THE ARIZONIAN. RKO Radio Pictures, 1935. Richard Dix, Margot Grahame, Preston Foster, Louis Calhern, James Bush, J. Farrell MacDonald, Willie Best, Etta McDaniel. Director: Charles Vidor.


   The ruggedly handsome Richard Dix, the actor whose voice you could recognize at a hundred paces, maybe even a thousand, was – and I’d never realized it until watching The Arizonian a couple of evenings ago – an occasional but fairly popular western star in the 1930s and 40s.

   He was the star of Cimarron (1931) for example; he was in this movie, of course; and he played Wild Bill Hickok in Badlands of Dakota (1941) and Wyatt Earp in Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Die (1942).

   But unless you can tell me otherwise, most of his films were B-movies, where I think his good looks and great voice were underutilized, if not wasted. Regarding his voice, and I promise I won’t bring it up again, his career in the movies in the 1920s was extensive, and in the silents, all he had was his looks and (in my opinion) some acting ability.

   Dix plays Clay Tallant in The Arizonian, the Good Guy who comes to town, a town run by a crooked sheriff – there is a marshal (J. Farrell MacDonald), but he (the marshal) lasts about a minute and a half in terms of on-screen time.

   Clay is tempted into staying on by the beauty of singer Kitty Rivers (Margot Grahame), not realizing that his brother, already in town, is deeply in love with her. Brought in by the sheriff (crooked, if you recall, and played to perfection by a nicely supercilious Louis Calhern) is notorious outlaw Tex Randolph (Preston Foster), who soon changes sides when he sees who he’s been brought into town to kill.

   All the right ingredients for a pretty good western, and a beautifully photographed one to boot, but that’s all it is, pretty good. There’s a noticeable lack of continuity between scenes — or jumps in the story line, to make myself clearer — that I found annoying. Not a matter serious enough to stop watching, but nonetheless … annoying.

   There is a terrific shootout at the corral at the end of town, though, one with few survivors left standing, and one which made me bring the back of my right hand to my forehead with enough force behind it to make me say Duh. Mostly to myself, but now you know too.