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Nabb controls the pass and lets all the ranchers through except Holderness and his stolen cattle. When Nabb refuses to sell, Holderness works an his son Snap who has run up gambling debts. There is more trouble when Snap becomes jealous of Judy's attraction to the surveyor Jack. When Holderness has Snap killed, everyone heads to town for the showdown.Written by
Maurice VanAuken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'Heritage of the Desert' is an excellent western that will appeal to viewers who don't normally like westerns. Made early in the career of the underrated director Henry Hathaway, this is a splendid example of his skills.
Veteran character actor J Farrell MacDonald gives one of his best performances here as Naab (unnecessarily weird name), a rancher who permits neighbouring ranchers to run their cattle drives through a narrow pass on his land ... all except rancher Judd Holderness (great name!), whom Naab knows to be a rustler. I usually dislike actor David Landau, with his coarse features and unpleasant voice, but here he has some great dialogue ... baiting his henchman Lefty with lines like 'How often have I told you not to think? You can do a lot better with your gun' and 'You got a six-gun where your brains oughta be.' When a morally ambiguous rancher (good performance by Gordon Westcott) tries to appeal to Holderness's conscience -- 'You wouldn't do a thing like that, would you?' -- Holderness calmly replies 'I do things like that every ten minutes.' Sally Blane, Loretta Young's sister, gives a strong and appealing performance as the heroine. I'm a fan of Loretta Young, but I've always found her just a little too beautiful to be believable in most of her roles. (I have the same problem with Nicole Kidman, whom I also like.) Blane strongly resembled her famous sister but was slightly less beautiful, and this makes her far more credible than Loretta in roles such as the one she plays here. Blane spends much of the film in a set of culottes which show off her lissome figure, but which are probably not historically accurate.
Vince Barnett, a character actor whom I usually like, is saddled here with some painfully thick-witted dialogue which he enunciates in one of the most bizarre and implausible accents I've ever heard. Randolph Scott is excellent as the surveyor who arrives at Naab's spread, where Sally shows interest in his plumb bob.
SPOILERS COMING. Hathaway's directorial hand is sure throughout. I was especially impressed by one staggeringly beautiful desertscape, and by a long series of dissolve shots as Randolph Scott's stand-in, wounded by a cowpoke's bullet, stumbles through the alkali.
Later in the film, there's an impressive sequence in which two characters draw their pistols and stand each other off. The camera pans to Sally Blane's reaction as two shots are fired off-camera. She screams, and we know that *somebody* got plugged ... but we don't learn the outcome until later.
Considering that this film was made on a low budget in 1932, its sound recording is very impressive. I'll rate 'Heritage of the Desert' 8 out of 10.
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