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  • tillmany6 February 2005
    The Painted Desert was one of the last features to be produced by Pathé in 1930 before being taken over by RKO, and one of the first to be released by the emerging RKO-Pathé Distributing Corporation. After its initial release it was put back on the shelf, supposedly never to be seen again. During this time four key action sequences were removed to be used as stock footage in later RKO films, among them the 1938 re-make also titled The Painted Desert. In 1955 the RKO library was sold to C&C Television Corporation for TV syndication, primarily on CBS affiliated stations, and both versions of The Painted Desert were in the package. 35MM source material for these 16mm television prints was missing all of the deleted footage, so that what remained, and all that viewers have been able to see for the last fifty years, was a lot of talk, and practically no action. The sequences which are missing are most of the cattle stampede at the beginning of the film, a wagon hi-jacking and subsequent stampede into the canyon mid-way into the film, an attempted, but unsuccessful wagon hi-jacking soon afterwards, and the big mine explosion and resultant landslide that destroys the mining camp further on. (Two very impressive shots from this last sequence can be found in Republic's Red River Valley (1936).) Frustratingly, the results of these events are shown, and much talked about, but the events themselves are nowhere to be seen. The version shown on Turner Classic Movies, though of superior visual quality, having been derived from the surviving original 35MM material, is still missing these key sequences, though no mention is made of it on the air.

    Even with what must have been some well executed and nicely photographed action sequences, The Painted Desert would still suffer from many of the same problems that make it so hard to take today, only less so. The direction by Howard Higgin is of the burdensome, slow moving style that typifies so many early sound films, best and most often described as "creaky." But William (billed as Bill) Boyd displays all the positive and natural characteristics that made him popular with audiences five years later as Hopalong Cassidy. We hear too often about the handful of silent players who did not make the transition into sound; Boyd was one of the greater number who did. As for Gable, in his first speaking role, it's all there. When he's on the screen, you know you've got something, and, as they say, the rest was history. Helen Twelvetrees was a competent actress who found her niche in big city melodramas, often as the victim of her environment, or the bad, bad people inhabiting it. She suffered a lot, but she suffered well. The only conceivable reason why she was so badly mis-cast in this film must have been that she was under contract to Pathé, and owed them a picture, or was being punished for not playing ball with the front office, or something like that. Charles Sellon as a tipsy miner is just plain tiresome. Farnum and MacDonald give just exactly what we've learned to expect from them, on target performances of the old school.

    Under ordinary circumstances, such a film would be of little value today, and probably rarely, if ever shown. But The Painted Desert is Clark Gable's first prominent role, and his first sound film, granting it a permanent place in film history, as well as an object of interest. Copyrighted by the soon-to-be-defunct Pathé Exchange in January 1931, this film fell into public domain when the copyright was not renewed in 1958, and during the ensuing years has become a staple of videotape distributors who specialize in titles over which there are no longer any legal restrictions, but which have some modicum of popular appeal. Promoting Clark Gable's presence, usually with latter day publicity photos in which he appears older, and hence, the film younger, a lot of usually inferior copies of the truncated version have found their way into a lot of videotape collections and/or thrift shops.

    It would be nice to think that the film might be restored to its original length by re-inserting the missing sequences, if and when they could be identified and found, but this is highly unlikely. If a complete, original print could be located somewhere, at least Turner Classic Movies could be alerted to upgrade their version; in the meantime, at least an awareness of what we've got, and what's missing, might make The Painted Desert a little more tolerable for Clark Gable completests if no one else.
  • Two long time friends find a baby boy left behind within an abandoned camp in old Arizona, and their conflict over who should take charge of the infant quickly lowers their relationship to the freezing point, where it remains for over 20 years although they are neighbouring ranchers, and the grown youth's attempt to bring about a reconciliation forms the heart of this interesting early western. William Boyd, later renowned as Hopalong Cassidy, is featured as the young man, Bill, raised by Cash Holbrook (William Farnum), with J. Farrell MacDonald as Jeff Cameron, the other of the feuding pair, and when Bill, a mining engineer, discovers a valuable lode of tungsten ore on Cameron's land, he forthwith fosters a mining project which he believes will be putting an end to the longstanding conflict. Actually filmed in Arizona's scenic Painted Desert region, the work is efficiently directed by Howard Higgin, who is abetted by the fine camerawork of Edward Snyder, with excellent sets arranged by Carroll Clark, and the cast generally performs well, a strong performance being given by Clark Gable as a completely unrepentant villain, only the tasteless characterization by Helen Twelvetrees as Cameron's daughter tainting the production.
  • It's a different kind of western, with little action, all right, but it has a good plot and excellent performances, especially from the veterans William Farnum (Cash) and J. Farrel MacDonald (Jeff). Their interpretation of two friends turned into enemies because of a baby boy they found in the desert is wonderful. Helen Twelvetrees (Mary Ellen) is a flesh and blood Betty Boop and shows with her faces the transition from silent film heroines to those of the sound era. The plot has a simple, but coherent structure that leads to a happy ending. In the whole, "The Painted Desert" has not much of action but it's an enjoying western movie to watch.
  • The Painted Desert is a less than average western in which Clark Gable made his first film with any billing. Previously he had been a bit player in several silent features, but this his first role of any substance. It's the only reason The Painted Desert has any significance in Hollywood history.

