THE AMERICAN WEST (mostly): Fact and Fiction (mostly fiction)





"NOBODY GETS TO BE A COWBOY FOREVER." -- Chet Rollins (Jack Palance) in MONTE WALSH (NG, 1970)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

THE DOOLIN-DALTON GANG, PART III: The Sound Films

You can read Part I here; and Part II here.






BADMAN'S TERRITORY (RKO, 1946)

DIRECTOR: Tim Whelan;  PRODUCER: Nat Holt;  STORY: screenplay by Jack Natteford, Luci Ward, Clarence Upson Young, and Bess Boyle; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert De Grasse

CAST: Randolph Scott, Ann Richards, George "Gabby" Hayes, Ray Collins, James Warren, Morgan Conway, Virginia Sale, Richard Hale, Chief Thundercloud, Lawrence Tierney, Tom Tyler, Steve Brodie, Phil Warren, William Moss, Nestor Pavia, Isabel Jewell, Jack Clifford, Carl Eric Hansen, Neal Hart, Harry Harvey, Ben Johnson, Elmo Lincoln, Kermit Maynard, Glenn McCarthy, Bud Osborne, Emory Parnell, Buddy Roosevelt, Robert J. Wilke


"See them ALL in action in one picture!" proclaims the poster.  The ALL being a whole host of flea-bitten varmints and owl hoots who, at one time or the other, rode the outlaw trail -- but not all at the same time -- except in this movie (and one other, which we will get to next).  There's Frank and Jesse James (Tyler and Tierney); Bob, Grat, and Bill Dalton (Brodie, Phil Warren, and Moss); Sam Bass (Pavia), Belle Starr (Jewell), Bill Doolin (Carl Eric Hansen); and Charlie Bryant (Glenn McCarthy).

Even Elmo Lincoln (born Otto Elmo Linkenhelt), the screen's first Tarzan, makes an appearance as Dick Broadwell.

And lawman Mark Rowley (Scott) has to contend will all of these bad men and this bad woman who have congregated in the Oklahoma Territory.  Well, of course you have to suspend your annoying tendency to point out historical inaccuracies in films in order to enjoy this one. This is primarily necessary because several of these individuals had already bit the dust well before the Daltons became wanted outlaws.  Belle had been assassinated a year earlier; Jesse four years earlier; and Sam Bass had been gone for over a decade.

As it often happens, Oklahoma looks a lot like California.    

But never mind.  Viewers didn't seem to mind (or know) about historical chronology and the movie did good business at the box office.  The film is also significant in that it represents the beginning of Randolph Scott's transition to full-time western star.



REVIEWS:

"Nat Holt produced this absurdity; history twisted beyond belief.  The "B" antics are actionful, the performers mostly likable, the script bewildering.  Poor, but amusing for the kiddies." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"The number of featured parts necessarily make for an episodic structure but Whelan's spirited direction lifts the material well above the rut of routine." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"Solid Western...nonstop fireworks.  Rich characterizations, with Hayes fun as the Coyote Kid." -- Leonard Maltin 

"....it’s a Randolph Scott Western of the 1940s and as such is definitely worth a watch. Put your credulity on hold and enjoy it for what it is. But don’t expect too much. No one would put it at the top of the Randy list." -- Jeff Arnold's West





RETURN OF THE BADMEN (RKO, 1948)



DIRECTOR: Ray Enright;  PRODUCER: Nat Holt;  WRITERS: screenplay by Charles O'Neal, Jack Natteford, and Luci Ward based on story by Jack Natteford and Luci Ward;  CINEMATOGRAPHER: J. Roy Hunt

CAST: Randolph Scott, Robert Ryan, Anne Jeffreys, George "Gabby" Hayes, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie, Tom Keene, Robert Bray, Lex Barker, Walter Reed, Michael Harvey, Dean White, Robert Armstrong, Tom Tyler, Lew Harvey, Ernie Adams, Victor Adamson, Hank Bell, Lane Chandler, Earle Hodgins, Kenneth MacDonald, Bud Osborne, Harry Shannon, Charlie Stevens, Forrest Taylor

We're back in Oklahoma Territory and the usual suspects have been rounded up and Randolph Scott is once again a lawman forced to contend with many of the same outlaws he confronted in BADMAN'S TERRITORY two years earlier.  But he isn't the same person.  Mark Rowley in the former, he is now Vance Cordell in the latter.  But that isn't the only confusing aspect associated with RETURN OF THE BADMEN.  The same kind of inaccurate historical chronologies are as true of this film as were true of its predecessor.  So the viewer is advised to just go with the flow and accept the film for what it is, a work of pure fiction that utilizes the names of real people.      
Here is the outlaw lineup and the actors who portrayed them: 


  • The Sundance Kid (but no Butch) -- Robert Ryan
  • Cole, Jim, and John Younger -- Steve Brodie, Tom Keene (RKO's first B-Western series star at the beginning of the sound era), and Robert Bray
  • Emmett, Bob, and Grat Dalton -- Lex Barker (a year later he would become RKO's Tarzan), Walter Reed, and Michael Harvey
  • Billy the Kid -- Dean White 
  • Wild Bill Doolin -- Robert Armstrong
  • Wild Bill Yeager (never heard of him) -- Tom Tyler
  • Arkansas Kid (ditto) -- Lew Harvey
In addition, Anne Jeffreys is Cheyenne, billed as the "notorious gun girl."  Gun girl?  

