Wyoming Outlaw (1939)

  • Year: 1939
  • Released: 27 Jun 1939
  • Country: United States
  • Adwords: N/A
  • IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032146/
  • Rotten Tomatoes: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/wyoming_outlaw
  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: Passed
  • Genre: Drama, Western
  • Runtime: 56 min
  • Writer: Jack Natteford, Betty Burbridge, William Colt MacDonald
  • Director: George Sherman
  • Cast: John Wayne, Ray Corrigan, Raymond Hatton
  • Keywords: three mesquiteers,
33% – Critics
33% – Audience

Wyoming Outlaw Storyline

With himself and his father out of work due to Balsinger who controls the jobs, Will Parker is stealing cattle to feed his family. The Mesquiteers try to help him out but he is caught and jailed. Escaping jail and eluding the ensuing manhunt, he heads for Balsinger and a showdown.—Maurice VanAuken

Wyoming Outlaw Photos

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Wyoming Outlaw Movie Reviews

“…if I didn’t have a story to tell before, I’ve sure got a good one now.”

This was one of John Wayne’s final film roles before getting his big break-out in the same year’s “Stagecoach” directed by John Ford. He appeared in eight ‘Mesquiteers’ flicks for Republic, six of them with Ray Corrigan and Max Terhune, followed by two more with Corrigan and Ray Hatton. What I found unusual about this story was how introspective the writing was, almost like a Warner Brothers film of the era in which they tackled a serious social problem. In this case it was the scheming villainy of a local town boss selling jobs for political favors and campaign contributions, in some cases driving poverty stricken ranchers even deeper into a hole.

Throughout the story, the Mesquiteers acquitted themselves well as stand up guys, as evidenced by Stoney Brooke’s (Wayne) covering for Irene Parker’s (Pamela Blake) theft of twenty dollars from his own wallet, or when Rusty Joslin (Hatton) paid Will Parker (Red Barry) as a trail hand even though he wasn’t allowed to join the drive by a dutiful forest ranger for alleged violation of game laws. As Parker, Don Barry evokes a genuine sympathy from the viewer for fighting against the odds and constantly coming up short, often through no fault of his own. In fact, when he expresses his concern to a newsman near the end of the story, the comeback from the reporter is stated as “Sort of radical, aren’t you”? The political connotation in the reporter’s reaction caught me somewhat by surprise.

Say, here’s something that caught my eye when the Mesquiteers stopped in town to have some lunch. The menu offered up hamburger steak for thirty cents, beef strip for twenty three cents, corned beef and cabbage for thirty cents, and pounded steak for forty cents. I was wondering what a pounded steak was and marveling at those prices when I really got blown away by a sign that announced that dessert was included in the meal!!! How’s that for a bargain!

Then there was this sign posted on the outside of a building that encouraged voters in the coming election to ‘Keep Your Friends In Office”! That provided another telling moment in the story when Will Parker’s father refused to participate in graft and corruption to keep Joe Balsinger (Leroy Mason) in office by collecting campaign contributions for him from neighboring ranchers. The story really made you sympathize for the little guy who faced loss of work and starvation if he didn’t play along with the system.

With the way the story was headed, the thing that surprised me most was the way in which it ended. With Will Parker hanging on to his dignity by a thread, he takes outlaw Balsinger hostage, and in the confrontation with the town folk, both Balsinger and Parker are shot dead. It wasn’t your traditional satisfactory ending and left you with a tinge of melancholy that things didn’t work out for the guy who tried and couldn’t make it. For a B Western, this one could have been a feature with a little more effort.

One of the better Mesquiteer flicks.

During the course of Republic Studio’s Three Mesquiteer series, the composition of this do-gooding trio changed regularly. It changed so often it’s hard to keep track of the three actors and the best way to follow the cast change is to look at the excellent Wikipedia article about these films. While he only appeared in about a half dozen of these movies, John Wayne was one of the actors who played ‘Stony’….and these Mesquiteer films are a tad better than the rest.

“Wyoming Outlaw” is one of the strangest Mesquiteer films I have seen, if not the strangest. This is because the trio seem more like observers of the action instead of doing what they usually do…solve folks’ problems. It also has an incredibly downbeat message…one that must have annoyed audiences, though I appreciated it because all too often the films had nice, happy….and dull endings!

This story finds a senator taking advantage of the folks in his district. Unless people ‘voluntarily’ contribute to his re-election fund, they suddenly find themselves without jobs or at his henchmen’s mercy. The Parker family tries to stand up to these mobsters and the Mesquiteers stand with them.

This film is interesting for some of the actors appearing in the film. Aside from the Mesquiteers (Wayne, Ray Corrigan and Raymond Hatton), ‘Red’ Barry, Charles Middleton and Elmo Lincoln provide support. Barry was famous for starring in the Red Ryder series, Middleton was ‘Ming the Merciless’ in the Buck Rogers serial and Lincoln was the screen’s first Tarzan, back in 1918.

Overall, a very good installment simply because it isn’t all neatly tied up at the end and good doesn’t completely triumph over evil.

Very Topical Film

Wyoming Outlaw is one of the most unusual entries in the Three Mesquiteers series of films. John Wayne, Ray Corrigan, and Raymond Hatton are not the center of the film. The center is Donald ‘Red’ Barry who plays young outlaw Will Parker who gets befriended by the Mesquiteers even though he tries to steal a steer from them.

This Mesquiteer film is set in the modern west of the dustbowl and has some themes that John Wayne later used in McLintock. During the World War, the cattle country was converted to wheat and after the demand from Europe subsided after World War I a lot of farm land was left arid and abandoned. That is exactly what happened to American agriculture in the boom period of the Roaring Twenties where the farmers did not share the prosperity.

Along comes the New Deal and a lot of local political bosses took advantage of government relief programs to entrench themselves in power. Such a boss is played by LeRoy Mason who was one of the shrewdest villains I’ve ever seen in a western. In fact during the course of the film, Mason really outsmarts our heroes at every turn as they try to bring him down legally.

Anyway though the Mesquiteers are really subordinate to Red Barry who’s tired of having his family exploited by Mason and his gang. Circumstances make him turn outlaw and the chase for him is reminiscent of High Sierra a year later. In fact the just as Humphrey Bogart is referred to as Mad Dog Earle, Barry is called Mad Dog Parker by the radio and print media of the time.

High Sierra was an A film for Warner Brothers and this was just a quickie B western that probably didn’t get too much notice. It’s a pity that the production values were those of a B film because the story was very well done.

This is one of the few John Wayne Three Mesquiteer films that is not available on VHS or DVD. When TCM shows it again, catch it by all means.