    Made for Pathe Pictures just before they merged with RKO, The Painted Desert is the story of two old desert rats, William Farnum and J. Farrell MacDonald who find an infant alive in a covered wagon on the desert.

    For reasons I don't understand, a disagreement about whether to lay claim to a waterhole or to push on further and find enough land for a cattle ranch turns these friends into blood enemies. Farnum takes the infant and raises him as his own.

    The infant grows up to be William Boyd in his pre-Hopalong Cassidy days and he becomes a mining engineer and discovers tungsten ore on the MacDonald property. He also takes a shine to MacDonald's daughter Helen Twelvetrees. Also in the race for her hand is Clark Gable.

    Gable's performance as the roughneck rival to Boyd caught some attention at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and he became within a year, the studio's biggest star ever in its existence.

    Possibly due to bad editing, possibly to bad writing, but The Painted Desert is far from the greatest western I've ever seen. But it yielded something far more valuable than tungsten.
  • The star of this film is William Boyd, who made a bunch of westerns for Pathe in his time. As a matter of fact, on the opening credits,Clark Gable isn't even listed. Later, when they name the entire cast he is mentioned, but he comes way behind top rated Boyd and even now largely forgotten Helen Twelvetrees.

    Two pioneers, Cash Holbrook and Jeff Cameron, are trekking across the desert when they find a deserted encampment with one survivor, a baby boy. The two fight over where to go next. Jeff Cameron wants to stay at the waterhole because "it is a grub stake" - all people driving cattle through will need this waterhole. Cash Holbrook wants to continue on to grazing land so he can raise cattle. He calls Jeff stubborn, and takes the baby too, daring Jeff to shoot because if he does, the baby will fall from Cash's arms and break his neck.

    About twenty years pass and Cash has become a wealthy cattleman. Not being ambitious in the old west has cost Jeff. He married, but his wife died in this harsh environment, and all he has left is his daughter, Mary Ellen (Helen Twelvetrees). In all of this time Cash and Jeff have agitated one another - Jeff is still angry at Cash for stealing the baby boy that is now a man, refusing to let Cash's herd use his watering hold for any price and makes him go 27 miles around. One night it is coming to a showdown. Cash is going to stampede his cattle to Jeff's watering hole and show him who is boss. Jeff and his daughter are prepared to shoot it out to stop him. Along comes a stranger - Gable as Rance Brent, and with him instantly taken with Mary Ellen, Rance decides to back them up in the shootout.

    Cash's adopted son comes out and stampedes the cattle away from the watering hole to prevent the deadly shootout. Cash is angry, and throws Bill (Bill Boyd) out. Bill went to mining school, discovers tungsten on Jeff's land, and enters into a mining partnership with his dad's sworn enemy.

    Now this is where the movie is weird. Bill is acting Gandhi-like saying that he takes neither side, he just wants Cash and Jeff to be friends again and that neither is bad or wrong. I beg to disagree, because to me Cash IS a bad man up to this point. First he uses Bill the infant as a human shield, and when Bill keeps something from escalating into bloodshed, Cash throws that son out of his life.

    In the meantime, Jeff and Bill's mine is yielding lots of ore, and out of nowhere - certainly not out of any dialogue that I could perceive - Bill and Mary Ellen are in love. Meanwhile somebody is sniping at the drivers who are taking the ore into town to the railroad, and then some dynamite disappears and the mine is blown to smithereens. Everybody on Jeff's place blames Cash, and it is up to Bill to stop another potential showdown and shootout. I'll let you watch and find out what happens.

