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Film Review: “The Texan”










According to the IMDB webpage for The Texan, although one of hundreds made by Paramount whose rights were sold for TV distribution in the industry’s early days, this film has apparently NEVER been broadcast until March 2020, a gap of nearly a century since it was last seen. It’s paradoxically a pity the film went so long unviewed and simultaneously delightful it’s been recently unearthed for modern film fans to see. And The Texan is absolutely worth watching, a fast moving, well scripted, pre-Code gem based on an O. Henry story.

Cooper plays the Llano Kid, a larcenous Texas outlaw, quick with his pistol, with a knack for evading the law. He falls in with Thacker, ably and gruffly played by Oscar Apfel, a con man with a proposal. Thacker knows a wealthy Mexican widow who pines for her son who ran away years ago. He asks the Kid to pose as the son so they can cheat the widow out of her money. Although initially reluctant, the Kid’s mercenary instincts prompt him to go along. In Mexico, the Kid meets the widow, Dona Ibarra (somewhat overplayed by Emma Dunn) and his gorgeous, friendly cousin, Counsuelo, a perfectly lovely Fay Wray, hard to recognize here as a brunette and doing a passably accurate Mexican accent.

Cooper’s Kid is a type he played to perfection in later years, a tough, capable cowboy, able to handle conflict, but tonguetied when emotion is involved, especially with women. As his character spends time with Dona Ibarra, you watch his reserve worn down by her overpowering, unconditional love. She loves him like a mother and the Kid comes to love Dona Ibarra as a son. This leads to a climactic scene where the Kid tersely but eloquently tells Thacker he wants no further part of his miserable scheme.  Cooper shows strong acting talent here. Cooper’s rejection of Thacker leads to a violent shootout at the film’s end. With no further spoilers, the film comes to a satisfying dramatic conclusion.

Cooper wasn’t even 30 when he made this film and he’s a delight to see. Smooth featured (this was decades before his face lift), impossibly long and lean, a true top cowhand just as much at ease in the saddle as on foot, endowed with natural style and poise, Cooper looks fantastic in a flat hat and short vest, particularly when he dresses as a vaquero in Mexico with high boots, a serape, and a long, braided quirt. His acting was good throughout the film with even a flash of his impish humor when Dona Ibarra serves the Llano Kid a typical American meal of doughnuts, pickles, and apple pie. Fay Wray was a very beautiful woman and did a good job with the limited part she had as the romantic interest. Strong support was provided by James A. Marcus as the Bible spouting, pistol toting Texas sheriff John Brown.

Anybody who’s a fan of Gary Cooper or Western movies (can there be any gap between those two sets?) needs to see this film right away!


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