Directed by Ray Enright
Produced by Nat Holt
Screenplay: Norman Houston, Gene Lewis
Based on the novel Golden Horizon by William Corcoran
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt
Film Editor: Lyle Boyer
Cast: Randolph Scott (Bat Masterson), Robert Ryan (Allan Harper), George “Gabby” Hayes (Billy Burns), Anne Jeffreys (Ruby Stone), Madge Meredith (Susan Pritchett).
I am delighted to be able to take part in The Randolph Scott Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.
When Randolph Scott films are talked about it is more often than not his Ranown films released in the main through Columbia Pictures that are quite rightly in the frame. I don’t think I would quibble with the notion of describing each of those films a “Western classic.”
Scott, however, had of course been a major Western star long before his association with Budd Boetticher and Burt Kennedy. We talk regularly here about those earlier pictures directed by Andre De Toth for just one example. Most of Scott’s films after 1950 were made or released by either Warners or Columbia (alternating sometimes). But his earliest western successes were probably those produced by Nat Holt and often released by RKO, directed by Ray Enright and others.
I was first introduced to Scott in my childhood through these Nat Holt productions and they quickly became favorites. One that fails to warrant mention very often, it seems, is Trail Street from 1947.
The story is a range war drama with the matter of law and order interwoven as farmers and ranchers are at loggerheads. The farmers cannot get their wheat to grow due partly to climate but mainly due to the free roaming of the ranchers’ cattle. This is exacerbated by the lack of local law and order. Into this situation rides Bat Masterson (Scott) who is enlisted as town marshal to bring a degree of order. He has a crusty old deputy played by George Hayes in one of the best parts in his career. “Gabby” is always a plus in anything for me.
Scott also deputizes Robert Ryan whose character discovers a form of wheat that will withstand the drought conditions, so making a brighter prospect for the farmers and therefore the community.
There is of course plenty of slam-bang shoot-’em-up action as one would expect and the different strands of the storyline are woven together well.
As if the presence of Scott and Hayes wasn’t enough, we have the beauty of Anne Jeffries in support and the strong role played by the always-excellent Ryan too.
Randolph Scott had been in films for quite a few years in 1947 yet had only recently decided to concentrate exclusively on westerns and as a result his star was on the rise (within a year or two he was in the Top Ten most popular male stars at the box office – ANY genre) and Ryan was also on his way building a name in both westerns and especially film noir as one of Hollywood’s finest actors.
Trail Street was one of a sizable handful of westerns Scott made for Nat Holt but the three best, I think, were Badman’s Territory, Return Of The Badmen and this film.
Later films are better known these days but I like to watch and enjoy any, or certainly most, of Scott’s westerns from 1946 on. For anyone unfamiliar I would heartily recommend this film and for those that are familiar I would heartily recommend a re-watch – soon!
It is available from Warner Archive.
Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry, but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.