Riders of Destiny (1933)
“A Great Western Star in a WHIRLWIND of ACTION!”
Director: Robert N. Bradbury
Cast: John Wayne, Cecilia Parker, Forrest Taylor
Synopsis: Bad guy Kincaid controls the local water supply and plans to do in the other ranchers. Government agent Saunders shows up undercover to do in Kincaid and win the heart of one of his victims Fay Denton.
Riders of Destiny is another generically titled western programmer from the impoverished Lone Star stable; this one features strapping John Wayne as Singin’ Sandy Saunders no less, who is introduced to us as he warbles to the sky at a pitch that would have probably put paid to any hopes he had of siring little Dukes (dukelets?) had the voice really been his. Unlike some others, I don’t know who dubbed the Duke and, quite frankly, I don’t really care — just as long as I don’t stumble across his pained caterwauling in any other cheap flicks. Even Wayne must have been able to do better.
This flick, one of Wayne’s earliest for Lone Star, features a passable plot (the quality of Wayne’s material with the studio seemed to grow weaker with each passing film) that has him playing a government agent despatched to investigate a crooked businessman’s exploitation of water rights in a small western town. Before he even reaches the town, he bumps into its sheriff wandering the desert with a bullet in his back, a couple of the businessman’s comedy henchmen, and a platinum blonde (the impossibly cute Cecilia Parker) who has just held up a stage coach. The comedy henchmen are about as funny as a broken fingernail, but Forrest Taylor makes an agreeably oily bad guy and Cecilia Parker is an impossibly cute heroine.
Where the movie excels is in the stunt department thanks once again to Yakima Canutt, who spent most of the 30s doubling for Wayne and many other cowboy stars. For years I had laboured under the misapprehension that Canutt was a diminutive Japanese gentleman, only to discover with the viewing of the Lone Star flicks that he’s actually as American as… well, John Wayne. Yakima isn’t Japanese for Fred or Bert after all, it’s a town in Washington! Anyway, in this film he performs the ‘crawling around under a speeding stagecoach’ trick that would become famous when he repeated it for Stagecoach six years later. Watching these films must have been close to a surreal experience for Canutt at times. How often, I wonder, did he watch himself fleeing a crime on horseback in one scene only to see himself leaping onto a horse in the guise of the Duke to give chase in the next?
By the way, did I mention how impossibly cute Cecilia Parker was? She bakes cookies too…
(Reviewed 3rd August 2005)