10 March 2002 | bsmith5552
Great Little Gem of a Western
"Frontier Badmen" is a programmer western made by Universal in 1943 with no major stars. Running at about an hour and a quarter, it tells the story of a group of cattlemen who bring their herd to Abilene to sell only to find that the prices are being controlled by unknown parties.
Robert Paige plays the hero and Anne Gwynne the heroine. Both are competent but what sets this little gem of a western apart is it's excellent supporting cast, a relative who's who of western supporting players. First, Noah Beery Jr. plays the hero's trusted buddy. Then we have a tobacco spitting, bull whipping Andy Devine playing against type, as a crusty trail hand and Leo Carillo doing his Mexican amigo with Frank Lacteen as his Indian pal. Veteran William Farnum, whose career dated back to the early teens, appears as a trail foreman and Tex Ritter as a cattle buyer.
On the wrong side of the law is Thomas Gomez as the chief baddie, Lon Chaney Jr. as a murderous guitar strumming henchman and Kermit Maynard as "one of the boys". The tragic Diana Barrymore plays the saloon girl who is the apple of hero Paige's eye.
The story is routine but is raised a level or two by the performances of its veteran cast. I thoroughly enjoyed it.