Directed by William A. Seiter
Written by P.J. Wilson based on a factual story “The First Rebel” by Neil H. Swanson
RKO Radio Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental
Janie MacDougall: I won’t! I’m not going to be a widow before I’m even a wife.
I had hopes for this based on the cast but it only reached to “watchable” in my book.
The setting is the frontier in Pennsylvania a decade before the Revolutionary War. The story begins with Capt. Swanson (George Sanders) arranging an exchange of British prisoners with the French. Among the British prisoners is Jim Smith (John Wayne) and his buddy who have been held by Indians for the last three years. After their release, they meet up with MacDougall (the deeply irritating Wilfred Lawson) who has been fighting with the British in Canada and repair to his tavern. There Smith is reunited with tomboy sweetheart Janie (Claire Trevor), who is determined to let nothing else come between her and her man.
Smith becomes the leader of a militia of colonists called the “Black Boys” who specialize in defending their settlements from Indians. They discover that a group of evil capitalists led by Callender (Brian Donlevy) is illegally selling trade goods, including alcohol and rifles, to the Indians. When the Boys intercept a shipment, Callender et al decide to hide future shipments in convoys of military supplies travelling under military escort. This leads to a head on collision between Capt. Swanson and Smith.
As should be well known by now, my least favorite character type in film is the “comic” drunk. I have now discovered that even worse is the comic drunk Scotsman. There is entirely too much of Wilfred Lawson in this film. I was also let down by the usually reliable Claire Trevor who comes off as shrill and strident here. All the other performances are fine.