Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein
William Colt MacDonald's 1934 story based on the Three Mesqueteers characters was brought to the screen the following year by RKO, who billed it "the Barnum and Bailey of Westerns" and seems to have rounded up every Western star not under exclusive contract. The Western, in fact, could boast of no less than 13 former silent screen cowboy heroes: Harry Carey, Hoot Gibson, Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, Buzz Barton, Wally Wales (aka Hal Taliaferro), Art Mix (aka George Kesterson), Buffalo Bill Jr. (aka Jay Wilsey), Buddy Roosevelt, Franklyn Farnum, William Desmond, and William Farnum. Carey, Gibson, and Williams played Tucson Smith, Stony Brooke, and Lullaby Joslin, respectively -- the Three Mesqueteers -- who happen upon a stage robbery in progress. They catch the bandit (Ethan Laidlaw) red-handed rifling through the mail and discover that one of the letters is meant for them. Without their knowing, a young friend, the Guadalupe Kid (Steele), has bought a ranch in their names and is awaiting their arrival. The ranch, however, is located in an area controlled by greedy saloon proprietor turned political boss Steve Ogden (Sam Hardy), who takes umbrage to their presence to the point of hiring a professional gunslinger, Sundown Saunders (Tyler). Provoking a confrontation, Sundown challenges Tucson to his trademark sundown showdown. The wily Tucson realizes that Sundown prefers an encounter in the dusk because of failing eyesight and only lightly wounds his opponent. Although a recuperating Sundown turns down Tucson's request to join the fight against Ogden, in the ensuing shootout the gunslinger heroically takes a bullet meant for Tucson. After forcing a confession out of the crooked sheriff (Adrian Morris), the Mesqueteers confront Ogden who is killed in a fight with Tucson. Filmed on locations at Kernville and Newhall, CA, Powdersmoke Range was not the first film version of MacDonald's Mesqueteers. That honor goes to Law of the .45's, a cheap, independently made Western that had starred Guinn "Big Boy" Williams as Tucson and perennial sidekick Al St. John as Stony. (The film omitted the third mesqueteer, Lullaby Joslin, altogether). Despite the success of Powdersmoke Range, RKO failed to follow up with a regular series. Bob Steele would play the character of Sundown Saunders in an independently produced Western of that name in 1936 but the Three Mesqueteers as a group found a regular berth with Republic Pictures, which went on to produce 51 highly successful and influential B-Westerns between 1935 and mid-1943. Through several cast changes both Bob Steele and Tom Tyler would at one point or another play one of the mesqueteers, as would Robert Livingston, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, ventriloquist Max Terhune, John Wayne, Raymond Hatton, Duncan Renaldo, Rufe Davis, Ralph Byrd, and Syd Saylor.
killing, bad-guy, cowboy, false-accusation, good-guy, investigation, land-scheme, land-war, murder, ranch, range