Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Overlooked Movies -- The Doolins of Oklahoma

When I  was a kid, one of my favorite western stars was Randolph Scott.  His movies had higher budgets than the Saturday matinee films, more accomplished actors in the cast, and stories that were at last a little bit different.  One of my favorites is The Doolins of Oklahoma, which is based on a historical character, the outlaw Bill Doolin, but if you're looking for facts, this wouldn't be the place to go.

Doolin gets lucky in the opening, the robbery of the Coffeyville bank by the Dalton Gang of which he's a part.  His horse pulls up lame, so he misses out on the slaughter of the gang, which was set up by a squealer. Later Doolin shoots said squealer in self-defense, not that anybody believes that. He's now a wanted killer, so he goes off and starts his own gang.  Successfully, I might add.  The gang members are well played by John Ireland, Noah Berry, Jr., Jock Mahoney, and others. While being pursued by the law, Doolin takes refuge in a church, where he meets and falls for a deacon's daughter.  He renounces his outlaw ways (the deacon and his daughter don't know about them, anyway) and settles down to be a husband and farmer.

But that can't last. The gang shows up and outs Doolin, who nobly walks away from his wife for her own good and rejoins the gang.  You know this can't end well, and one by one the gang members pay the price.  Eventually Doolin returns to his farm and asks his wife to leave with him to start a new life.  If you think that’s going to work out, you haven’t seen any movies from the ‘40s.

As usual, Randolph Scott gives a fine performance. There’s a lot of action (riding, shooting, brawling), a little humor, and some nice scenery that looks nothing like Oklahoma.  Check it out.

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