NOTE: This is the third in a series of three reviews of Durango Kid movies from the 1940s. The previous two were Phantom Valley (1948) and Whirlwind Raiders (1948).

THE BLAZING TRAIL. Columbia, 1949. Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Marjorie Stapp, Fred Sears, Jock Mahoney, Trevor Bardette, Hank Penny, Slim Duncan. Screenplay: Barry Shipman. Director: Ray Nazarro.

DURANGO KID Blazing Trail

   You’ve probably anticipated me by now, but there’s no trail to be blazed (or on fire) in this one either, still another Durango Kid movie.

   But like Phantom Valley, the earlier entry also directed by Ray Nazarro, this one’s also a decent mystery puzzler, complete with voiceover narration by Charles Starrett.

   At issue here, after the shooting death of old Mike Brady, is the matter of his will, which leaves the bulk of his estate to the “wrong” one of his two surviving younger brothers. The will was signed and witnessed (but not read) and sealed securely. How was the document altered? If it was, of course.

DURANGO KID Blazing Trail

   As the dead man’s attorney, Luke Masters (Fred Sears) vouches for it, and while his daughter Janet (Marjorie Stapp) acts rather suspiciously about it, especially in the beginning, so does she. (See the photo to the right to get a good look at both Sears and Ms. Stapp.)

   Smiley Burnette runs a one-man newspaper in this one. He’s both the reporter for the Bradytown Bugle and the editor and the publisher, which makes for very funny problems as he tries to manipulate the movable type and generally get his printing press running. (He has no capital “D,” which makes it hard to spell Durango in the headlines.)

DURANGO KID Blazing Trail

   The two brothers are obvious suspects, and so are the local gambler “Full House Patterson” (Jock Mahoney, who later of course became TV’s “Range Rider” as Jack Mahoney, not to mention a couple of Tarzan movies) and Brady’s long-time foreman, Jess Williams (Trevor Bardette, who according to IMDB, made 228 movie and TV appearances, many of them in crime or western roles just like this one).

   Steve’s last name in this one is Allen, and yes, I know. While the immediate investigation is clumsily done – how smooth could things go with Smiley involved? – the secret of how the will got altered is an impossible crime that’s worth double the price of admission. (Easily. What did it cost to go to the movies in 1949? For someone my age at the time, no more than 10 or 12 cents.)

DURANGO KID Blazing Trail

   And while I know you are probably not wondering, there’s no romantic interest at all. The songs are pretty good, though.

PostScript: I was just thinking. If you took these three movies and worked out just how much screen time Starrett got versus how much Smiley Burnette did, I have a feeling that… Have you ever watched one? What do you think?

— October 2004.