2 October 2003 | django-1
Rex Lease and Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. in exciting b-western
1937's THE SILVER TRAIL was one of the last leading-man roles for Rex Lease, who moved on to character roles for the rest of his prolific career. It was also one of the last productions of Reliable Pictures, an outfit run by Harry Webb and Bernard Ray, specializing in very low budget action films and westerns that managed to be fast moving and quite entertaining, using established B-stars such as Lease, Richard Talmadge, Jack Perrin, and Tom Tyler. Lease is paired with Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. here and seems to have a genuine rapport with dogs. The scene in the restaurant where he defends Rinty's honor and then has Rinty climb across the table to join him will warm the heart of any doglover. The plot is that old standby where a miner has hit a rich strike and tells an old friend to come join him, but when the friend arrives, the miner has disappeared along with all records of him and his mine. Near the beginning of the film, there is a character called "Hank",
presumably the brother of Lease's character, who is never seen again, but performs two nice old-time country songs in the Montana Slim/ Wilf Carter vein. This character is not listed on the cast list. Also unbilled is Snub Pollard, who plays the cashier/bartender at the place where the dog walks across the table. We also have the federal agent posing as a drunk and many other classic "archetypes" that give b-westerns like this their charm. Overall, it's a fast-moving, enjoyable little film that surely pleased the small-town and third-string theatre patrons it was made for, and Rex Lease has a special charm and warmth that can elevate any film. Rin Tin Tin Jr. also is deserving of merit. His biggest roles were in three Mascot serials of the early-mid 30s: The Wolf Dog with Frankie Darro; The Law of the Wild with Bob Custer and Ben Turpin; and The Adventures of Rex and Rinty with Kane Richmond. Unfortunately, Rinty is not in a lot of this film--his scenes probably add up to 15 minutes. Lease had previously worked opposite a canine in the excellent INSIDE INFORMATION from 1934, with Tarzan the Wonder Dog. If you ever get a chance to see any Reliable Pictures releases from 35-37 starring Lease, Talmadge, Tyler, or Perrin, do yourself a favor and check them out.