For the first half of the 20th century, Warner Brothers did not have a signature cowboy star. John Wayne toiled in its early talkies, but the 1930s through the war years were a dry period,
and putting Cagney and Bogart out West only underlined the problem. Errol Flynn, the studio’s one star who rode tall in the saddle, was indifferent, referring to himself as the “rich man’s Roy Rogers” and seeing his Westerns simply as box office placeholders.
Thanks to the Warner Archive Collection, we can rediscover the studio’s lesser-known Westerns by directors Raoul Walsh and Michael Curtiz.
The 1947 film Cheyenne, written by Alan Le May (The Searchers), is structured like a sagebrush mystery, with gambler Dennis Morgan trying to capture a stage robber known as the Poet. Walsh’s liquid direction moves the story down some unexpectedly dark passages. Unfairly dismissed by Walsh as a “quickie,” Cheyenne is much better than its reputation, with a fine cast and beautiful Sid Hickox photography.
The 1954 film The Boy From Oklahoma was the second of two vehicles that Curtiz directed with Will Rogers Jr. (the first was The Story of Will Rogers). Here, Curtiz’s filmmaking falls in with his star’s personality, taking a relaxed, seamless approach to the story of a tenderfoot sheriff who cleans up a town. Nancy Olson, Lon Chaney and Anthony Caruso offer fun support. Boy was the precursor to the TV series Sugarfoot.