    This film has absolutely no background music, which was common in early films, and much of the dialogue is very pedestrian. However, it is a good chance to see Gable in his first sound film, and although he hardly utters a word, you can see the beginning of "that Gable style".
  • Two men traveling west find a baby boy in the desert and quarrel over which one will raise him. One steals away with the boy and becomes a wealthy rancher while the other stays put beside a waterhole and remains an impoverished homesteader.

    Years later the boy has grown up to become a fair-minded man who tries to reconcile the two bitter enemies, partnering with his father's old friend in a mining operation beset by mistrust due to unexplained sabotage.

    The Painted Desert is mostly remembered nowadays for featuring future Hopalong Cassidy star William Boyd and the first talking performance by Clark Gable.

    Though undoubtedly harmed by having nearly all it's action sequences carved up as stock footage for later films, it's still worth watching and has a nice Hollywood sheen not seen in later B-westerns.
  • The Painted Desert is best remembered as Clark Gable's first substantial role for good reason. The future King of Hollywood's natural, dynamic style of acting stands out in this extremely creaky early talkie Western. In an unrewarding heavy role Gable speaks in his trademark relaxed, cocky manner, while other, more experienced actors such as J. Farrell MacDonald, early silent era star William Farnum, and a stiff-as-a-board Bill Boyd deliver their lines one distinctly enunciated word at a time as if speaking toward a microphone hidden in a cactus. Admittedly Boyd wasn't much of an actor in spite of his good looks and sunny disposition, but MacDonald and Farnum were. Blame an under-financed sound department and uninspired direction by Howard Higgins, who also co-wrote the murky script for this lumbering oater. Those who would excuse the stiff direction and acting as caused by unavoidable problems with early sound equipment should first take a look at Joseph Von Sternberg's Morocco (1930), released the year before The Painted Desert, but showing a marvelously sophisticated and artistically pleasing use of sound. Other than Gable, the only other actors who managed to rise above the restraints of the over-compensating sound technicians and Higgin's stodgy direction were gorgeous leading lady Helen Twelvetrees and Boyd's beautiful white horse.

    That's not to say that The Painted Desert doesn't have some good points -- especially for die-hard Western fans. Most of the low, low budget must have been spent carting the actors, crew, and equipment around several scenic Arizona locations, including the sure-enough Painted Desert. Sets by art director Carrol Clark and costumes by Gwen Wakeling were well turned out and authentic looking. Oldblackandwhite, who is one of the vanishing breed of Texans still preferring the Stetson style to the ubiquitous Beaver Cleaver ball cap, wishes he could find the hatter Ms. Wakeling used for this picture. The sets and costumes, along with a folksy, real-to-life dialog, as plodding as the delivery was, gave the movie an authentically quaint, rustic 19th century ambiance missing in many a better produced Western.

    Best of all, and almost worth the price of a DVD -- a cheap one anyway -- was having a tense, climactic, sixgun showdown between two elderly gentlemen! But there wasn't much else to get excited about in The Painted Desert. Mainly for curiosity seekers, dedicated Clark Gable fans, fanatical Western aficionados, and the usual desperate insomniacs. Neither the best nor the worst from Old Hollywood's Classic Era.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Considering the release of this film on the early threshold of the talkie film era, and with the hindsight of a couple hundred Western films under my belt, I was rather surprised by the originality of some of the scenes presented here. The opening sequence almost suggests that it IS a silent film, until broken by the cry of an abandoned baby in a covered wagon, discovered by a pair of codgers named Cash Holbrook and Jeff Cameron (William Farnum and J. Farrell MacDonald). At odds over who'll bring him up, Cash takes the baby and heads West with 'Bill'.

    Fast forward some twenty years, the baby has grown into Bill Boyd, or at least his character, Bill Holbrook. At the time of the movie, Boyd at age thirty six looks somewhat heavier around the middle than he would as his alter ego, Hopalong Cassidy. Bill attempts to get the former friends to reconcile their disagreement that has grown increasingly bitter over the years. When Bill discovers tungsten ore on Cameron's property, he throws in with the Cameron's to develop a mining operation and get closer to Miss Mary Ellen (Helen Twelvetrees).

