7 November 2008 | bkoganbing
Law And Order Breaks Down
I think El Paso started out to be a much more ambitious western than it eventually turned out. There was a lot more potential there than for what did eventually make it to the screen.
Except for a short subject he did at Warner Brothers in 1939 El Paso was the first western that John Payne did and he definitely seemed comfortable in the genre. He plays a lawyer and former Confederate veteran who goes west to El Paso from Charleston, South Carolina in search of an old friend of Payne's grandfather H.B. Warner.
That friend is Henry Hull who went west with his daughter Gail Russell for health reasons and is now a drunken pawn of town boss Sterling Hayden. With Hull as judge and sheriff Dick Foran to enforce some trumped up foreclosures, Hayden's grabbing all the real estate he can in and around El Paso from veterans who were not paying taxes while they were fighting in the Civil War.
Payne tries it the legal way, but he's learned a few things as well in those war years. When it doesn't work he finds himself leader of a guerrilla band who are exacting justice after a couple of murders of cast members sympathetic to Payne.
Editing was pretty botched in El Paso. There are references during the film to scenes that were obviously cut out. The film also seemed to be building to a terrific climax and the end was quite a let down. You'll see what I mean if you view the film.
El Paso was produced by Pine-Thomas Productions, two guys with the first name of William. William Pine was Cecil B. DeMille's associate producer on several of his earlier epics from the Thirties and I think he was expecting a DeMille like budget and didn't get it. So cuts were made that I think spoiled the overall quality of the film.
Still fans of the western and of John Payne will like it. Note the comic relief performances of Mary Beth Hughes as Stagecoach Nell and Gabby Hayes for once an Easterner in a western.