Sadly, we have to say goodbye to veteran character actor Ernie Adams who died shortly before this film, his 427th, was released.


Ernie Adams

REVIEWS:

"Ryan is splendid as lead heavy." Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"Ryan's edginess and Scott's air of assured competence complement each other well and, despite the showier roles of Brodie and Armstrong, they are always at the center of the film.  This is a superior RKO star western. -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"Stand-out is Robert Ryan, always one of the best bad guys available...." -- Jeff Arnold's West


Who is the star of this film anyway?






THE DOOLINS OF OKLAHOMA (Columbia, 1949)


DIRECTOR: Gordon Douglas; PRODUCER: Harry Joe Brown; WRITER: screenplay and story by Kenneth Gamet; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charles Lawton, Jr. 

CAST: Randolph Scott, George Macready, Louise Allbritton, John Ireland, Virginia Huston, Charles Kemper, Noah Beery, Jr., Dona Drake, Robert Barrat, Lee Patrick, Griff Barnet, Frank Fenton, Jock Mahoney, James Kirkwood, Stanley Andrews, Trevor Bardette, Al Bridge, Paul Burns, William Haade, Reed Howes, Lloyd Ingraham, Kermit Maynard, Brick Sullivan


This is the best of the Doolin-Dalton gang films, although the script kills off Bill Dalton at Coffeyville, so in the aftermath of that debacle there is only the Doolin gang. It has a lot going for it, however, not the least being Randolph Scott, who not long ago was a hunter of outlaws in BADMAN'S TERRITORY and RETURN OF THE BADMEN, but now, as Bill Doolin, is the hunted.

The supporting cast is outstanding.  Filling the roles of the other gang members are: John Ireland (always a welcome presence in any western) as Bitter Creek; Noah Beery, Jr. (seems to never give a bad performance) as Little Bill; Charles Kemper, who provides the comedy relief in the Edgar Buchanan/Wallace Ford role, is Thomas "Arkansas" Jones (Arkansas Tom Jones in real life); Frank Fenton is a grumpy Red Buck; and stuntman extraordinaire Jock Mahoney is Tulsa Jack and in his spare time also doubles for Scott.

Louise Allbritton is the Rose of Cimarron who is in love with Bitter Creek. However, the adult actress in no way resembles the real Rose (real name Rose Dunn), who was only a teenager when she and Bitter Creek were keeping company.  Also not in the movie is the fact that in real life Bitter Creek was killed by bounty hunters, who just happened to be Rose's brothers.

There were a couple of other teenage girls who had some association with the Doolin-Dalton gang: Cattle Annie and Little Britches.  Legend has it that they illegally sold liquor to the Indians, stole horses, and scouted for the gang.  In the film, Dona Drake portrays Cattle Annie in an over the top and unrealistic fashion, but Little Britches is nowhere to be seen.

Gordon Douglas does a more than capable job as director in this his first Western.  Making his job easier is the assistance provided by the legendary action director, Yakima Canutt, and such expert stuntmen as Jock Mahoney and Kermit Maynard.  

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Charles Lawton, Jr.'s black and white photography.  He is one of the best.  The film is worth watching just to see the dramatic nighttime chase scene through the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California.

It is also significant that Harry Joe Brown was in the process of replacing Nat Holt as Scott's producer and partner.  It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that resulted in good times for star, producer, and western movie fans.


REVIEWS:   

Let's first get the negative ones out of the way:

"In this mediocre version there's little, if any, similarity to the facts of the legend." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"Douglas directs with some style but the plot, which seeks to romanticize Scott as the leader of five lead-spewing gunmen, is too old-fashioned....Only Lawton's stunning cinematography is at all modern." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

And now for something positive:

"The film shows the progression taking place in the star’s work that would lead inevitably to those towering roles in the late 50s and the beginning of the 60s. It also provides evidence of the growing maturity of the genre itself on the eve of its golden decade." -- Riding the High Country 








THE CIMARRON KID (Universal-International, 1952)


DIRECTOR: Budd Boetticher;  PRODUCER: Ted Richmond;  WRITERS: screenplay by Louis Stevens based on story by Louis Stevens and Kay Lenard;  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charles P. Boyle


CAST:  Audie Murphy, Yvette Dugay, Beverly Tyler, James Best, John Hudson, Hugh O'Brian, Roy Roberts, David Wolfe, Noah Beery, Jr., Leif Erickson, John Hubbard, Frank Silvera, John Bromfield, Rand Brooks, Gregg Palmer, William Reynolds, Palmer Lee, Frank Ferguson, Harry Harvey, Tristam Coffin, David Sharpe


It is a typical Hollywood whitewash that forces a good man to become an outlaw against his will, but it does have some redeeming qualities. Audie Murphy was beginning to mature as an actor and his screen persona was coming into focus. He gave his best performances in films headed by strong directors, such as the two directed by John Huston (RED BADGE OF COURAGE and THE UNFORGIVEN) and here he is fortunate to be guided by Budd Boetticher, a director coming into his own.

