John Wayne’s 1930s Western Movie Reviews – The Lucky Texan

Another 1930s western movie where John Wayne as Jerry Mason, comes back from college. College? What did he study? Riding shotgun? “Gabby” Hayes plays a character called “Grandy” Benson.

John Wayne in The Lucky Texan

The Lucky Texan (1934) Lone Star, Dir: Robert N. Bradbury, b/w, 54m

Cast: John Wayne, Barbara Sheldon, Lloyd Whitlock, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Yakima Canutt, Eddie Parker

I guess he’d be out of his depth if he had a name without quotations around it. He and Gabby find that their crick is full of gold. They innocently take their find to a crooked assayer, Harris, played by Lloyd Whitlock.

Harris immediately starts figuring out how to take the gold away from Duke, or “Gabby” Wayne as he should have been called, on account of him telling Harris about the strike without checking first if Harris was on the square.

Naturally they get swindled, Harris first getting Gabby, or Stupid as he ought to be known, to signing over the deeds to his ranch.

On top of that, not only does Harris short-change Gabby on payment for the gold, but he’s also realised Gabby is the gift that just keeps on giving, having previously tried to drive the old galoot out of the cattle business after rustling his herd. 

In the meantime, Al Miller, the sheriff’s elderly son, hits up his dad for a loan. I know the feeling.

Gabby compounds his idiotic ways by standing outside the local bank and counting the money he’s made from the gold right in front of Junior’s eyes.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Gabby then gets framed for murdering the local banker, only it was Al what really did it when he stole the money Gabby gave to the banker.

There’s an interesting camera technique used by cinematographer Archie Stout that features a couple of times in the film. Whenever JW jumps on his horse and starts galloping away, the camera suddenly tracks either to the left or the right and the scene instantly changes to show he’s arrived at his destination.

I’d like to think it’s an early version of the jump-cut, a visual device championed by French Wave director such as Jean Luc Godard in the 1950s.

Bearing in mind how cheap these early Wayne movies cost to make though, I’m guessing it’s more of a cost-cutting exercise to save on film. Still, an intriguing thought for all you film studies students out there.

No one seems to know how to work out when anyone is dead.

The sheriff thinks that the seriously wounded banker doesn’t need a doctor, and Harris and his sidekick Joe Cole, played by Yakima Canutt, reckon Gabby has bought the farm after Joe shoots him.

Didn’t anyone know how to check for a pulse in the Old West? I guess not.  A wounded Gabby tells his faithful dog, Friday, to go and fetch JW.

The dog must have been trained at the same animal school as Wayne’s horse, Duke, because the dog understands every damned word that Gabby says. Which actually makes the dog cleverer than me.

When I heard Gabby tell JW to “open up that trunk and get out my makeup kit”, words I thought I’d never actually hear Mr. Hayes utter, JW pulls out a full-length dress from it.

It’s good to know that in the new world of diversity and gender fluidity we now found ourselves living that 1930s Hollywood acknowledged the existence of transgender people in the days of the Old West.

Then it turns out that Gabby “Grandy” used to be an actor. That’s what he reckons anyway.

Somehow or other Duke gets framed for killing his sidekick and ends up on trial for murder. Gabby dresses up as a woman – any excuse I guess – and engages in conversation with the men who actually did try to kill him.

Yes, his makeup is that good they don’t recognise him. He / she informs Harris and Cole that given the choice he / she would rather suffer the electric chair than the noose, so I guess we’re in that strange “time-tunnel” frame again.

Which also explains why JW had the opportunity to go to college. Glad we got that one cleared up.

Gabby suggests that the sheriff doesn’t let anyone leave the courtroom as he / she knows who tried to kill the man that JW has been framed for murdering. 

When Gabby reveals himself as the dead man the two villains leave through the window, thus eluding the sheriff who expected them to leave via the front door. 

There then ensues a horse chase with Yakima Canutt doubling as Wayne and ending up chasing himself.

The chase then morphs from equine to motorised as Harris and Joe abandon their steeds and try and make a getaway on a small petrol fuelled railway cart.

Gabby joins the chase in a jalopy and, whilst Duke and Yak duke it out, he engages in fisticuffs with Harris, albeit still half-dressed as a woman. They should have called it The Lucky Transvestite instead.

After the dust settles Gabby insists that from now on he wants to be known as Georgina – actually it’s Veronica but let’s not quibble over details. On top of that, he also wishes to identify as a woman but only between the hours of 9:00AM to 5:00PM on a Wednesday.

None of this is actually true, but what a great ending it would have made.

Oh, and there’s a girl in it as well, and she and JW get married.

I liked this one. More in the same anarchic vein please.

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Steve is a film scholar of note, gaining both an MA in film studies and a Ph.D. for his thesis on the silent films of John Ford. Steve, a scriptwriter and published novelist, provides much of the content you see here and is a dedicated aficionado and longtime fan of John Wayne, John Ford and Western films in general.

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