—Perhaps the Most Undeserved Film Title of All Time—
Your Bogie Film Fix:
out of 5 Bogies!
Director: Irving Cummings
The son (George O’Brien) of a murdered millionaire (Robert Warwick) heads to Texas to confront the supposed murderer (James Kirkwood).
What I Thought
At fifty-three minutes, the review for this one was almost “Watchable.” Then I got to the twist ending which immediately calls into question everything that just happened in the previous fifty-two minutes and should potentially create an incredible legal nightmare for all the shooting, fighting, and death that the took place around the main protagonists. Instead, the twist is embraced by all the characters, laughed about, and taken as a neat and tidy wrap-up for a tragically violent story. I’m obviously tip toeing around spoilers here, but James Kirkwood’s Texas rancher is so negligent in his communication to other characters that he should spend the rest of his life in prison.
Based on a novel by renowned Western author Max Brand, there is some potential to be had by the story here. A wealthy playboy polo player heads out west and proves that he can be as tough as the cowboys while he solves his father’s murder – it’s a nice fish-out-of-water story, and other than the ludicrous way that O’Brien meets his love interest (Sally Eilers) at the beginning of the film, the romance isn’t half bad either despite the (clichéd) facet that she just happens to be dating the man (Bogart) who wants O’Brien dead.
Definitely not a must see for casual fans. There’s a good reason this one’s hard to find.
The Bogart Factor
It’s a stereotypical bad guy role for Bogart here as he plays Steve Nash, the head cowhand for James Kirkwood’s ranch. No backstory is given. He’s got a bunkhouse full of goons. He’s quick to use murder to solve all his problems. When the ending arrives, you will wonder Why in the heck did Kirkwood have this guy on the payroll?
All that said, Bogart’s the standout performance here by far. The role is essentially the same as any of his early gangster roles, complete with the East Coast accent, and no one could play stock tough guys better than Bogie. He whines, grouses, argues, sneers, and loses his temper throughout the film and it never gets old.
As one of only four Westerns in his filmography, there is enough here to make it a must see for Bogart completists as he does get a lot of screen time with all the other leads.
George O’Brien plays Tony Bard, the wealthy playboy who goes to find his father’s killer. This was my first experience with O’Brien, but he seems to have had a decent career in Westerns. There’s not a lot to work with in the script for him, but he’s charming enough.
Sally Eilers plays Jerry Foster, Bogart’s apparent girlfriend, and the woman who O’Brien eventually woos by the end of the film. Eilers is probably the other standout alongside of Bogart as she’s pretty and seems comfortable onscreen. But again, with only fifty-three minutes to work with, there’s not much time to really see what she has to offer here.
James Kirkwood plays William Drew, the wealthy rancher suspected of killing O’Brien’s father. He’s briefly in the beginning and then reappears in the final act, so there’s not a lot of screen time for him, but he’s fine in the role despite the fact that his actions are criminal whether he’s guilty of the murder or not.
Robert Warwick appears briefly as O’Brien’s father, John Bard, before he’s murdered. Warwick was apparently a big encourager for Bogart early on, and their relationship was enough for Bogart to bring Warwick back for a small role in In a Lonely Place, so I’ll give him some props again here!
Stanley Fields plays Bogart’s right hand goon, Butch. Yup, that’s all you need to know to understand his character . . .
Rita La Roy shows up as Kitty, a counter girl who seems sweet on Bogart. Again, that’s about all you really need to know . . .
Classic Bogie Moment
He’s a cowboy, right? Right? But this sentence still comes out of his mouth as if he’s in full Bronx gangster mode:
“Fella doesn’t come into a town like this and ask questions for nuttin’!”
The Bottom Line
Harmless enough, painful in the finale.