First, sing along with me, buckaroo;
“And that ol’ sheriff, he said;
‘Git you early to bed,
And always keep yer hat screwed on real tight,
In case you git in a fight.”
–Ralph McTell (a cowboy from Farnborough, Kent, England – hotbed of trail-drivin’ music)
I’m continuing my wanderings down the trails of Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” film studios. This time the trail’s a dusty one. Fluff out yer chaps, brush up yer Stetson, and get yer bullet outta yer pocket.
The flick is Wyoming Whirlwind (1932) and I admit initially suffering severe disorientation as the cast credits rolled across the screen.
I have a much-admired friend who lives in Wyoming named Mike Moser. He’s a bright, hard-working, highly-effective guy and I have always considered him to be the Wyoming Whirlwind. But au contraire (as I’m sure they say in Casper), this is a cheapo-cheapo western from Willis-Kent Studios featuring Lane Chandler as The Lone Wolf (for no discernible reason) and his wonder horse, Raven. And by the way, Wyoming is never mentioned again after the opening titles…and there’s no whirlwind……and, of course, Mike’s absent as well – like I said, he’s too bright for this schmegege.
The film features many of the basic food groups of cheapo-cheapo westerns; a hapless sheriff who actually says; “Dag-nabbitt!”, hapless Indians with full gift shop head-dresses and smoke signals, a barroom brawl (yes, the tables do collapse), the sheriff’s wife who actually says; “Land’s sakes!”, and the classic moment; “The killer was….agh-h-h-h!”, and Yakima Canutt – king of stunt men (with lines!).
Raven, the Wonder Horse was a veteran of 20+ movies by the time this was shot and it shows. He was a pro. He keeps his face front, has flash, and always hits his mark. He even seemed to smile at the pretty girl (yes, hapless of course). Clearly, Raven was the best actor in the flick.
But Lane Chandler is the star, and his resumé caught my eye.
He was raised on a family horse ranch in Montana, which eventually got him into cowboy films in the first place. He was briefly a star in the silent films, but when sound came calling, he lost his preferred position in the studio to Gary Cooper (another big Montanan). He persevered however though a 50 year, 393 film and TV credits (thank you, IMDB) career, as the roles got smaller and smaller. Weather-related cowboy epics were a specialty of Mr. Chandler. Besides The Wyoming Whirlwind, he also starred in The Texas Tornado, The Hurricane Horseman, and The Cheyenne Cyclone. Insert your own joke here about other films he could have made (The Stillwater Stiff Breeze, perhaps). He was a regular bit player (usually the Sheriff) in every TV western series I grew up watching, but I was too busy learning the theme songs from Maverick, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, and Have Gun Will Travel to notice.
No, he was not a star for very long, but had a lifetime as a working, paid, tax-paying actor…you could do a lot worse.
The Wyoming Whirlwind, a cowboy flick with no cows, no guitars, no Wyoming, and no whirlwind.
There was a car…a car!…did I mention that?
I loved it…even without my friend Mike.