Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Robert Swink
CAST: Tim Holt (Kansas Jones), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jacqueline White (Priscilla “Dusty” Willis), Reed Hadley (Clint Burrows), Robert Barrat (Sheriff Cole), Robert Clarke (Harry Willis), Tom Tyler (The Ringo Kid), William Tannen (Trump Dixon).
When unemployed cowhands Holt and Martin come to the aid of Dusty Willis (Jacqueline White) and her brother Harry (Robert Clarke), duking it out with saloon owner Clint Burrows, she gives them jobs on her ranch. Turns out Harry owes Burrows $3,000 in gambling debts, and Harry agrees to let Burrows’ men rustle some of his sister’s cattle to erase the debt. This kicks off a series of events that results in Holt being wanted for a murder he didn’t commit.
Riders Of The Range was directed by Lesley Selander (right), who did about 20 of the Holts for RKO. Selander worked his way up through the Hollywood studio system, from assistant cameraman to assistant director (learning a great deal from William S. Van Dyke on the Buck Jones pictures) to director. He did excellent work on the Hopalong Cassidy series for Paramount, signed on at Republic for a time, and wound up at RKO for the Holts. Selander worked miracles on the Holt films, turning out superior Westerns on RKO’s tight budgets (that were still more than other B Westerns were working with), getting plenty of production values from the incredible Lone Pine locations. In fact, regardless of budget, his Westerns (such as 1948’s Panhandle or 1955’s Shotgun) are always a cut above.
To me, Lesley Selander’s titles are the best of the Tim Holt series. And Riders Of The Range is a good one, with his usual pacing and focus on almost constant action. There are a number of fistfights, a few gunfights and lots and lots of riding and shooting. Before you know it, the hour’s up and Tim and Chito are riding off. Jacqueline White has a nice part, too.
Tom Tyler plays The Ringo Kid, an outlaw employed by Burrows for the arranged rustling. A champion weightlifter, Tyler started his movie career as a stuntman in Silent Westerns, progressing to serial roles like Captain Marvel and The Phantom in the early 40s. (The Phantom is an excellent serial.) His career stalled when he was stricken with scleroderma (originally diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis), which limited him to smaller and smaller supporting roles, often without credit. His friends came to the rescue. John Ford gave him work (They Were Expendable, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, What Price Glory), Gene Autry put him in a couple episodes of his TV show, and Lesley Selander cast him a few of the later Holts. As Tyler’s condition grew worse, and he could no longer work in movies, he moved in with his sister in Michigan. Tom Tyler passed away in 1954, almost penniless. (Before working together on these RKOs, Tim Holt and Tom Tyler both appeared in John Ford’s Stagecoach in 1939, with John Wayne as The Ringo Kid.)
Jacqueline White: “We shot the picture up at Jack Garner’s ranch, who rented out the place for lots of movies. Tim’s wife was with him and also along was his wife’s dog, a Doberman Pincher! Well, this dog hated Tim!… Richard Martin was a charming guy—real nice and tall! A good looking fellow.”*
Riders Of The Range is the last picture in the Tim Holt Western Classic Collection Vol. 2 from Warner Archive. Like all the films in the three volumes (released so far), it looks terrific. J. Roy Hunt’s camerawork is startling at times, and the DVD-R presents it flawlessly.
* Western Clippings interview