Talkie of the Week: West of the Pecos
USA 1945, 66 minutes, black & white, RKO Radio Pictures. Director: Edward Killy, Written by: Norman Houston, Based on a story by Zane Grey. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Barbara Hale, Richard Martin, Thurston Hall, Rita Corday, Russell Hopton, Bill Williams
Plot summary: On their way to their ranch in the West, Colonel Lambeth, his daughter Rill and her French maid find themselves lost in the desert, requiring the help of two local cowboys, Pecos and Chito.
Review: Based on one of Zane Grey’s tales, West of the Pecos is a nice little B Western adaptation featuring Robert Mitchum and RKO starlet Barbara Hale. Designed as a genre film with a comedic, as well as romantic subplot, West of the Pecos is a fun little movie that leaves you chuckling and in a good mood.
Robert Mitchum plays Pecos Smith, a cowboy who has an entire bandwagon of adversaries to fight while he takes on the job to guide Colonel Lambeth and his daughter Rill to their final destination. Still shaky after having been attacked by villains during their trip out West, Rill has decided to disguise herself as a boy for the rest of their journey. She manages to keep her secret from their guardians until Pecos finally discovers that the odd, goofy teenage boy who’s come to impress him is actually a young lady who’s engaged to be married.
Although the plot may sound silly and predictable, the film is highly entertaining. Barbara Hale does a beautiful job disguising her pretty self in boyish jeans and a cowboy hat. It is hilarious to watch her Rill slowly falling in love with a handsome Pecos, against her better judgment one might add (all the while, in real life, Ms Hale was falling for her future husband and brief co-star Bill Williams). She has a great match in Robert Mitchum and the rest of the cast who support her subtle and intuitive talents for this innocent kind of comedy.
All in all, West of the Pecos is not meant to be all too suspenseful, nor gritty. It’s a good hour of pure fun and games with a darling cast of characters and actors who know how to make the best of their story. My pick for a night of good laughs when all I’m looking for is some relaxation.
Available on DVD and on Hulu.