    Most self references to "The Painted Desert" use the opportunity to promote the movie as the first speaking role for Clark Gable. The actor acquits himself reasonably well, though he's given the task of being a no good slimy polecat who attempts to further undermine the relationship of the former partners, and derail the budding romance between Bill and Mary Ellen. You can tell his acting is a bit forced, especially in the final confrontation with Bill when he outs himself.

    As others have mentioned, the lack of typical Western style action is apparent, but what makes the film difficult for a lot of viewers is that every... spoken... word... and... sentence... is... followed... by... a... pause... that's... so... looooong. With normal dialog, the film probably could have clocked in at under an hour.

    To my mind though, the final scene presenting the showdown between the senior Holbrook and Cameron is entirely original and one I've never seen before. Realistic too, in that handguns of the era depicted were never accurate beyond a distance of about twenty five feet. I won't spoil it for you, though Bill Boyd figures in the outcome. Let's just say he'll be a little late for his wedding.
  • MartinHafer18 February 2006
    Even though this movie marks the first speaking role for Clark Gable, it is a completely forgettable B-movie. Despite Gable's being in a purely supporting role, this is in fact a film starring the future mega-star of Saturday morning kiddie Western, Hopalong Cassidy. Cassidy, in fact, is the brightest aspect of this film, as his acting is passable. As for the rest, the acting and action is strictly "poverty row" quality--i.e., it is obviously the production of a 3rd rate studio. While this does not make it unwatchable, it is about what you'd expect for one of these quickie movies. Several of the actors stumble over their lines badly and the movie just seems rushed though production. To make matters worse, the video from "Hollywood Classics" is about the worst quality video I've seen. I only forced myself to sit through it because I am a big Gable fan--and that's about the audience I'd recommend watch this film.
  • GManfred30 November 2015
    Two prospectors come across an abandoned covered wagon - abandoned, that is, except for a baby. They have a disagreement, one stays to raise the baby and the other leaves, leaving his partner holding the bag, er, baby. Fast forward twenty-odd years, and the baby grows up to be William Boyd. The two prospectors are deadly enemies, and the grown-up baby tries to bring them together. Added bonus; the one who left now has a pretty daughter, a development not lost on the boy.

    The story is fairly interesting and could have been more so if the movie hadn't been cannibalized and crucial scenes removed for other movies. Several reviewers have mentioned some scenes have been taken out and with them much of the excitement was drained from the film. In addition, the acting is slow and deliberate giving the movie an artificial, stilted feel and will catch modern audiences off balance. On the whole, though, it is worth a look due to the peculiar nature of the subject matter, and to see Clark Gable as a bad guy minus his customary charm, and William Boyd before he hit the bigtime as Hopalong Cassidy.
  • lugonian14 October 2012
    THE PAINTED DESERT (Pathe, 1931), directed by Howard Higgin, stars William Boyd, billed simply as Bill Boyd, in a slightly atypical western story set in the landmark territory of Arizona. For Boyd's first western which has nothing to do with sand painting, it was his introduction to a genre for which he become famous. Before achieving fame and popularity as "Hopalong Cassidy" on both screen (1935-1948) and later TV series (1952-54), Boyd was a blond-haired actor assuming all sorts of character parts since the silent era of the 1920s. For THE PAINTED DESERT, Boyd was the center of attention, supported by notable veteran silent screen actors as J. Farrell MacDonald and William Farnum, along with Helen Twelvetrees, the only female credited in the cast. In later years, however, it's earned the reputation as being the early screen appearance of future major star, Clark Gable, who's strong presence and distinctive voice helped rise above the level of being just another mediocre outdoors western.

    The ten minute prologue begins with an written diary passage which reads, "Feb. 25 ... Four months since we headed west into the Painted Desert, about sundown today, we come to a deserted camp." Jeff Cameron (J. Farrell MacDonald) and "Cash" Holbrook (William Farnum), are introduced as two prospecting pals who encounter an abandoned covered wagon. Inside they find a baby boy, the sole survivor of a possible massacre. Jeff asks, "Give me a hand with the boy." Cash replies, "You know I will." While the infant initially brings the two men closer together in roles as father figures, he also splits them apart when one claims custody of the boy. With Jeff wanting to name the infant, "Daniel Boone Cameron," it's Cash who takes "Buffalo Bill Holbrook" as his own, thus starting a lifelong feud between two best friends. Next diary passage: "Well, looks like after all these years, me and "Cash" Holbrook was coming to a showdown. He's had all the luck, but he ain't never going to get this water hole." For the rest of the story, Cash, who has converted the land around the water hole into a cattle ranch, has raised Bill on his own son while Jeff, now a widower, has raised his daughter, Mary Ellen (Helen Twelvetrees). The Carters soon encounter a stranger, Rance Brett (Clark Gable), drinking water on their property. Brett, from Montana, heading for New Mexico way, having lost his horse, is stranded. Becoming attracted to the presence of Mary Ellen, Brett stays, becoming partners with Cameron. As for the adult Bill Holbrook (Bill Boyd), having been educated in mining school, finds himself ordered from home by his adopted dad for creating a cattle stampede that was, in Bill's point of view, to keep both Holbrook and Cameron from killing each other. As Bill vies for the attention of Mary Ellen from Brett, he assists Jeff with his Cameron Mine Company. Problems arise when vicious rumors about Jeff and Cash spread around town, causing Bill going through extremes to end this feud before it's too late.

