ACES AND EIGHTS. Puritan Pictures, 1936. *Tim McCoy, Luana Walters, *Rex Lease, *Wheeler Oakman, *Frank Glendon, Earl Hodgins, *Jimmy Aubrey, *Joseph Girard. Director: Sam Newfield.

   “Aces and eights” refers to the poker hand (two pair) that Wild Bill Hickok is supposed to have been holding when he was shot and killed at a card game. It doesn’t have much to do with the actual story that’s told in this movie, but in all honesty, it does come up a couple of times.


   Tim McCoy is a rather unusual hero in this film. Whether it was a role he was used to, I’m not able to tell you, but he’s a gambler, not really a bad guy, of course, but he’s capable of bringing a fifth ace into a card game when it suits his purposes.

    The other trait that “Gentleman Tim Madigan” is known for is not carrying a gun, but the strength in his hands, which he relies on instead, is great enough to tear a deck of cards in half once and in half again.

   From IMDB, I see that Tim McCoy played a lot of gents named Tim in the movies, but this is the only time he was Gentleman Tim Madigan. He was 45 years old and rode a little stiffly in the saddle when he made this movie, produced by a bottom of the barrel production company.

   I may be wrong, but 45 was older than most B-western heroes were, at least in the 1930s. McCoy started in the film business in 1925, in the sound era, which is relevant, and I’ll get back to that in a minute.

   Before that, though, take another look at the cast above. I’ve put an asterisk (*) before the names of all the players who began their careers in non-talking cinema, and Luana Walters began hers in 1930. The reason that this is relevant is that both they and the director, who began his career in 1926, often seemed to think this is a silent film. I’ll lay the greater responsibility on the director.

   But it’s the exaggerated facial expressions and gestures, along with the long pauses waiting for reactions to come, that kept reminding me of an era that should have been laid to rest long before this movie came along. Also – and this was extremely annoying – whenever a group of players are in a bar or saloon, in a loop of constant background noise and conversation you can hear the same bartender’s voice asking “Another one?” every five seconds.

   The story is a complicated one, especially for a 62 minute playing time, but I’ll boil it down to the following pair of intertwined threads:   (1) Madigan is deemed responsible for the shooting death of a card shark caught cheating, but on the scene were two other men, one the wayward son of (2) a Spanish land grant holder, who is being cheated out of his land by a fellow who’s printed up some phony documents.

   I started out intending to make this review short. It’s already longer than the movie, so I think it’s time to stop talking, right here and right now.