Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Broadway to Cheyenne, 1932

With Broadway to Cheyenne, we have one of those Westerns that were set in the "present day," that is, the time that the movie was made. Made in 1932, we have both the glamor and modernity of New York City and the wildness and ruggedness of a small town some 20 miles from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

There's Rex Bell, playing a detective named Breezy Kildare. Gwen Lee is the blond next to him. She has only a small role at the beginning of the film.

The original movie was 60 minutes long, but the version on my DVD is only 51 minutes, and it's plain to see why. This film was not preserved well, and there are jumps and jerks throughout, but especially during the first several minutes, where they must have simply cut out the bits that didn't make it.

So what happens is, Kildare goes to this nightclub, see, to keep tabs on a gangster named Butch Owens (Robert Ellis). The Owens gang comes in and for some reason that I was not able to entirely fathom, makes a hit on some other guy in the nightclub. Kildare is caught in the crossfire and wounded, although he recovers, of course, since he's the main character. After mostly recovering, he is sent to his father's ranch in Wyoming to finish his recuperation. By sheer coincidence, the Owens gang has moved to the same area of Wyoming in order to set up a "protection" racket with the ranchers there. Breezy's dad is, of course, against joining the "association" or paying any "protection" money, so he is targeted by the Owens gang.

The premise is weak, in my opinion. They go even further in that another man who Breezy once busted for selling "real beer" (remember, this is during Prohibition) has turned up in the same town. He runs a pool hall that advertises soft drinks but sells "real beer" right out in the open. Breezy immediately sees that alcohol is being sold, but he just blows it off this time. Later at the end of the movie it is also made clear that Butch Owens is going to be hung without a trial. The overall atmosphere is that there are two sets of rules: one for the city folks and one for the country folks who still live in what is mostly "frontier." I think this was probably an accurate portrayal of the time.

Like I said, this was 1932 when things were still kind of mixed up, so it was entirely appropriate for there to be both automobiles, like this one used by Kildare...

...and horses and wagons as used by his dad's ranch hands.

Then follows a really stupid part. Breezy wrecks his car on the old road to his dad's house, it flips over and he crawls out.

His clothes are completely ripped to shreds but there's not a scratch on him.

Then all the old ranch hands are excited to see him, because he's been gone for such a long time. Gratuitous pipe smoking follows. The picture isn't all that clear, but it's the one on the right.

Here's a picture of the Owens gang in their automobile, armed with the latest cutting-edge weaponry: the Thompson submachine gun.

Note that this is the later version without the ribbed barrel like the movie gangsters are usually using. They stop here to leer menacingly and shoot a few cows. The Thompson is never shown being actually fired. They show the guy holding it, then they cut away and patch in the sound of a burst of fire.

He carries his "typewriter" around in a trombone case.

Breezy dons cowboy clothes now that he's not in the city anymore. I think Rex Bell was someone who actually knew how to handle a gun. Although this is a still screen cap, this scene shows him walking while holstering his gun without ever looking at the holster, he just feels for it with his off hand. In this still, it's not completely clear, but in the moving picture it seems fairly clear that his trigger finger is not on the trigger.

I think in this still I was able to get a decent shot of his Peacemaker. This is appropriate. The Peacemaker was the best non-semi-auto handgun ever invented, after all, and it remained in very widespread use for decades after its introduction. Note that his thumb is on the hammer. How many times have you seen a cowboy movie where you're thinking the bad guy is just going to knock the gun out of the good guy's hand because it's not cocked and his thumb isn't even on the hammer? This shows someone who is holding a single-action revolver in the "safest" position possible during potential combat; readying to use it if necessary without having actually cocked it yet.

Here's a youngish Gabby Hayes, credited as George Hayes, playing Walrus, the Kildare foreman. Check out his gun. It's a hammerless double-action revolver, but I can't figure out the exact make or model. Interesting, and again, appropriate for the time. If anyone can I.D. it, please do so. P.S. Pee Pool?

Yes, Pee Pool.

Another interesting gun that turns up is the pocket gun carried by Butch Owens. Obviously a small semi-auto, and from the barrel configuration I think it may be a Savage Model 1907. But I'm only guessing. I'm not sure the trigger guard is the right shape.

Here's Marceline Day, playing Breezy's girlfriend Ruth Carter. Look at them gams! Who needs a sidesaddle?

The Owens gang sets up an ambush with the Thompson. Breezy climbs up onto this overhang above them and ropes the gun out of the gangster's hands.

Here we finally get a clear view of the silhouette of a Thompson. But does he then use it against them? No, of course not. He climbs back down and takes on Butch with his fists.

There are a lot of dumb stunts in this movie, in spite of the interesting displays of period guns. For example, Breezy's father takes a full-auto burst from the Thompson right in the gut. His reaction?

"I'll pull through all right." By the end of the movie he's walking around seemingly unharmed, of course.

The violence in this movie is very toned-down, beyond even what I have come to expect from G-rated movies. Of course, this was before the current rating system, and back when violence was very whitewashed, but it was "passed by the National Board of Review." The original name of the NBR was The New York Board of Motion Picture Censorship, so that might explain some things.

So I finish by answering the question that I always ask: Should you watch this movie? No. I've already told you everything you need to know. But Rex Bell was an interesting character, I think. Born in Chicago, he moved to Nevada where he served as Lieutenant Governor. He was also active in politics (Republican) and the Boy Scouts. He died at the young age of 58 in 1962.

Source: Western Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection
Runtime: 51 minutes (officially 60 minutes, see above)
Amazon Search: Broadway to Cheyenne

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