The Dude Ranger (September 21, 1934)
Released on September 21, 1934: An Easterner inherits a cattle ranch and discovers that the cattle is systematically disappearing, so he signs on anonomously as a ranch hand to find out what the problem is.
Directed by Edward F. Cline
Written by Zane Grey with screenplay by Barry Barringer.
The Actors: George O'Brien (Ernest 'Dude' Selby), Irene Hervey (Ann Hepburn), LeRoy Mason (Dale Hyslip), Syd Saylor ('Nebraska' Kemp), Henry Hall (Sam Hepburn), Jim Mason ('Hawk' Stevens), Sid Jordan (henchman Dunn), Alma Chester (Martha, housekeeper), Lloyd Ingraham (lawyer John Beckett), Silver Tip Baker (townsman), Hank Bell (party guest), Charles Brinley (bank customer), Earl Dwire (train passenger), John Ince (banker), Si Jenks (drunk), Jack Kirk (bank customer), Murdock MacQuarrie (doctor), Merrill McCormick (bank customer), Lafe McKee (Al, bank customer), Jack Montgomery (cowhand), Vester Pegg (cowhand), Dick Rush (Crane, cattle buyer).
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I often remember my father saying, with a smile on his face and a glint in his eye, "I chased your mother until the day she caught me." This Zane Grey story is about a dude from the east who inherits a ranch in Arizona, and the girl who chases him until he catches her. As in most of Zane Grey's western adventures, the plot is much more complicated than the usual cowboy adventure, and with much more richly developed characters.
Our adventure opens with wealthy easterner Ernest Selby (George O'Brien) on a train talking to to another passenger. We learn that Ernest isn't looking forward to his Arizona visit. He has inherited a cattle ranch from his uncle, and is on the way to take possession, and he learns that about half of the cattle have mysteriously disappeared recently. After talking with the lawyer in the town near his ranch, he leaves the lawyer's office with brand new clothes, and heads for his new ranch. Outside is a pretty young blonde who drops a package after she mounts her horse. She commandingly orders Selby over to pick up the package she dropped and hand it to her. He politely does, and tries to start a conversation with her, but she turns wordlessly and rides away, leaving him standing there. Selby shrugs, and mounts his horse and heads to his new ranch, which is just coincidentally where Ann is going also. She thinks that he is following her, and when she gets to the ranch she bets her dad that the fellow will be there soon to ask for a job. Sure enough, Selby, the easterner, arrives at the ranch. He tries to introduce himself as the new owner of the ranch, but they think that he is a tenderfoot looking for a job, and Anns dad gives him a job before he can tell them that he is the new owner. Selby decides to play along and goes to work as a new ranch hand.
Now here is the setup for the adventure - Ann's father Sam is an invalid in a wheelchair, who runs the ranch for the owner. His head ranch hand, Dale Hyslip, is one tough ombre who likes Ann, but Ann doesn't particularly like him. When Selby shows up, they nickname him 'Dude' and 'Romeo' - Dude because he is obviously not an experienced cowboy, and 'Romeo' because they think that he is only there to chase after Ann. On both counts that makes him a natural enemy of Hyslip the ranch foreman, and he tries his best to kill the Dude, and when that fails, embarass him in front of Ann. Ann, meanwhile, openly tries to get the Dude's attention, and he openly scorns her and claims that he wants nothing to do with her. The Dude bunks with and rides with 'Nebraska' Kemp, a banjo playing cowboy. 'Nebraska' Kemp is character actor Syd Saylor, veteran of more movies than you can count, even with your shoes off. The Dude and Nebraska are out riding one day when they spot a bunch of the ranch cattle that have been herded into a box canyon, and unable to get back to the ranch. They figure that this is how the cattle have been disappearing, but do not know who might be behind it. On their way back to the ranch, they are fired upon by someone that they cannot see, but escape unharmed. Soon they spot the supposedly crippled Hepburn riding toward the ranch with a rifle. They are shocked that he is not crippled, and with the rifle in his hand they assume that it was him that was shooting at them, and probably responsible for the rustled cattle.
But this tale has many twists and turns before everything becomes clear, so grab a big bowl of hot buttered white kernel popcorn and settle in for a rip-roarin' cowboy adventure with romance, humor, adventure and mystery as only the great author Zane Grey can provide.