Copyright 31 May 1942 by Republic Pictures Corp. New York opening at Loew's Criterion: 17 June 1942. U.S. release: 31 May 1942. U.K. release through British Lion: 11 January 1943. Australian release through British Empire Films: 18 November 1943. 8,116 feet. 90 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Wayne reported back to Republic for In Old California to play Tom Craig, a young Bostonian who meets an attractive dance hall singer Lacey Miller (Binnie Barnes) en route to Sacramento where he plans to set up as a pharmacist. She is engaged to Britt Dawson (Albert Dekker), the boss of Sacramento politics who lives off tribute exacted from ranchers in the area. Dawson tries to make it impossible for Wayne to find a site for his pharmacy but is foiled when Lacey goes into partnership with him. Wayne becomes a popular fellow as he cures the local aches and pains but he remains aloof from Lacey because of her engagement to Dawson. a
COMMENT: A disappointing Wayne movie all around. Firstly the script makes him a druggist of all things. Nothing macho about a druggist - particularly in Hollywood movies where either surly Charles Halton or bright but dim Irving Bacon have this profession sewn up. Then our hero is constantly bested by the villain but never gets the chance to even the score. A strange characterization indeed! Thirdly, he is forced to play opposite Binnie Barnes, a lively girl in her day, but so poorly photographed here she looks old enough to play Wayne's mother! Fourthly, he is constantly upstaged by a lot of knockabout comic relief perpetrated by Edgar Kennedy and Patsy Kelly.
OTHER VIEWS: Not one of Wayne's brightest vehicles. True, there are some large crowd scenes, and exciting action spots including a saloon slug-fest between Wayne and Dekker (and their doubles, though these are so well integrated they are difficult to detect) and a climax in which a troop of baddies pour down over the hills to attack the wagon train (there are some nice stunts here too, though the whole sweeping effect is a bit spoiled by some very obvious studio cut-ins).
Binnie Barnes is too old to be playing heroines (she is none too flatteringly photographed, either) and the script with Wayne cast in the unlikely role of a druggist leading to a climax in which he leads a train of medical supplies to the victims of typhoid at a gold mining camp is, despite a few bright lines of dialogue, sheer hoke whose plot is as unconvincing as its dialogue is cliché-written.
The comic relief provided by Edgar Kennedy and Patsy Kelly is wearisomely predictable and is not helped by director William McGann's unimaginative handling. Only the direction of the action scenes excels - and these were doubtless megaphoned by Yakima Canutt. However, other production values are not even up McGann's usual standard of competence.
The photography especially, is careless and slip-shod (when the light is turned right down at the Higgins shack, it makes not the slightest difference to the lighting on the set) and the sets are for the most part neither eye-pleasing nor lavishly appointed. Process work is poor, the film looks as if it has been edited with a meat-axe, and the sound has been recorded on such a low level it is necessary to turn the volume control right up increasing the level of surface noise.
4 is an extremely generous mark.
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