Murphy is Bill Doolin, the Cimarron Kid, although I have never seen any reference to him being known by that sobriquet, and he takes over the remnants of the Dalton gang after Bob (Beery), Grat (Palmer), and Emmett (Brooks), along with Tulsa Jack (Bromfield), die in the streets of Coffeyville. Even though Emmett lived until 1937, Hollywood scriptwriters can't resist the urge to force him to die with his brothers.

In this version of the events, Doolin and two others survive the raid and make their getaway to live and rob another day.  The two who survive are Dynamite Dick Dalton (!) (Hudson) and Bitter Creek Dalton (!) (Best).  The writers have also manufactured a Will Dalton (Reynolds), a brother even younger than the deceased Emmett.  And Bill Dalton, the Dalton in the Doolin-Dalton gang, never makes an appearance.

Anyway, the gang is reformed, now under Doolin's leadership, although Red Buck (Hugh O'Brian with hair and beard dyed red), who always seems to be the dissenting voice in film adaptations of the legend, challenges Doolin for the leadership role but fails to gain any support from the other gang members.

Yvette Dugay, as the Rose of Cimarron, is Bitter Creek's girl.  However, her name is Rosa rather than Rose and she is Mexican rather than Anglo.  Beverly Tyler is Doolin's romantic interest and she pleads with him to give up the outlaw life and to settle down with her.  He agrees to do so -- after one more job -- which turns out to be one job too many.  But in typical Hollywood fashion, Doolin, like Billy the Kid and other outlaws before him, doesn't die at the end. He goes to prison, but he doesn't die.


Murphy and Tyler
The film is worth watching if you are an Audie Murphy fan and because it was the first true western directed by Boetticher, who would later make a series of classic westerns starring Randolph Scott.

And since it is a Universal production, the viewer can always count on superior photography. This time it is provided by Charles P. Boyle, with California once again standing in for Oklahoma. 



REVIEWS:  

"Uninspired formula western." -- Leonard Maltin

"Unexceptional oater is nowhere near as solid a job as the movies Boetticher directed with Randolph Scott later in the decade." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"Although Stevens' screenplay is hardly demanding, Boetticher and Murphy, who gives a surprisingly confident performance, do what they can....This is a minor, but entertaining film." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"Films about the Doolin-Dalton gang are fairly thin on the ground, though there are a few....Even rarer is a film about these outlaws that is even remotely close to historical fact. This one is complete balderdash from start to finish. Still, it’s fun, and since when did we watch Hollywood Westerns for a history lesson?" -- 
Jeff Arnold's West 





ROSE OF CIMARRON (Fox, 1952)


DIRECTOR: Harry Keller;  PRODUCER: Edward Alperson;  WRITER: screenplay by Maurice Geraghty;  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Karl Struss

CAST:  Jack Beutel, Mala Powers, Bill Williams, Jim Davis, Art Smith, Bob Steele, Lillian Bronson, William Phipps, Irving Bacon, Dick Curtis, Monte Blue, George Chandler, Tom Steele, John Doucette, Tommy Cook, William Schallert, Kenneth MacDonald, Bryon Foulger, Lane Bradford, William Fawcett, Hank Patterson

This double feature second bill has B-Western written all over it beginning with its 71 minute running time and extending to its three lead actors, its supporting cast, its director, its producer, and its screenwriter. And its connection to the real Rose of Cimarron is nebulous to say the least; one might say in name only.

This Rose (Powers) was raised by the Cherokee after her parents were killed by the Comanche.  But tragedy struck again when her Cherokee parents were killed by three white outlaws who were stealing their horses.

This causes Rose and her adopted brother and protector, Willie Whitewater (Davis), to go on the vengeance trail in an effort to find the killers.  As it turns out, the leader of the outlaws is George (but not Bitter creek) Newcomb (Williams), who takes a fancy to the beautiful Rose.

Fortunately, Rose can call on Marshal Hollister (Beutel) for assistance and not only are they successful in avenging her parents' death but she and the marshal fall in love.


