- Directed by George Sherman
- November 18, 1938
A crooked mayor tries to steal a gold mine from a local but the Three Mesquiteers arrive to save the day.
Santa Fe Stampede is a cheesy B Western starring John Wayne as Stony Brooke. This came out the year before Stagecoach which was the movie that launched him on the path to becoming the Western film icon that we know today. It is clear though that Republic Pictures understood there was something special when it came to Wayne because he gets more screen time here than his two costars of Ray Corrigan as Tucson Smith and Max Terhune as Lullaby Joslin.
The Three Mesquiteers films were a series of light fluff B Westerns done on the cheap. The acting was on the lower end of quality and the production values were not that great. On a side note I am always a little confused if these stories were set in the Old West or what was it their present day. A modern Western for them. Or did they have a cowboy TARDIS where they leaped from life to life putting right what once went wrong and hoping each time that their next leap would be the leap home. I think I am mixing a few things together here though I am intrigued by the idea of time traveling cowboys. Anyway…
There is the corrupt Mayor Gil Byron (LeRoy Mason) with corrupt henchmen and the corrupt Judge Henry J. Hixon (Ferris Taylor) and they are trying to steal a mine from a local rancher. At the beginning of the film these dastardly villains appear to not know of the mine’s existence but some of the mayor’s henchmen are out snooping around looking for proof of this mine. I am not a viewer that needs a detailed explanation of why characters do things, but a hint would do and I am not sure what the hint is that they suspected there might be something worth checking around about on this man’s property. Was their sense of greed so potent that it became extrasensory and they could sense opportunity?
John Wayne is not quite the John Wayne we know today. He does not have the same talk or same screen mannerisms that he became famous for just a year later. Honestly he is a bit of a generic actor in this film yet he still manages to own the screen when he comes on. Even unpolished he could steal the scene. That is what makes someone a star and not just a celebrity.
The Three Mesquiteers were summoned to the area by their friend Dave Carson (William Farnum) to help him out with keeping the mine. He has a young adult daughter named Nancy (June Martel) that the Mesquiteers all met when she was underage. They state that the last time they saw her she was a little girl. She is now an attractive young woman and Stony and Tucson begin to hit on their friend’s daughter shortly after seeing her. Huh? That is simply weird and creepy! I am not sure how any script writer or producer or director or actor could think that was a good plot element in any time period. “Your daughter is all grown and hot! I’m going to hit on her now.”
This small town is ridiculously corrupt. And apparently it only takes like two or three people to corrupt the entire town and maintain that corruption. Then again how easily the local citizenry is made to riot against the wrongfully accused Stony Brooke (John Wayne) in the finale should not make the state of the area too surprising.
Santa Fe Stampede’s biggest claim to fame is that this is reportedly the first Hollywood film where the villain killed a child. For a film series or just a film that is superficial candy that is a dark honor. I am not sure if too many baddies in Wayne films hold such a distinction.
Santa Fe Stampede is not a sophisticated or complex film. It is an entertaining piece that is not a must see for the general filmgoer but might be enjoyable for a John Wayne fan or a fan of old Westerns.