25 June 2016 | SimonJack
Progress encroaches on the Old West
"Buckskin Frontier" is a different Western. It isn't a cowboys and Indians movie. It doesn't have the U.S. Cavalry, posse chases, or gunfights on main street. It isn't about a lawman chasing bandits, and it's not about a cattle baron feuding with homesteaders or sheep men. This Western is about a conflict between those building a railroad in the Southwest and the man who helped develop the territory and owns the horse-drawn freight service. We need say no more about the plot, except that there's romance and another bad hombre who stirs up most of the trouble.
This film has an interesting cast. Richard Dix stars as Stephen Bent, the guy who's building the railroad. Lee J. Cobb is Jeptha Marr, the pioneer of the town and owner of the horse and wagon freight company. His right hand man is Gideon Skene, played by a young Albert Dekker. Janes Wyatt is Vinnie Marr, daughter of the freight magnate who's returning home after being in St. Louis for a year. Lola Lanes plays Rita Molyneaux, a wealthy and attractive socialite from back East who's a friend and backer of Bent's railroad. Victory Jory plays Champ Clanton, the bad guy like so many other characters he played in Westerns of the 1930s and 1940s. And, one other interesting character is Tiny, the head teamster of the Marr freight company. Max Baer, the former boxing heavyweight champion of the world, plays Tiny. This wasn't his only film – he appeared in nearly two dozen; and his love of acting, clowning around and disinterest in training all contributed to his loss of the heavyweight boxing title a year later to Jim Braddock, the "Cinderella Man."
The script for this film is OK, but the ending seems a little hokey. After so vehemently opposing the railroad, Marr seems too accepting of the advent of the railroad, even with a position on its board of directors. He finally accepts, on condition that he gets to ride in one of those big locomotives.
It's interesting to see Cobb play an older gent in this film. He was only 32 when he plays a man in his 50s. Cobb was one of those actors who could be made up easily to be older. And one truly thinks he is much older than his co-stars. But, he was the youngest man of the leads on the set. Dix was 50 when this movie was made. Dekker was 38, and Baer was 34.
Dix was an actor and producer and was nominated for as Oscar for his role in "Cimarron" of 1931. The leading man of the 1920s and 1930s appeared in 100 movies. He was a star for Paramount for years and then for RKO. He also did films with Goldwyn and then MGM, and some other studios. Dix retired from films in 1947 and died of a heart attack at age 56 inn 1949.