REVIEWS:

"Keller's direction has more bite than usual and Steele, star of so many B-Westerns, gives the unlikely hero and heroine solid support.  Nevertheless, the film marks a sad decline from Beutel's debut, THE OUTLAW (1943)." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"Simpleminded...hack job offers terrible acting but it's speedy and the cast is filled with faces familiar to buffs." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"ROSE OF CIMARRON was Mala’s first Western and she’s really rather good in it, despite the rather clunky script and direction. Later, she was a regular of TV Western shows. -- JEFF ARNOLD'S WEST










STORIES OF THE CENTURY (Studio City Television Productions, 1954-55)

DIRECTOR: William Witney (30 episodes), Franklin Adreon (9 episodes); PRODUCER: Edward J. White;  WRITER: Maurice Tombragel (22 scripts); CINEMATOGRAPHY:  Bud Thackery


CAST:  Jim Davis, Mary Castle (26 episodes), Kristine Miller (13 episodes)



     
Matt Clark, Railroad Detective
If the above names seem familiar, there is a good reason.  Studio City Television Productions was the television arm of Republic Studios and the series represents its first venture into the world of the small screen.

William Witney had been a long-time director of the studio's serials and B-Western series and since the demise of those genres had become the studio's primary director of its Western features; Franklin Adreon became one of Republic's most prolific directors of serials after Witney moved on to other things; Bud Thackery had been a busy Republic employee for years; Edward J. White had been the long-time producer of both the Roy Rogers and Rex Allen B-western series; and Jim Davis at the time that this series was being filmed had been for some time appearing in practically every western Republic was producing, and nearly all of them directed by Witney.  In most of those films Davis played a heavy, but here he gets to be the hero -- and how!

As Matt Clark, railroad detective, he is in on the capture or killing of famous outlaws every week -- for thirty-nine weeks -- ranging from such notable outlaws as Billy the Kid all the way to L.H. Musgrove.  L.H. Musgrove?  Well, that's why the series lasted only thirty-nine episodes.  Matt and his cohorts had already wiped out all the famous bad guys and gals.

In his herculean efforts, Matt was assisted by a female undercover operative -- first Frankie Adams (Mary Castle) and later Margaret "Jonesy" Jones (Kristine Miller).  Despite the range of years that the series encompassed, Matt and his two female assistants never aged.  In one episode, they infiltrated Quantrill's guerilla band just before the sack of Lawrence, Kansas in the 1860's and had not aged one bit in the Tom Horn episode which takes place early in the 20th century!  Furthermore, in that span of years Matt rarely -- very rarely -- changed clothes!

In episode #9, they were at Coffeyville where they helped the citizens of that community wipe-out the Daltons and in episode #10 they are in Tombstone where they participate in the gun battle near that famous corral and -- well, you get the picture.

In episode #21, Matt and Frankie play a role in capturing Bill Doolin (Leo Gordon).  Then after Doolin escapes from jail Matt is standing beside Heck Thomas when the marshal terminates the outlaw's career with a blast from his shotgun.



Leo Gordon as Bill Doolin

In the very next episode, Little Britches (Gloria Winters) receives her thirty minutes of fame.  For some reason Cattle Annie doesn't make an appearance in the episode, nor does Bill Doolin.  Perhaps Doolin's absence can be explained by the fact that the previous week the series had dealt with him in a decisive fashion.


Gloria Winters in her best known role as Sky King's neice -- pretty, perky Penny





CATTLE ANNIE AND LITTLE BRITCHES 
(Universal, 1981)


DIRECTOR: Lamont Johnson; PRODUCERS: Rupert Hitzig and Alan King;  WRITERS: screenplay by David Eyre based on story and novel by Robert Ward;  CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Pizer


CAST: Scott Glenn, Diane Lane, Burt Lancaster, Amanda Plummer, Rod Steiger, John Savage, William Russ, Buck Taylor, Roger Cudney, Redmond Gleeson, John Quade, Michael Conrad


I'm going to go out on a limb here and pronounce CATTLE ANNIE AND LITTLE BRITCHES to be the best western film released in 1981, nosing out ZORRO: THE GAY BLADE and THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER.  To be truthful I have never seen the former and wish that I had never seen the latter.

What a dismal year it was for a genre that had grown virtually moribund.  Only fifteen titles were released and only six of those were American productions.  It was a sad, sad year for the genre.

As has already been established, Cattle Annie (Plummer) and Little Britches (Lane) were a couple of adolescents who purportedly broke the law by selling liquor to Indians and stealing horses.  Legend has it that they also served as scouts and conveyors of information to the Doolin-Dalton gang.  In this film, however, they play an even greater role by planning some of the gang's robberies.  They are also sisters, which in real life they were not.

Burt Lancaster is Bill Doolin and Scott Glenn is Bill Dalton.  Some of the other actual members of the gang are also characters in the film:
  • Bitter Creek Newcomb -- John Savage
  • Little Dick Raidler -- William Russ
  • Dynamite Dick -- Buck Taylor
  • Red Buck -- Redmond Gleeson
In addition, in a surprisingly restrained performance is Rod Steiger as U.S. marshal Bill Tilghman.  The marshal is successful in capturing Doolin and sending him to jail (which is true), but he escapes (which is true) with the assistance of the two girls (which is not true), and rides away with his men (which is not true because most of them had already been captured or killed). The girls are arrested by Tilghman and sent to a reformatory in Massachusetts (which is true).

