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The Doolins of Oklahoma

1949 | 4:3 | Black & White | Quality: Excellent

Randolph Scott, George MacReady, John Ireland, Virginia Huston


Coffeyville, Kansas, October 5, 1892: The notorious Dalton gang has become so daring as to strike in broad daylight. The Dalton brothers, with Sam Powers, Bill Broadwell and Wichita Smith are attempting a daring robbery. But gang member Bill Doolin (Randolph Scott of "Westbound") is the victim of a lame horse and misses the action. Doolin sits stuck in a saloon when the local town sheriff comes in and brags to one and all that he blew the living daylights out of the Dalton gang. Not to be forced into retirement, Doolin soon forms his own outlaw gang. Bitter Creek (John Ireland), Little Bill (Noah Beery, Jr.), Thomas 'Arkansas' Jones (Charles Kemper) and Tulsa Jack Blake (Jock Mahoney) are members of Doolin's gang, who run roughshod with U.S. Marshal Sam Hughes (George Macready) constantly in hot pursuit. Eventually the law whittles the gang down to just Big Bill (Scott) and Little Bill, and Doolin decides it's time to hang up the guns and retire to a peaceful life under an alias. He marries Elaine Burton (Virginia Huston) and they start a new, idyllic life together. Just as things are looking up for our outlaw protagonist, Marshal Hughes and Marshal Heck Thomas (Robert Barrat) come knocking at the farm, posing as census takers to get information out of Elaine....

Not only is this one of the few times in Randolph Scott's career he played a real character, it is also one of the few times his character was on the wrong side of the law. Here he's notorious outlaw Bill Doolin who was active in the Oklahoma Territory in the Gay Nineties, and was captured in 1896 by a devoted lawman named Bill Tilghman who had spent four years doggedly pursuing him. Doolin escaped from prison but was eventually shot down by a U.S. Marshal named Heck Thomas. The character of Sam Hughes appears to be based on Tilghman. Why the name change when Marshal Heck Thomas is left intact, I can't say (Incidentally, the book "Bill Tilghman, Marshal of the Last Frontier," by Floyd Miller, is highly recommended if you want to read a vivid account of a real western lawman's exciting career). Directed by Gordon Douglas, the film offers several bursts of exciting, well-staged western action, including lots of chases on horseback and some amazing feats of horsemanship. Randolph Scott himself was an accomplished horseman and does most his own furious riding here. The majority of the chase scenes appear to have been shot in the familiar rocky terrain around Lone Pine, California, at the foot of the Sierras, a dramatic landscape perfect for such scenes, even if it looks nothing like Oklahoma.

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