Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein
The first of four ultra cheap Buddy Roosevelt Westerns produced and directed by Jack Irwin, this film was released to an already crowded states rights market by the poverty row company Syndicate Film Exchange. A former silent screen cowboy who had enjoyed some success in independent oaters of the mid 1920s, Roosevelt (real name: Kenneth Sanderson) was still a box-office draw in smaller venues when Irwin signed him in 1931. In Lightnin' Smith's Return, he plays John Smith, a writer of Western fiction without ever having set foot in the West. A reader, Helen Parker (Barbara Worth), invites him to visit her ranch and learn the real way of the West. The girl goes so far as to arrange a fake holdup for his benefit upon arrival. The entire town is in on the joke as Helen, dressed as the notorious masked bandit, Lightnin' Smith, hands over the "stolen" loot to the stunned Smith. The real Lightnin' (Tom London) turns up in the middle of all this, of course, offering Smith the opportunity to prove himself once and for all by saving Helen and her father (Sam Tittley) from the real outlaw. Leading lady Barbara Worth was also known as Hazel Keener. Although not an official remake, the 1934 Tom Tyler Western Mystery Ranch bears a striking resemblance to Lightnin' Smith's Return.