Bill Doolin escapes and rides away but we know he has a date with destiny in the person of Marshal Heck Thomas and his shotgun.

Oklahoma gets slighted again.  The movie is filmed in Mexico.

Cattle Annie and Little Britches

Little Britches (Diane Lane) and Cattle Annie (Amanda Plummer)




REVIEWS:


"Excellent camera work on Durango locations, and a primitive but fitting score, help make this comedy-drama one of the more appealing minor westerns of the early 1980s." -- Western Films: A Complete Guide, Brian Garfield

"The film strains too much for its effects and its jollity is accordingly short-lived." -- The Western, Phil Hardy

"...a funny, sweet mock-western that miraculously avoids most of the sentimental traps it sets for itself." -- New York Times, Vincent Canby

"Lancaster looks happy in the movie and still looks tough: it's an unbeatable combination.  Young Amanda Plummer (in her screen debut) gives a scarily brilliant performance. -- The New Yorker






YOU KNOW MY NAME (TNT, 1999)

DIRECTOR: John Kent Harrison;  PRODUCER: Andrew Gottlieb; WRITER: John Kent Harrison; CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kees Van Oostrum

CAST:  Sam Elliott, Arliss Howard, Carolyn McCormick, James Gammon, R. Lee Emery, James Parks, Sheila McCarthy, Nataalia Rey, Jonathon Young, James Baker

The year is 1924 and Bill Tilghman (Elliott) has retired from a long career in law enforcement.  In fact, he has become a film producer, director, script writer, cinematographer, and actor.  But the good people of Cromwell, Oklahoma need help. Their oil boom town is overrun by criminals, prostitutes, and ruthless businessmen -- not to mention a crooked, psychotic federal prohibition agent named Wiley Lynn (Howard) who is in cahoots with the criminal element. Tilghman is asked by a group of respectable citizens to clean up their town.

He agrees to take on the job, despite being seventy-years old; and it was his last job.  He was shot and killed by Lynn. A postscript tells us that Lynn was tried, but the court ruled that it was a case of self defense. However, he was dismissed from federal service.

In 1932, Lynn, who was a suspect in a number of crimes, was shot and killed by Crockett Long, an agent for the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation.

Tilghman's greatest claim to fame occurred in the summer of 1895 when he captured Bill Doolin in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  In a brief flashback, Tilghman is shown arresting the outlaw (Baker).  Also making an appearance in the film are Arkansas Tom (Gammon) and ex-U.S. marshal E.D. Nix (R. Lee Emery).     

TNT filmed the TV production in Oklahoma.  Just kidding; it was filmed in Alberta.







Friday, January 15, 2016

THE DOOLIN-DALTON GANG, PART II: The Silent Films

You can read about the history of the Doolin-Dalton gang here.


Scene from THE BANK ROBBERY (1908)


THE BANK ROBBERY (Oklahoma Natural Mutoscene Co., 1908)

DIRECTOR: William Tilghman;  PRODUCER: James Bennie Kent; CINEMATOGRAPHERS: James Bennie Kent and William Tilghman

CAST:  Al Jennings, Frank Canton, Quanah Parker, Heck Thomas, William Tilghman


Anyone who is familiar with the history of the American West in general, and Oklahoma specifically, will no doubt recognize the names listed above.  It is an interesting mix of ex-lawmen, an ex-outlaw, and the last war chief of the Comanche tribe.

True, technically this is not a movie about the Doolin-Dalton Gang.  However, Bill Tilghman and Heck Thomas were deputy U.S. marshals who were instrumental in the destruction of that gang. Frank Canton was a gunfighter and also an ex-lawman. 

The movie is a dramatization of a bank robbery filmed on location in Cache, Oklahoma.  It just so happens that Cache was the home of Quanah Parker, the famous Comanche chief who led his people in war, but later persuaded them to surrender and take up life on a reservation.  In the film, Parker is a member of the posse that pursues the hold-up men.  His daughter also makes an appearance and is shown walking into the bank just before the outlaws arrive.

And Al Jennings, well, Al was the leader of one of the last of the Oklahoma outlaw gangs.  His gang rode the outlaw trail for less than a year and they had to be the most inept bad men in the territory's history -- or any other region's history.

Four of the five members of the gang went to prison for five years -- and the fifth -- Little Dick West, who was the sole surviving Doolin-Dalton gang member still at large -- was tracked down and killed by a posse led by deputy U.S. marshal Chris Madsen.

Here's the great thing about this film: It can be viewed on You Tube.  And I must say, that for its time it is an example of rather advanced film making, especially when one considers who was responsible for its production.  The viewing of the film is enhanced by the narration that has been added, something that audiences who viewed the film in its heyday did not have privy to. The film was also made before titles were added to silent films in order to provide audiences with dialogue and exposition.  The lighthearted narration helps today's viewers to identify the principals and to understand what is transpiring throughout the film.

