APACHE TRAIL. MGM, 1942. Lloyd Nolan, Donna Reed, William Lundigan, Ann Ayars, Connie Gilchrist, Chill Wills, Ray Teal, Grant Withers, Fuzzy Knight, Trevor Bardett. Based on the short story “Stage Station” by Ernest Haycox (Collier’s, 22 April 1939). Director: Richard Thorpe.

   Lloyd Nolan is miscast as a no good rascally outlaw in MGM’s Apache Trail, a surprisingly effective, if not overly memorable, programmer. Directed by Richard Thorpe, who had a long career at the studio, the film stars William Lundigan as Tom Folliard, a stagecoach station manager who must contend not only with his criminal brother Trigger (Nolan), but also Apaches on the warpath. Given how much of a scoundrel Trigger is, it comes as no real surprise to him that the Apache uprising is due, at least in large part, to Trigger’s subterfuge.

   There’s also a romantic subplot that revolves around the unrequited love that Rosalia (Donna Reed), a Spanish employee at the station has for Tom. Her competition is war widow Constance Selden (Ann Ayars), who is guarding a secret about her late husband’s death. Then there’s a small amount of comic relief and music thanks to Chill Wills who portrays a worker at the station.

   All told, Apache Trail isn’t anything that one need to go seeking out. But it’s a decent enough Western, albeit one that features a formulaic plot about white people trapped inside a station in the Southwest with marauding Indians on the outside, one that would be repeated time and again throughout the next two decades. But with Thorpe’s craftsmanlike direction and a decent soundtrack courtesy of Sol Kaplan, Apache Trail works well for what it is. Still, one wonders who made the decision to cast Lundigan and Nolan as brothers?