Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on May 12, 1939
Directed by George Sherman
Written by Betty Burbridge and Stanley Roberts
Cast: John Wayne, Carole Landis, Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan, Max Terhune, Ralph Graves, Roscoe Ates, Collette Lyons, Billy Curtis, Ted Adams, Stanley Blystone, Lew Kelly, Ethan Laidlaw, David Sharpe
I’m not suggesting that I dislike John Wayne—I happen to enjoy quite a few of his Westerns and war movies from the 1940s and 1950s—but I should make it clear that when I sat down to watch Three Texas Steers a few nights ago, it was not for the Duke. No, I was far more interested in his co-star, and one of my all-time favorite actresses, the lovely and endearing Carole Landis. I’ve been a fan of hers for many years, back when I first saw her in the noir classic I Wake Up Screaming; since then, I’ve been trying to watch as many of her long list of films—both mainstream and obscure—as I can find.
However, this movie was all about Wayne, who along with Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune made up a trio of good-guy cowboys called The Three Mesquiteers, who seemingly (based on my introductory viewing of this series) rode from town to town helping upstanding people overcome adversity, gunmen, gorillas, and whatever other threats came their way. Here, Wayne and his cohorts assist the owner of a traveling circus, played by Carole, who run into trouble when a couple of nefarious good-for-nothings want to buy the land surrounding her ranch. When she refuses to sell, and several mysterious accidents force the closure of her circus, the three ‘Steers’ lend Carole a hand and save the day.
Though it was just a Poverty Row programmer, there was still a lot here to like. Besides the obvious attraction of Ms. Landis, whose role was unfortunately a tad too limited for my tastes, I really got a kick out of the three cowboy leads, and how well they worked together as a team, displaying camaraderie and a ‘do-good’ mentality that had you hooked from the start. I also enjoyed the solid good-versus-bad storyline, which neither faction ever wavered from, and how the time frame of the story was set in the 1930s, and not the 1800s, which I’ll admit took some getting used to. And yes, there was a dancing horse, which also took some getting used to.
Unfortunately, there was also a chilling level of silliness throughout that, for me, really got in the way of things. I know that most of these shenanigans were products of the times, and no doubt played a necessary part to the success of the series, but I wish it all could’ve been toned down a bit…maybe more restraint, and less out-and-out slapstick. Two examples of this: the bothersome circus ape (played by Corrigan, because he owned a gorilla suit) and the goofball ventriloquist’s dummy, who offered nothing but senseless comic relief and, whenever he stood and talked on his own, a question of whether he was merely cursed, or flat-out possessed.
Mostly, though, Three Texas Steers was an hour’s worth of escapist entertainment, offering simple fun to 1930s audiences eager for lighthearted laughs and adventure, at a time when such things were hard to come by. For me, it was neat to see Wayne when his career was just taking off (even then he had a strong and likeable screen presence), and a treat as always to see Carole doing her usual good work, this time in an amiable Western. Now, if the filmmakers had just excluded primates, wooden puppets, oafish sheriffs, bumbling cowboys, and wisecracking blondes from the script, I might’ve been more generous with my star rating. (5/10)