You can view the film by clicking on the picture below:




 



Bill Tilghman in a scene from PASSING OF THE OKLAHOMA OUTLAWS (1915)


PASSING OF THE OKLAHOMA OUTLAWS (Eagle Film Co., 1915)

DIRECTOR: William Tilghman;  TECHNICAL ADVISOR: Arkansas Tom

CAST: Arkansas Tom, Bud Ledbetter, Chris Madsen, E.D. Nix, William Tilghman


Once again a group featuring ex-lawmen and an ex-outlaw gather in Oklahoma to produce a film.  The lawman who did the most to wipe-out the Doolin-Dalton Gang was Chris Madsen, who with Bill Tilghman and Heck Thomas comprised the so-called "Three Guardsmen," deputy U.S. marshals who were responsible for ending the careers of most of the gang members.

Bud Ledbetter was a former deputy U.S. marshal and deputy sheriff who led the posse that captured Al Jennings and two other members of the Jennings Gang. One other member surrendered shortly thereafter and Chris Madsen and his posse tracked down and killed Little Dick West, who at the time held the dubious distinction of being the sole surviving at large member of both the Doolin-Dalton and Jennings gangs.

Arkansas Tom (real name Roy Daugherty) was a member of the Doolin-Dalton Gang.  He had taken part in the so-called Battle of Ingalls in 1893, which is recreated in the film.  

When U.S. marshal E.D. Nix received word that most of the gang was laying low in Ingalls, Oklahoma, a town that was often used as a refuge by the gang, he sent a huge posse led by 14 deputy U.S. marshals to either capture or kill as many members of the gang as possible.

When the shooting began, Arkansas Tom was ill in a room on the second floor of a hotel.  It was his covering fire that allowed all the other members of the gang, three of whom were wounded, to escape.  The posse suffered even more casualties, including thee who were killed. In addition, one civilian was mortally wounded.

Arkansas Tom, who was all alone after the other outlaws vamoosed on the double, gave himself up either, as some reports say, when he was stunned by a blast from the dynamite that was thrown into the hotel by the lawmen, or, as other reports say, when the lawmen threatened to resort to using dynamite to dislodge him from his hiding place.

Tom was sentenced to fifty years in prison, but was paroled in 1910 after serving almost twenty years.  Here he was five years later acting in a movie in which he recreated his role in the Ingalls battle.  Not only that, since he was the only member of the production crew who had participated in the shoot-out, he was listed as the technical advisor.

Like Al Jennings before him, Arkansas Tom had learned that crime did not pay, but that movies did -- and that it was a much less dangerous line of work.  No, wait. That's not true.  The ex- needs to be removed from outlaw in Tom's job description.

Two years after the film was released, Arkansas Tom was tried and convicted for robbing a bank in Neosho, Missouri.  Released in 1921, he robbed a bank in Asbury, Missouri that same year. Thereafter on the run he was killed in a gun battle with lawmen in Joplin, Missouri in 1924.

Why did he call himself Arkansas Tom?  Well, because he was born in Missouri. Okay, so I don't know.

Apparently a complete copy of this film does not exist.  This is unfortunate because the excerpt that is available is really a clear print, much more so than the THE BANK ROBBERY.

Through the courtesy of You Tube, you can view the excerpt by clicking on the picture below:









Tuesday, January 12, 2016

THE DOOLIN-DALTON GANG, Part I

They were duelin', Doolin-Dalton
High or low, it was the same
Easy money and faithless women
Red-eye whiskey for the pain


Go down, Bill Dalton, it must be God's will
Two brothers lyin' dead in Coffeyville
Two voices call to you from where they stood
Lay down your law books now, they're no damn good


Better keep on movin' Doolin-Dalton
'Til your shadow sets you free
And if you're fast and if you're lucky
You will never see that hangin' tree


Well, the towns lay out across the dusty plains
Like graveyards filled with tombstones waitin' for the names
And a man could use his back or use his brains
But some just went stir crazy, Lord, 'cause nothin' ever changed
-- THE EAGLES

Songwriters
BROWNE, JACKSON / SOUTHER, J.D. / HENLEY, DON / FREY, GLENN


COFFEYVILLE.
On October 5, 1892 five men rode into Coffeyville, Kansas, a town located in the southeastern corner of the state.  Three of the men were brothers: Bob, Grat, and Emmett Dalton.  Coffeyville was their hometown.  Riding with them were Bill Powers and Dick Broadwell. They had come to do something that not even the James-Younger Gang had ever attempted to do.  They planned to rob two banks simultaneously.

When the smoke cleared and the dust settled that day four townsmen and four outlaws were dead.  Among the outlaws only Emmett, wounded more than twenty times, was still alive, but just barely.

