler tries to bait Hank into a gunfight.

 

 

        The wagon train proceeds, led by Bob and Tim. The armed ranchers, hands on guns, stride out to meet them.

 

 

        Jim and Hank walk between the two factions, accompanied by the little recorder armed with his heavy stamp. The unarmed homesteaders dismount. Kohler orders them to halt. Jim orders Kohler back.

 

 

        Kohler reaches for his gun, stopped by his employer's daughter. He jeers at her, too, and then he and Jim fight until they are interrupted by Thompson who has galloped into the scene. Thompson demands to know why his foreman is in town after he has been explicitly ordered to stay out of town.

 

 

        Thompson sends him back to the ranch, turns to the ranchers and encourages them to make the settlers welcome. Everyone relaxes and Bob decides he feels so happy he wants to sing. He starts the crowd off with O Susannah.

 

 

        But the situation is not solved so easily. Kohler still wants those cattle. He decides to plant some of Thompson's cattle on Winter's homestead and brand them with Winter's brand.

        The next scene opens on the Winters, father and son building a shack on their property.

 

 

        Kohler and his men drive the "stolen" cattle onto Winter's property then race back to tell Thompson. Thompson and his daughter mount and ride out to look for themselves. Led by Kohler, they find their cattle and it does, indeed, look bad for Winters.

 

 

        Thompson loses his temper and gallops over to Winters, still working on his shack. He orders Winters to leave. Winters refuses. Thompson orders Kohler to ride to town to talk with the others.

 

 

        Winters asks his son to wait with the wagon while he goes to town for help.

 

 

        Kohler shoots the boy in the back, planning to pin the blame on the ranchers. His men compliment him on the shot. He orders them to be prepared to rustle the cattle.

 

 

        Winters rides into the settlers' camp and tells Bob his Thompson has ordered him off his place. Bob orders the men to get their horses.

 

 

        Meanwhile, Joyce has ridden into town to tell Jim what has happened. They ride back to Winter's and find the injured boy.

 

 

        As they try to dress the wound, Winters and the settlers ride up and Winters lifts his son into his arms where he dies.

 

 

        Bob bitterly comments on what little hope there is of getting justice in cattlemen's country. Jim tells him he will deal with it. A heartbroken Winters warns Jim to find the murderer and that he will keep Joyce with them until he does. Joyce agrees and tells Jim not to worry.

 

 

        Jim leaves and Winters tenderly places his son's body in the back of the wagon.

 

 

        Back in the hills, Kohler and his gang prepare to rustle the cattle. They start by murdering the herd day guards but one lone survivor manages to crawl onto his horse and ride for town.

 

 

        Back in town, Jim interrupts the ranchers' meeting to place Thompson under arrest for suspicion of murdering the boy.

 

 

        The ranchers overpower Jim and rush out to fight the oncoming settlers. Winchester holds a gun on the settlers and orders them to release Joyce. They will release her after the murderer is found. One of the ranchers raises his pistol to fire on Jim and Bob shoots it out of his hand.

 

 

        The battle starts but is interrupted by the wounded range guard who falls off his horse in the middle of the street. Everyone stops shooting while Jim rushes to the man, Mac, who tells them what Kohler is up to. Now everyone realizes it's everyone's fight and they mount and ride.

 

 

        The herd is rescued and Kohler, seeing he is outnumbered, tries to sneak away. Jim follows him. They fight on the top of a cliff. Kohler picks up a large rock to finish Jim off, loses his balance and falls over the edge to his death.

 

 

        The last scene sees the Pioneers providing the entertainment while everyone else eats. Poor Pat, always hungry, is teased by a girl with an apron full of cookies.

 

 


 

Production and Publicity Stills

 

Calin Coburn Collections 2004

 

Calin Coburn Collections 2004

 

 

Private Collection

 

 

Private Collection

 

 

Courtesy of Ed Phillips

 

314-2

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Jan Scott

 

Courtesy of Ed Phillips

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

eBay image

 

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

314-77

 

 

 


 

Posters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 


 

Glass Slides