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The Star Packer (July 30, 1934)

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John Wayne in The Star Packer

Released on July 30, 1934: John Wayne, as U.S. Marshal John Travers, captures the Shadow and his gang, who have been terrorizing a small western town.

Produced by Paul Malvern

Directed by Robert N. Bradbury

The Actors: John Wayne (U.S. Marshal John Travers), Verna Hillie (Anita Matlock), Yakima Canutt (Yak), George 'Gabby' Hayes (Matt Matlock), Bill Franey (henchman in the stump), Eddie Parker (henchman parker), Earl Dwire (henchman Mason), Thomas G. Lingham (Sheriff Al Davis), Davie Aldrich (young boy), Frank Ball (townsman), George Cleveland (Jake, cook), Arthur Millett (townsman), Artie Ortego (henchman Pat), Tex Palmer (Dave, stagecoach driver), Glenn Strange (henchman Loco Frank)

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Yakima Canutt is probably the most famous movie star that you never heard of. Legendary John Wayne has appeared in 172 motion pictures, but his longtime friend Yakima Canutt was in over 237, including almost all of John Wayne's pictures. Yakima and John Wayne met when both men were just beginning to make motion pictures. Cowboy movies were becoming popular, and both men were in the right place at the right time. Yakima grew up riding horses and by the age of 16 was winning rodeo contests. His skill with horses brought him to the movie screen, and he taught John Wayne many tricks of the trade with horses. During the idle times on one early movie, John and Yakima practiced the art of the fist fight on camera, and they developed a style and camera angle that is still used today to make a fist fight appear real, even though no punches are ever landed. While John Wayne went on to become a legendary leading man on screen, Yakima both acted, and did stunt double work for Clark Gable and almost everyone else in the business during those great years of motion pictures. He also became a second unit director of some fame, and is responsible for directing one of the most remembered scenes in cinematic history. Taking almost two years from inception to putting the film in the can, he created, organized and directed the famous chariot race scene in Ben Hur!

But that is not the only reason that this cowboy western stands uniquely alone among the movies of that era. Cowboy movie fans all know 'Gabby' Hayes. He appeared with almost every cowboy star up to and including Roy Rogers. He was usually presented as a bearded, crusty but good natured side-kick or town character, always providing the laugh that broke up the suspense. But in this thriller, he is the bad guy - possibly the only time that he ever appeared as the evil one. In this adventure he is the Shadow, a man never seen even by his henchmen, who directs the crimes and murders that plague this small western town. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn and enjoy a quick paced and well written tale of treachery and murder in the old west that only a man like John Wayne can tackle.

John Wayne in The Star PackerJohn Wayne and Yakima Canutt
John Wayne in The Star PackerJohn Wayne and Yakima Canutt
Verna HillieYakima Canutt
Verna Hillie - 1934Yakima Canutt - 1934