For Reel

The Telegraph Trail (1933)
April 23, 2016, 5:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Tenny Wright
2 Stars
The Telegraph TrailJohn Wayne and his horse “Duke” made a total of six B-westerns for Warner Brothers in the pre-Code era. The Telegraph Trail is a notable vehicle if only for the appearance of Frank McHugh as a cavalry man—a ludicrous miscasting to be sure, but one which provides the film sporadic moments of entertainment (in one scene, a drunken McHugh and Otis Harlan match each other shot-for-shot even as they’re experience severe double vision). Familiar of a typical western from the period, the film finds Wayne standing for progress and expansion, serving as the figurehead for a project that installs the first telegraph line connecting across Indian territory. The natives, then, not only represent savagery, but regression and obstacles to progress. Even by the standards of a throwaway western, the writing is often laughable—in one scene, Wayne runs away from Marceline Day, fearing his susceptibility to her feminine wiles. Later, on her quest to deliver an important message, she inexplicably hides in a box and does nothing to make her presence known. Much of the climactic shootout is recycled footage from silent films, but director Tenny Wright stages comedic cutaways including the aforementioned drunken duo, as well as an Indian being kicked by Wayne’s horse (a shot that the makers were apparently so proud of that they recycle again not five minutes later).