    Slow pacing with lack of underscoring quite common in 1931 talkies, the proposed original screenplay by Howard Higgin and Tom Buckingham breaks away from traditional western form of staged Indian massacres, bank robberies, chase scenes on horseback or extended bar room brawls and dancing saloon gals in favor of "Romeo and Juliet" courtship prevented by family rivalry, in this instance, two fathers. Granted there's typical comedy relief thrown in for good measure, one acted by old geezer Charles Sellon as the gossiping Tonopah, and another briefly played by former Mack Sennett comedy player by the name of Al St. John as Buck. One great advantage THE PAINTED DESERT has is the fine use of black and white photography for its location scenery of the badlands and mountain view of the Painted Desert.

    Though the leading players occasionally act their roles in low-key manner, it's the up-and-coming Clark Gable who plays his part with natural conviction. Though Gable westerns were few and far between, it was that same genre that marked the end of his thirty year movie career with John Huston's THE MISFITS (United Artists, 1961). His presence with unshaven face, high hat, rolling of cigarettes and horseback riding are enough to draw attention whenever he's on, especially the confrontation sequence between he and Bill Boyd that would be clipped as part of the many Gable movies inserted into the 1968 documentary narrated by Burgess Meredith titled "Dear Mr. Gable" (ABC television network.

    Close to being forgotten, THE PAINTED DESERT earned its rediscovery during the wake of home video in the early 1980s with VHS cardboard boxes using either still photos of Clark Gable (giving the impression that he was the star) or of Gable and Boyd's face-to-face confrontation on the package. Some prints consist of its sold to television Movietime introduction logo in place of the original Pathe Studios presentation while all prints clock at 75 minutes as opposed to 80. THE PAINTED DESERT did have its share of television broadcasts in the late 80s either public or local broadcasting systems, usually during the after midnight hours, before commonly found on cable television's American Movie Classics (prior to 1999) and Turner Classic Movies, especially during some of its Clark Gable tributes.

    Contrary to sources indicating the 1938 release of PAINTED DESERT (RKO Radio) starring George O'Brien as being a remake. The title and setting may indicate the same, but story and character names are overall different, bears no connection whatsoever with the earlier but slightly better western package. Will William "Bill" Boyd make good as a movie cowboy? You know he will. (**)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The Painted Desert (1931)

    Two wondering cowpokes, Cash Holbrook (William Farnum) and Jeff Cameron (J. Farrell MacDonald) ride up on an abandoned wagon, the victim of an Indian attack. Nobody is alive except for a baby. The two quickly come to the little fellow's rescue, but it doesn't take long before they're arguing over what to name him and where they should settle down. Guns are even drawn and Cash leaves in a huff with the baby.

    These two become bitter rivals years later when young Bill Holbrook (William Boyd) and Jeff's daughter, Mary Ellen Cameron (Helen Twelvetrees) become adults. Cash sneaks his cattle onto Jeff's land to drink from his water and a gun battle almost ensues.

    This is where a wondering stranger rides onto the property, Rance Brett (Clark Gable) who offers to be an extra gun for Jeff and Mary Ellen.

    Meanwhile, Bill see's the ridiculousness of this feud. Bill has been trying to talk Cash into making peace with Jeff. He's spotted some ore deposits on Jeff's land and feels that together they could make a huge profit working together, while fighting each other, everyone looses.

    This is an old western with old stage and silent era acting styles that come off more funny to watch with today's eyes. This is one of Clark Gable's first talkies, and you know he's the heavy in this movie and frankly is the most three dimensional character in the whole film. You know Gable has a big future ahead of him and he is the reason for watching this.