Rumors persisted that there had been a sixth rider and that he had escaped. The rumors were based on testimony by a farm couple who said they saw six men riding into town just before the hold-up and statements by another person claiming that he saw a rider making a successful getaway during the shoot-out between the outlaws and the townspeople.

Emmett, who did survive, and who was tried and convicted and sent to prison, always maintained that there was no sixth rider.  But the rumor wouldn't go away.  Although nobody came forward to identify who that legendary rider might have been, subsequent events led many to believe that it was Bill Doolin. One theory was that he had been charged with the responsibility of holding the horses and that when all hell broke loose he didn't hang around but made tracks out of town.  Another had it that his horse came up lame before the men reached town and that he went off in search of another horse and missed the whole shebang.

Neither of those scenarios hold up under close scrutiny and it is more than likely that the mythical sixth rider is just that -- a myth.  But Bill Doolin was real.  He may not have been at Coffeyville, but he had been a member of the Dalton Gang.  And after the citizens of that community decimated that gang, Doolin didn't waste any time in organizing a new gang. He was assisted in this effort by Bill Dalton, another of the infamous brothers, and the result is what came to be known as the Doolin-Dalton Gang.



Bill Doolin

Bill Dalton





















BILL DALTON (1866-1894).
Bill Dalton was not living in Kansas when his three brothers were riding the outlaw trail in that state and in the Oklahoma Territory to the south.  He had moved to California where he was married and was living a respectable life as a farmer, one who was also studying law.  He had even been elected to the California state legislature on the Populist Party ticket. Of course being a member of the legislature did not in and of itself make one respectable.

The Populist Party was an agrarian movement that blamed big business for the hard times that farmers, ranchers, and small businesses were experiencing in the years before the turn of the century.  And it was the railroads that were identified as being the primary culprits. Bill Dalton hated them with a passion.

But did he hate them enough to rob one?  Well, perhaps.  He had been joined in California by brother Grat who had left his stomping grounds to the east in order to put some distance between him and the U.S. marshals who were keeping a close watch on him.  He may have been accompanied by brothers Bob and Emmett, or they may have joined him later, but it isn't clear that that was the case.

A fireman was killed during a train hold-up in February, 1891, and Bill and Grat were arrested.  There is suspicion that Bob and Emmett were involved as well, but it was never proved for they were never caught.  Bill was tried and acquitted, but Grat was convicted. However, on the way to prison Grat escaped and eventually made his way back home to rejoin Bob and Emmett and other members of the gang in holding up banks and railroads, primarily in the Oklahoma and Indian territories. 

After the death of his two brothers and the capture of another in the Coffeyville fiasco in October, 1892, Bill Dalton came home and met Bill Doolin. 


In 1890, Congress passed the Oklahoma Organic Act which partitioned the Indian Territory by creating a separate territory to be called Oklahoma.  The new territory essentially encompassed everything in the former Indian Territory except the lands belonging to the so-called Five Civilized Tribes: the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole.  The intent was to eventually combine the two territories into a single state.  In 1907, the state of Oklahoma was admitted into the Union and the Indian Territory ceased to exist.

BILL DOOLIN (1858-1896).
Bill Doolin was born in Johnson County in western Arkansas.  In 1881, he became a cowboy in the Indian Territory where he worked with other men, who, like him, eventually found themselves riding the outlaw trail.  They included the likes of George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, Charley Pierce, Bill Powers, Dick Broadwell, Bill "Tulsa Jack" Blake, Dan "Dynamite Dick" Clifton, and Emmett Dalton.

Doolin's first reported run in with the law occurred in Coffeyville, Kansas when an attempt was made by the local authorities to arrest him and his friends for public drunkenness.  Elsewhere such behavior might have been overlooked, but Coffeyville just happened to be located in a dry county.

In the melee that followed two lawmen were wounded while trying to confiscate Doolin and his friends' liquor.

Soon thereafter Doolin joined up with the Daltons.  He was probably too smart to participate in their hare brained scheme to rob the two banks in Coffeyville, despite the rumors that in fact he had been a sixth rider but had successfully vamoosed to fight and rob another day.


THE DOOLIN-DALTON GANG.
After the failed Coffeyville raid and the death of four of the outlaws and the capture of the seriously wounded Emmett Dalton, Bill Doolin began recruiting his own gang, and because one of its members was Bill Dalton, it is commonly known as the Doolin-Dalton Gang, but also as The Wild Bunch (not to be confused with the Butch Cassidy-Sundance Kid Wild Bunch) or the Oklahombres. Comprising the nucleus of the gang were men who, like Doolin, had been members of the Dalton Gang and had not participated in the Coffeyville raid.

In a three year spree, the gang robbed banks and trains in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and the Indian Territory.  After holding up the bank in Spearville, Kansas on November 1, 1892, the gang took refuge near Orlando in Oklahoma Territory at the home of the sister of gang member Ol Yantis.  Later that month a sheriff's posse tracked Yantis to that location and in a shoot-out they killed Yantis, making him the first gang member to be killed.  There would be other gang members -- many others -- that would suffer the same fate.  Of the eleven outlaws who rode with the gang at various times, only two lived into the 20th century, but only because they had been captured and were in prison when the new century began.

