The Law of Contact

Rocky Mountain Mystery, or The Fighting Westerner (March 1, 1935)

Randolph Scott and Ann Sheridan in Rocky Mountain Mystery

Released March 1, 1935: Zane Grey's novel "Golden Dreams" comes to life with Randoplh Scott and Ann Sheridan in this tale of gold mines, love, murder and treachery.

Directed by Charles Barton

The Actors: Charles 'Chick' Sale (Tex Murdock), Randolph Scott (Larry Sutton), Mrs. Leslie Carter (Mrs. Borg), George F. Marion (Jim Ballard), Ann Sheridan (Rita Ballard), Florence Roberts (Mrs. Ballard), Kathleen Burke (Flora Ballard), Howard Wilson (Fritz Ballard), Willie Fung (Ling Yat), James Eagles (John Borg).


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Did you ever see a person touch a pencil tip to their tongue before using it? As a kid I remember seeing old-timers doing this, and always wondered why . . . I was still wondering as I saw one of the main characters in this movie do it repeatedly as he was making notes and trying to solve the murders. Zane Grey, from Ohio, went west when the west was wild and untamed and chronicled the lives and stories that he saw. He was probably the best American author to honestly portray the lives of the pioneers who went west to forge new lives from the barren wilderness, and this classic, from his novel "Golden Dreams," is no exception. The movie was first released with the title "Rocky Mountain Mystery," and later, as this copy shows, released with the name "The Fighting Westerner." Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn and get ready for a fascinating tale from the Rocky Mountains of the old west.

As our movie opens, we see Larry Sutton (Randolph Scott) entering a mountain cabin and calling out for the owner of the cabin. As he looks around the cabin he discovers a dead body laying in the bed of a side room. Just as he is about to turn around to leave, an old coot aims a gun at him and asks him who he is and what he wants. He explains that he is on the way to the Ballard place to work for old man Ballard. Larry is a mining engineer, and Ballard has an old, worn out gold mine that he thinks may contain very valuable radium deposits. The old coot is Tex Murdock, an old timer that helped settle this area years ago, and has returned to help solve this murder. The man who was murdered was Ballard's partner and best friend in the gold mine. Tex believes that the killer is the first mining engineer that Ballard had, who has disappeared, and that is why Larry was sent for to replace him as mining engineer. But Larry tells Tex that it couldn't have been the first mining engineer, because the first mining engineer was Larry's brother-in-law! The old coot, Tex, cooks some sour-dough biscuits and coffee for them and they decide to work together to try to find out who killed Ballar's partner.

So that sets the stage, and when Larry gets to the Ballard house he finds old man Ballard in bed ready to die. He has an old lady that is his housekeeper, and a Chinese man who aids around the house, and he has called for his nieces and nephew to visit and claim their inheritance when he is gone. It is obvious that they have no love for the old man, and are waiting anxiously for his death and their share. That is, except for Rita . . . lovely young Rita . . . who falls for Larry on first sight. She doesn't care about the money, and just wants to leave the Rocky Mountains and start a ranch in Hawaii. And after meeting Rita, Larry looks like he wouldn't mind being a rancher when this is all over. But before long people start dying, murdered by a black cloaked mysterious figure.

Now, I'm not going to go any further down the path of this murder mystery thriller, but let me tell you that the twists and turns near the end surprised me greatly, and I've seen enough movie plots that I don't surprise easily. All of the clues were there from the beginning, but I was oblivious to them. Do you like sour-dough biscuits? Have you ever had homemade sour-dough biscuits? This movie begins and ends with them, and they are mighty tasty . . . mighty tasty. If you want a cowboy adventure that is as interesting and thrilling as any noir murder mystery, this is a 'must-see' murder mystery thriller that happens to take place in the pioneer lands of Nevada, and one of Zane Grey's best.