Monday, September 6, 2021

Riding Shotgun

Randolph Scott made a bunch of westerns in the second half of his career. I've got a couple of box sets of his westerns, but not too long back TCM ran a western that I hadn't seen yet, Riding Shotgun. So recently, I watched it to do a post on here.

Scott plays Larry Delong, who does the titular "riding shotgun", that is, riding next to the guy who's got the reins of the horses on a stagecoach, shotgun in hand, to watch for Indians or possible robbers. He's been working for a bunch of different stagecoach lines all over the west, in part because he's good, but more because he's looking for a criminal who harmed him some years ago, Dan Marady (James Millican). Marady finds out that Delong is in the area, and has a plan for dealing with Delong.

Marady has a gang, with Pinto (Charles Bronson when he was still early enough in his career to be credited under the surmame Buchinsky) second-in-command, and plans to use those gang members to lure Delong away from the stagecoach. Marady has a special handgun he knows Delong will recognize, so one of the men in the gang takes it into the stagecoach station and makes certain Delong sees it. This leads to the gang capturing Delong and tying him down, leaving him to die.

Delong is eventually able to extricate himself, but in that time the Marady gang has robbed the coach on which Delong was supposed to be riding shotgun. The stage does make it back into town, but the passengers describe Delong having been with the gang members who showed him Marady's gun, so when the posse goes out looking for the gang that includes Marady, who is of course guilty of nothing more than negligence.

Delong shows up in town, alone, since he was of course not in the gang. But he can'tconvince anybody in town that he wasn't part of the gang, and they're out for blood what with the coach driver having been killed in Marady's attack. The only person who has any support for Delong is the sheriff's deputy, Tub Murphy (Wayne Morris). He at least wants Delong to get a "fair" trial, inasmuch as that might be possible.

Worse, Delong can't get anybody to believe what's more likely to happen. He's bright enough to figure that what Marady did was a ruse so that the townsfolk would find the coach and send a posse out to look for the gang. Marady then plans to come in to town and rob the local businesses. Delong tries to warn everybody but nobody will listen. And he can't leave town because nobody will give him a horse. Worse, they basically corner him with the intention of stringing him up if it weren't for Tub's presence.

Riding Shotgun is the sort of programmer western that was still being made in Hollywood into the mid-1950s, not too long before such stuff would be supplanted by episodic television. Riding Shotgun is more than competent, as is only to be expected considering the presence of somebody like Randolph Scott in the starring role; a director like Andre de Toth; and the resources that a major studio like Warner Bros. could bring to such a movie.

Sure, there are better westerns out there, but for people who already like westerns and want something undemanding that they might not have seen before, Riding Shotgun fits the bill just fine.

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