Painted Desert (1938)

Painted Desert (1938)

Directed by David Howard with a screenplay by John Rathmell and Oliver Drake that was based on a story by Jack Cunningham this B movie George O’Brien Western features Laraine Day (as Laraine Johnson) in one of her first films as his love interest and his last pairing with (sidekick) Stanley Fields. Director Howard writer Drake star O’Brien and singer Ray Whitley made more than a handful of these B Westerns together Howard & O’Brien about two dozen; Whitley made even more with Tim Holt who picked up where O’Brien left off at RKO Radio Pictures.

O’Brien plays Bob McVey who owns large amounts of the ‘painted desert'; he and his trusty aides ‘Placer Bill’ Jones (Fields) and Steve (Whitley) discover some miners that are effectively squatters on his land. However when Bob finds that a young girl Miss Carol Banning (Day) and her father are the culprits he lets it slide especially since he knows that a crooked financier in town named Fawcett (Fred Kohler) is probably behind it. Back in town Fawcett is in the process of swindling Carol’s father Charles (Lloyd Ingraham) out of his mine for $500. He’d initially loaned Banning enough money to get started but then refused to lend him anymore – a scheme he uses often to seize land. When Bob comes to town to help Carol he strikes a deal to buy Banning’s mineral rights for $2000 provided Fawcett agrees never to do it again on his property. What Fawcett doesn’t realize until after he signs the papers is that the assayer has calculated the tungsten content in the former Banning mine to be nearly 75% the richest he’d ever seen.

Meanwhile Fawcett had sent one of his henchmen (Lee Shumway) into Yukon Kate’s (Maude Allen) saloon to try to win back his $500 from Banning through cheating him at poker. Right after doing so Banning protests and is shot and killed in the ensuing bar fight-scuffle. Because Bob correctly assumes that cute Carol would pack up and leave town if she knew that he really owned the mine (and was being charitable) he keeps it a secret. Kate who has a longtime (mostly) love -(some)-‘hate’ relationship with Bill helps Carol negotiate a deal with Bob to partner in the mining venture. But Fawcett feels cheated out of the deal so he sends two of his henchman Burke (Harry Cording) and Kincaid (Max Wagner) to work the mine for Bob. Their job is to try to keep the ore from reaching the train depot at the time Bob’s $50000 debt comes due at the bank; Bob doesn’t realize that (the aptly named) banker Mr. Heist (William Mong) has sold his note to Fawcett! So Bob is forced to bring his cattle (collateral) to market to meet the payroll and then outmaneuver Fawcett and his men when they try to run his ore wagons off a cliff and blow up the mine in desperation! Never fear though all ends well or at least hopefully.

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