Trail Riders (June 5, 1955)
Released on December 4, 1942: An outlaw forms a vigilante gang that cleans up a small town and then with the competition gone, they rob the town at will until the Range Busters get to town.
Directed by Robert Emmett Tansey
Written by Frances Kavanaugh and Robert Emmett Tansey.
The Actors: John 'Dusty' King (Dusty King), David Sharpe (Davey), Max Terhune (Alibi Terhune), Evelyn Finley (Mary Rand), Forrest Taylor (Mike Rand), Charles King (Ed Cole), Kermit Maynard (Ace Alton, henchman), Lynton Brent (Jeff Rand), Steve Clark (Marshal Jim Hammond), Kenne Duncan (Marshal Frank Hammond), Richard Cramer (Jake, bartender), Frank Ellis (Alton henchman), Augie Gomez (henchman), Frank LaRue (banker Jamison), Milburn Morante (barfly), Bud Osborne (Alton henchman Slim), Tex Palmer (Alton henchman).
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If you have watched more than two or three country western adventures from the golden age of movies you are certainly familiar with Charles King. He acted in over 400 motion pictures from the silent days until the mid 1950's when he appeared in several Gunsmoke television shows right up to the time of his death in May of 1957. He was born Charles Lafayette King in Hillsboro, Texas in 1895 and started acting in silent movies while in his twenties. His first years in Hollywood were filled with bit parts in comedy shorts, until the 1925 silent cowboy movie "Triple Action" before he went back to bit parts in comedy shorts. In 1930, at the age of 35 he started getting regular parts in cowboy movies, and he left the comedy shorts behind. It is said that he liked to play poker and drink booze with the cast members, and before his divorce his wife would accompany him to the studio on pay day to take his check before he had time to drink and gamble it away. In his later years he worked as a security guard for Menasco Manufacturing Company in Burbank, California. Menasco made steel and perfected a method of measuring the oxygen content of the steel that it got a patent for in 1950. I have to honestly say that for me Charles King was the bad guy that I always had a soft spot for. Sure he usually wore black clothes and was always trying to be the biggest outlaw in the west, but there was just something soft and warm about him all the same. In this movie I noticed it in the saloon scene where he meets Max Terhune and his dummy Elmer. He talks to Elmer like a kindly grandfather would talk to a young child, with love and joy oozing out all over this tough bad guy.
But set that aside, because he is a canny outlaw who has a new angle on fleecing the good people out of their money. First he rides into town and helps clean up the town by killing and driving out all of the bandits that are plaguing the town. But then, once all of the bad guys are gone, he sets himself up as owner of the saloon and head of the vigilantes that keep the peace in town, while leading the gang that is now robbing and terrorizing the town. What a racket! The good guys are the bandits! Not until much later in motion picture history does this kind of a plot return to the screen. Cops as robbers? What a twist! Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn and drizzle plenty of warm melted butter on it and get ready for one rip-roaring adventure in the wild days of the old west.
Charles King and Steve Clark
Charles King in 1942, king of the western bad guys
David Sharpe with Evelyn Finley and Forrest Taylor
David Sharpe and John 'Dusty' King
Max Terhune watches as John 'Dusty' King sings Oh, Suzannah
Evelyn Finley and John 'Dusty' King
Evelyn Finley as Mary Rand in Trail Riders
Forrest Taylor and David Sharpe
Frank LaRue and Charles King
Frank LaRue and Forrest Taylor
Kermit Maynard and Charles King
Kermit Maynard as Ace Alton in Trail Riders
Lynton Brent and Charles King
Lunton Brent and David Sharpe
Steve Clark as Marshal Jim Hammond in Trail Riders
Max Terhune and 'Tiny'
Max Terhune and his dummy Elmer order drinks from bartender Richard Cramer