Watching 1939: Timber Stampede (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: 
Timber Stampede (1939)

Release date: 
June 30, 1939

George O’Brien, Chill Wills, Marjorie Reynolds, Morgan Wallace, Robert Fiske, Guy Usher, Earl Dwire, Bob Burns, Elmo Lincoln (uncredited)

RKO Radio Pictures

David Howard

Disguising it as bringing law and order to the west, Jay Jones (Usher) and Foss Dunlap (Wallace) promise to bring a railroad to the town of Wagon Wheel, when really their plan is just to strip the town of its timber. People are also filing fake claims on the land. To help write that Jones and Dunlap are bringing progress, reporter Anne Carr writes the stories they feed her, thinking she’s doing right. Scott Baylor (O’Brien) and his friend Whopper Hatch (Wills) are both cattlemen, and their livelihood is threatened by the changes in town. When Baylor tries to work with the sheriff, the sheriff is killed by one of Jones and Dunlap’s men who then takes the position for himself. Baylor has to investigate on his own.

1939 Notes:
• By the numbers:
– George O’Brien was in 7 films released in 1939, all westerns.
– Marjorie Reynolds was in 10 films released in 1939.
– Chill Wills was in 7 films released in 1939. Just prior to 1939, Wills started in credited roles.
– Former silent star Elmo Lincoln has an uncredited role in the film. He was in seven minor roles that year.
– Guy Usher was in 16 films released in 1939.
– Morgan Wallace was in seven films released in 1939.
– Earl Dwire was in 11 films released in 1939.
– Bob Burns was in 17 films released in 1939.


Other trivia: 
• Based on stories by Bernard McConville and Paul Franklin
• Filmed on location in Sonora, CA.
• Re-released in theaters in 1948.

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
During the silent era, actor George O’Brien was a top leading man – starring in major productions like F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927) and Michael Curtiz’s Noah’s Ark (1928).

By the dawn of sound and the mid-1930s, O’Brien’s career turned primarily to westerns, and the majority of his films until 1964 were of the western genre.

Though many of these films running less than an hour appear low budget, O’Brien was a top western box office draw. “Timber Stampede” is one of six western films O’Brien made in 1939.

While an unassuming film running 59 minutes, “Timber Stampede” has a more complex plot than most films of this nature. It involves businessmen wanting to strip the timber of a lush forest area, and to do so, the men say they are building a railroad through this area, without any intentions of building a railway system. To help them further their goal, reporter Anne Carr, played by Marjorie Reynolds, is hired to write about their work.

Cattleman Scott Baylor, played by George O’Brien, discovers the plot as the timber workers are killing his cows for food. He works to publically uncover the plot, but meets resistance, especially from Anne Carr.

While in the grand scheme of 1939, “Timber Stampede” isn’t an important film, I like that this plot isn’t so much “bad guy comes to town and good guy saves the day.” There is an added layer of deception that makes this one more interesting.

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