Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein
Based on a serialized novel by Courtney Riley Cooper, Christmas Eve at Pilot Butte, this sentimental silent Western was one of 26 collaborations between director John Ford (still known as "Jack Ford") and veteran stage actor Harry Carey. Drifter Bart Carson (Carey) becomes so infatuated with the beautiful but treacherous Lady Lou (Barbara La Marr) that he is easily persuaded to assume responsibility for a crime actually committed by the lady's brother, Walker (Edward Coxen). In prison, Bart learns that Walker is not Lady Lou's brother at all, but her lover. Escaping from prison on Christmas Eve, a furious Carson heads straight to Walker's home -- only to find the man's wife (Lillian Rich) and teenage son (Georgie Stone, later George E. Stone) alone and abandoned. Taking pity on the woman, Bart gives himself up to the sheriff so she may claim the reward. Happily, Lady Lou has confessed her perfidy, and Bart is once again a free man. Shortly after making Desperate Trails, Ford and Carey had a falling out, and the director transferred to the Hoot Gibson unit. Ford, however, never forgot the veteran star, and Three Godfathers (1948), which co-starred Harry Carey, Jr., was dedicated to his memory.