2 July 2004 | stevehaynie
The plot is simple, but the action is good.
A simple plot is standard for most westerns of the time period, but usually great action scenes and at least one good actor could make them enjoyable. The plot for The Grey Vulture really is simple. A young cowboy, Bart Miller -- played by Maynard, constantly reads a book about a knight from 300 years earlier named The Grey Vulture. In his attempts to emulate the hero of the book he gets himself into trouble.
The opening sequence shows Bart Miller (Maynard) dressed in armor in the part of the mythical knight saving a young lady (Hazel Deane) and her father (Whitehorse) from a group of evil men in a daring chase on horseback. The scene is played again at the end of the movie when Bart saves the girl, Betty Taylor, and her father, Bill Taylor, from the bad guys. The climax of course is another chase on horseback.
An old joke appears in this old movie when Bart Miller tries to stop a fight between an old man and his wife.
Maynard: "Have you no respect for a lady?"
Old Man: "I respect a lady-- but that's my wife!"
A point of interest is that this movie is not set in the old west, but in present day 1926. There are horses and a stagecoach. Plenty of cowboys are in this one. There are no automobiles, telephones, or radios like in many of the B westerns of the 30's and 40's, especially Roy Rogers' movies. What gives it away is the way the girls are portrayed. Betty Taylor and a group of friends from school are visiting her father's ranch. They are all dressed in 1920's dresses with short hair. The girls dance with the cowboys before they go for a swim. There are closeups of the girls' exposed legs as they dance in their 1920's short bathing suits. When they all go for a swim in the "pool", which turns out to be a natural pond, the cowboys are standing around watching them frolic in the water. This is not a typical element of a western film, but the men who saw this movie in 1926 surely were entertained.
Ken Maynard became one of the biggest western stars of the 20's and 30's, and The Grey Vulture is on par with the Tom Mix movies of the same period. Maynard's presence is fine, although he does not dominate all of the scenes.
In a silent movie there really are no lines to be spoken, just a few to be read. Maynard provides plenty of action with some fighting and his horse riding scenes are truly excellent. His skills as a horseman were part of his success, and they were used well in many scenes of The Grey Vulture.