    William Boyd, who later is known for TV's Hopalong Cassidy is your typical stiff blond hero in all this.
  • In "The Painted Desert" of Arizona, William Farnum (as Bill 'Cash' Holbrook) and J. Farrell MacDonald (as Jeff Cameron) happen upon an abandoned covered wagon; in the deserted carriage, they find a baby boy. The chums "adopt" the boy, but argue over what to name him. Each man wants to pass on, through the child, their surname. Mr. Farnum steals away with the tot, who grows several decades, into adult Bill Boyd (as Bill Holbrook). Mr. MacDonald may have lost the boy, but he gained a girl, pretty blonde Helen Twelvetrees (as Mary Ellen Cameron). Ms. Twelvetrees attracts Montana cowboy Clark Gable (as Rance Brett), who helps at the ranch. When Twelvetrees gets a hankerin' for Mr. Boyd, the spurned Mr. Gable gets jealous.

    Often described as Gable's first "talkie", this film might more accurately be described as his first role of consequence. Note, Gable had about as much to say in "Du Barry, Woman of Passion" as in most of his silent films. Farnum, a huge star in the mid-teens, was in the talking "Du Barry", also. Considering the successful careers had by Farnum, Boyd and Gable, this film is quite disappointing. The dialogue comes out of everyone's mouth like molasses. A little fun to see the stars somewhat dimmer than usual.

    *** The Painted Desert (1/18/31) Howard Higgin ~ William Boyd, William Farnum, Clark Gable, Helen Twelvetrees
  • kidboots2 November 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    Two prospectors find a baby in a wagon after an Indian attack. They eventually go their separate ways - Jeff Cameron (J. Farrell MacDonald) stays where he is - Helen Twelvetrees played his daughter. Cash Holbrook takes baby Bill and becomes a wealthy cattle man.

    There is a bitter feud between them - Holbrook needs to water his cattle and Cameron won't allow them near his lake. Bill (Bill Boyd) finds tungsten ore on Cameron's land and tries to get the two men to reconcile.

    Someone is trying to sabotage the mine - most of the towns folk suspect Cash Holbrook.

    Clark Gable has a dynamic credited debut as villain, Rance Brett. He just about acts everyone off the screen. The way he just spits out his words and snarls - actions that were to be his trademark. 1931 was Gable's meteoric year. "The Painted Desert" was his first film for the year - by the end he was starring with Joan Crawford in the fantastic "Possessed".

    Rugged, good looking William Boyd played Bill Holbrook. He had been a top star in the twenties, often starring in adventures but this was one of his first westerns. Even though in 1930 he was a top star - he would have an even bigger career as Hopalong Cassidy.

    Helen Twelvetrees was a rising star at Pathe.
  • Zoooma19 July 2014
    Clark Gable in his first big role. He gets low billing but has plenty of screen time to make it appear as if he's one of the stars. Very interesting to see him as a villain in this early Western talkie. It's bigger than a B-western but not quite as fully formed as a feature film; it's somewhere in the middle. Beautiful Arizona locations but terrible production and poor acting aside from Gable and the leading lady, playing opposite western star William Boyd. This really isn't anything especially noteworthy except for Gable's appearance but I'm still glad I got to see it.

    5.7 / 10 stars

    --Zoooma, a Kat Pirate Screener
  • The way I saw it, it felt like: Bill Boyd remembered how to act last 10-15 mins. Clark Gable forgot how to act the last 1-2 mins but still was better than everyone. Helen Twelvetrees only acted well for less than two lines. Good story but terrible acting -Clark excluded-and audio.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Bill Boyd (Bill Holbrook), Helen Twelvetrees (Mary Ellen Cameron), J. Farrell MacDonald (Jeff Cameron), William Farnum (Cash Holbrook), Clark Gable (Rance Brett), Charles Sellon (Tonopah), Wade Boteler (Bob Carson), Will Walling (Kirby), Guy Edward Hearn (Tex), Edmund Breese (Judge Kirby), Al St John (Buck), James Donlan (Steve), Richard Kramer (Provney), Edgar Dearing (Buck's partner), William Le Maire, Clem Beauchamp, James Mason, Cliff Lyons, Brady Kline, George Burton, Cy Clegg, Jerry Drew, Hugh Adams.

