The Law Commands (May 7, 1937)

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The Law Commands, with Tom Keene
 

Released on May 7, 1937: Tom Keene plays a country doctor who helps homesteaders in Johnson County Iowa stop the night riders who are driving them out by exchanging his doctor's bag for a Sheriff's badge.

Directed by William Nigh

The Actors: Tom Keene (Dr. Keith Kenton), Lorraine Randall (Mary Lee Johnson), Robert Fisk (John Abbott), Budd Buster (Kentuck' Jones), Matthew Betz (Frago, head henchman), John Merton (Frank Clark), Carl Stockdale (Jed Johnson), Marie Stoddard (Min Jones), Charlotte Treadway (Martha Abbott), David Sharpe (Danny Johnson), Allan Cavan (the judge), Horace B. Carpenter (Jason, the lead farmer), Bob Burns (settler), Fred Burns (farmer), Adabelle Driver (squatter's wife), Olin Francis (Jenkins), Oscar Gahan (man in store), Herman Hack (farmer), Ray Jones (henchman), William McCall (settler), Clyde McClary (farmer), Bill Nestell (Kirk), Artie Ortego (henchman).

 

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I don't usually get emotionally involved in a cowboy western. Usually they are a pleasant way to enjoy an hour, watching the good guys fight it out with the bad guys, and maybe even get a song or two in the process. All in all, a great way to spend the time it takes to munch on a bowl of white kernel popcorn drizzled with warm melted butter. Johnson County Iowa is a real place, but I do not know if this movie is an accurate story about the early days of this area of Iowa, and the Jed Johnson family. There are many true stories about the richest man in town adding to his riches by abusing the families in town who are at his mercy, and most folks my age have experienced in person the injustice between the wealthy and the poor. This story plot is a surprisingly realistic portrayal of just such an episode.

Johnson County has no Sheriff, no judge, no mayor or other elected official. It is a collection of farmers and a small town that supports the farmers. I spent my late teen years in just such a town in western Pennsylvania, Shanksville. We did have an elected mayor, one small general store, and a couple of stop signs. But no police or other organized government. Fortunately it was and still is a peaceful and friendly place, where poor people and wealthy people live side by side and are true friends - not like Johnson county Iowa in the 1860's. In this small town one wealthy fellow intends to drive the farmers off their land so that he can own it all. Greed personified. Because of his wealth he has the ability to buy henchmen that will do his dirty work by burning and killing off the settlers one by one. At the same time he pretends to be the settlers' best friend, talking about the bad renegades as if he doesn't like them either, while it is him that is orchestrating the whole thing. And it looks like he is going to out-wit them all by getting them to unknowingly sign over their farms to him, so that he then has the law on his side to help kick the settlers off of their land.

Oh, my blood was boiling as this one was playing out . . . it was easy to put myself into the place of the hard working settlers and imagine that everything I worked for could be taken away at the whim of one wealthy citizen. I was munching my popcorn with vigor as the villain was sweet-talking the settlers out of their land, almost ready to yell out a warning at my computer screen to the men that were signing away their land. Will the villain succeed in owning all of Johnson County Iowa? Will his henchmen keep killing off the men who wouldn't fall into line? Will this wealthy man who believes that his superior knowledge, money and position earns him the right to ignore the common laws of decency succeed in hoodwinking the poor farmers?

Tom KeeneBill Nestell
Tom KeeneBill Nestell
Charlotte TreadwayCharlotte Treadway, Robert Fisk and John Merton
Charlotte TreadwayCharlotte Treadway, Robert Fisk and John Merton
John MertonJohn Merton and Matthew Betz
John MertonJohn Merton and Matthew Betz
Lorraine Randall, Carl Stockdale and David SharpeMarie Stoddard
Lorraine Randall, Carl Stockdale and David SharpeMarie Stoddard
Marie Stoddard and Budd BusterOscar Gahan and Budd Buster
Marie Stoddard and Budd BusterOscar Gahan and Budd Buster
Robert FiskRobert Fisk and Budd Buster
Robert FiskRobert Fisk and Budd Buster
Robert Fisk and David SharpeTom Keene
Robert Fisk and David SharpeTom Keene - 1937
Tom Keene and Allan CavanTom Keene and Budd Buster
Tom Keene and Allan CavanTom Keene and Budd Buster