In March 1893, despite the fact that several bank and train robberies followed Spearville, Bill Doolin married Edith Ellsworth in Kingfisher, OT.  They would have one son. Not long after his marriage, Doolin was seriously wounded in the foot during a train robbery near Cimarron, Kansas.


THE BATTLE OF INGALLS.
What came to be called the Battle of Ingalls occurred on September 1, 1893. Today practically a ghost town, Ingalls in the 1890's was a wide-open town and a safe haven for fugitives on the run.  It was one of the places that the Doolin-Dalton gang felt secure.

But the territory's newly appointed U.S. marshal, 32-year old E.D. Nix, had different plans for the gang holed up in Ingalls.  Nix sent fourteen deputy marshals to Ingalls in an attempt to clean out the Doolin-Dalton gang.  


U.S. marshal E.D. Nix
In the ensuing gun battle three deputies were killed along with two citizens.  Three outlaws -- Bitter Creek Newcomb, Charlie Pierce, and Dynamite Dick Clifton -- were wounded, but managed to escape.  

Arkansas Tom Jones was captured after being stunned by dynamite that was thrown into the hotel where he had taken cover.  As it turned out, Jones (real name Roy Daugherty) outlived all the other members of the gang.  He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to fifty years in prison. However, he was pardoned in 1910 after serving fewer than twenty years.


Arkansas Tom
In 1917, he was tried and convicted for robbing a bank in Neosho, Missouri.  After being released in 1921, he robbed a bank in Asbury, Missouri that same year.  Tracked to Joplin, Missouri he was killed in 1924 in a gunfight with lawmen.  He outlived all the other gang members, but his life still ended much like the rest of them.


THE THREE GUARDSMEN.
In the wake of the Ingalls shoot-out, Marshal Nix organized an elite group of one hundred deputies whose primary job was to, one way or the other, wipe out the Doolin-Dalton Gang.  The most famous of the deputies were Heck Thomas, Chris Madsen, and Bill Tilghman, who were so successful in the pursuit of the gang that they came to be called "The Three Guardsmen."  

Nix gave the following directions to his deputies: "I have selected you to do this work, placing explicit confidence in your abilities to cope with those desperadoes and bring them in -- live if possible -- dead if necessary."


Heck Thomas (1900)



Bill Tilghman (1912)






















Chris Madsen (date unknown)

It was the beginning of the end for the gang.


  • In June 1894, Bill Dalton was killed by a posse at his home near Ardmore, OT.
  • In April 1895, Tulsa Jack Blake was killed by U.S. marshals near Ames, OT.
  • In May 1895, Bitter Creek Newcomb and Charley Pierce were killed near Pawnee, OT by bounty hunters.  
  • In September 1895, Little Bill Raidler was captured by Bill Tilghman.  He was sentenced to prison and was paroled in 1903 because of ill health due to severity of the wounds he had received at the time of his capture.  He died the following year.  Like Arkansas Tom before him, he had lived into the new century -- and for the same reason.
  • In March 1896, Red Buck Waightman was killed near Arapaho, OT by a posse led by Chris Madsen.


But what of Bill Doolin -- the gang's leader?  What was he doing while his men were being picked off one by one?  Well, as one would imagine, he was hunkering down.

He and Little Dick West hid out in the New Mexico territory during the summer of 1895.  Later that year, he and his wife traveled to Eureka Springs, Arkansas so that he could use the baths to ease the rheumatism in his foot caused by the bullet wound that he had sustained two years earlier.  Early the following year, he was captured in one of the bathhouses by deputy U.S. marshal Bill Tilghman.

Doolin was arraigned in Stillwater, OT on murder charges stemming from the gunfight at Ingalls in 1893.  He pleaded not guilty.  He was locked up in the Guthrie jail to await trial.  He and Dynamite Dick Clifton and twelve other prisoners were able to break out of the jail.

After his escape, Doolin was hiding out near Lawson, OT., where his wife and small son were staying with her mother.  On August 24, 1896 he was waylaid outside the home by a posse led by deputy U.S. marshal Heck Thomas.  When he refused to obey a command to surrender and began firing at the lawmen he was killed by a shotgun blast fired by Thomas.

As per usual, Doolin's body was placed on display in Guthrie and photographs were taken.  He was buried in the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie.  His widow filed an unlawful death damage suit against the marshals, but it was dismissed.


Bill Doolin

  • In November 1897, Dynamite Dick Clifton was tracked down near Checotah, IT and killed by a posse led by deputy marshal Chris Madsen.
  • In April 1898, Little Dick West, the gang's last remaining fugitive at large, was tracked down in Logan County, OT by a posse led by deputy U.S. marshal Chris Madsen and was killed in a shoot-out.  He is buried in Guthrie near Bill Doolin.