    Director: HOWARD HIGGIN. Screenplay: Howard Higgin, Tom Buckingham. Film editor: Clarence Kolster. Photography: Edward Snyder. Art director: Carroll Clark. Costumes: Gwen Wakeling. Music: Francis Gromon. Camera operator: Joseph La Shelle. Script clerk: Colbert Clark. Sound recording: Homer Ackerman. Ben Winkler. Producer: E.B. Derr. Copyright 12 January 1931 by Pathe Exchange, Inc. U.S. release through RKO-Pathe: 18 January 1931. New York opening at the Hippodrome: 8 March 1931. 8 reels. 79 minutes.

    COMMENT: Some admirable attempts to build up atmosphere are undermined both by budget restrictions and a script that seems determined to lay all the blame on Clark (who actually has a minor role, but plays it well). It's the lovely Helen Twelvetrees, garrulous J. Farrell MacDonald and silent-movie-sinister William Farnum who make all the running.

    A pity the conclusion is a cop-out, but nonetheless an entertainingly atmospheric film up to that point, even if a little dialogue-bound and somewhat short on actual action (aside from the spectacular dynamiting scene, most of it occurs off-camera).
  • Clark Gable's acting potential is evident in this cowboy film of feuding families. He's not sorry for his crimes, which makes him more interesting than everyone else in their complete predictability. Helen Twelvetrees, Our Heroine, seems like she's stepped right out of silent films into talkies without realizing the difference between them.
  • zeppo-29 November 2004
    For a western, this is somewhat unusual in that there is almost no action. The wagons been destroyed all happens off-camera and the mine explosion has all the thrills of a bouncy castle. The climatic clash between hero and villain is just one quick punch in the face. Nobody gets hurts and the feel is of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 1970's, where no one was allowed to use any violent action of any type.

    It's evident that Gable was going to make it and Boyd's role is just a precursor of his Hopalong Cassidy films.

    Alright for it's time but the non-action,stilted dialogue, stiff acting and long pauses all make for a dull film that seems to go on far longer than it's short 79 minute running time.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The Painted Desert" (1931) is an interesting old (tight budgeted) western.

    As a baby little Bill is found in an empty covered wagon. Jeff Cameron, the man who finds him, wants to raise him. Bill 'Cash' Holbrook steals the baby daring Jeff to try to stop him. He knows Jeff won't do anything that might endanger the baby's life. There will be no gun play.

    Jeff marries and has a daughter, Mary Ellen. Cash never marries but he does raise Bill who turns into a fine man anyway. While out working the range Bill finds 'tungsten' on Jeff's property. He tries to bring the 2 ex-friends back together to work the mine. It doesn't work well but he gets to know Mary Ellen better. Everything begins to fall apart thanks to Rance Brett trying to come between the 4 of them. Brett is a major troublemaker and one nasty dude who always gets what he wants (LOL). ***A Small Spoiler*** There isn't a great bunch of bloody action here. It's along the line of the old Saturday Matinée piece where the good guy always won. There is an interesting piece of gun play between Cash and Jeff towards the end.

    Cast: Bill Boyd....young Bill Holbrook (Good guy who later becomes well-known as Hopalong Cassidy), Helen Twelvetrees....Mary Ellen Cameron, William Farnum....Bill 'Cash' Holbrook, J. Farrell MacDonald....Jeff Cameron, Clark Gable....Rance Brett (Bad guy who later becomes well-known as Rhett Butler).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    An inferior, low-budget western, whose only distinction is a very early part played by Clark Gable—he's not a good guy. This small villainy he carries of fairly well, but the movie's really not about him. The main star is the incredibly wooden William Boyd in his pre-Hopalong Cassidy days. What can I say about him? He occupies space. He makes John Wayne look hyperactive. I saw him once when I was a boy; he was impressive, wearing his black outfit and white-haired and riding a white horse in a parade, brought to Kansas, I think, by the dairy that sponsored his television show, which I never saw. Anyway, the story starts out amusingly, with two grizzled cowpokes arguing over who gets to keep an orphan boy they discover, but then the story lapses into a feud between the two men, and Bill falls for the pretty daughter (Helen Twelvetrees) of the cowpoke who didn't raise him. The Gable character, also attracted to the girl, tries to accelerate the feud and destroys Bill's tungsten mine, but to no avail—he doesn't get the girl. The dialogue is stilted, the continuity bumpy, and only the repeated shot of the street outside the barn-sized door of the tavern is really effective.