A man is falsely accused of a rash of barn-burnings. When he proves his innocence, he sets about to bring the real criminals to justice.
John Wayne's road to stardom needed some giddyup in the early 1930s; after a leading-man turn in The Big Trail
, he quickly fell into B-movie obscurity. While waiting to vault to first-tier status in 1939's Stagecoach
, he honed his talent with a set of six B-Westerns at Warner Brothers, shot in 1932-33. The series allowed Warners to recycle footage (and plots) from a string of silent Westerns made with Ken Maynard, with the young Mr. Wayne stepping into Maynard's saddle. Ride Him, Cowboy
is the best of these snappy little films (under an hour each), a very entertaining number in which Wayne is introduced to a feisty horse named, of all things, Duke. Duke would feature in the later films, as would Wayne's harmonica playing. The movie has some wild stunt riding and some very amusing dialogue (someone urges a pokey storyteller, "Skip that part and get down to bedrock"). And for a cheap B-movie, there's some exceptionally inventive camerawork by Ted McCord, who would go on to shoot The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
and East of Eden
Wayne, 25 years old, plays the same naively heroic hero in each of the six films. He's lean and handsome and not yet grown into his talent. But you can see how much the camera likes him--as his future director Howard Hawks might have put it--and how much that famous stride is already coming into step. --Robert Horton