The Lonely Trail (1936) Poster

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Painful to watch, my eye. It's solid entertainment,
estabansmythe18 April 2006
The Lone Star and early Repulic two-reeler "oaters," i.e., hour-long westerns, ably served as John Wayne's training ground throughout the Thirties. I think most of the Duke's 1933-39 oaters entertaining as hell.

The cast, writers and production crew get in, get it done and get out, all in an hour give or take a few minutes. And they usually did it well. Were they corny? You bet, pardner. We're they sappy? At times. We're they scrappy? You bet yer boots!

It was in these films that Wayne and actor/stuntman extraordinaire Yakima Canutt developed the draw-back punch that's become the standard in film fights ever since.

The Lonely Trail, an early Republic feature from it's first year, 1936, is involving and action-packed and loaded with classic early western character actors of the era, such as Cy Kendall, Sam Flint and the legendary Canutt. It was directed by the king of '30s B westerns, Joe Kane and also featured a young Ann Rutherford "Snowflake." These are not up there with the great films of the era, not even close. However, for fans of the genre, they are a most entertaining way to spend an hour.
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Great Cast for Republic
frank412223 September 2019
John Wayne leads a great cast of western actors including Ann Rutherford with 2 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stuntman extraordinaire Yakima Canutt as Bull does some great work in front of the camera as well. Lafe McKee even does a cameo. It all starts when Duke is called upon to clean up some carpetbaggers led by Cy Kendall. Bob Burns starts shooting due to Jim Toney's Union hat and him and Duke are off to the races. Great to see Fred 'Snowflake' Toones with over 200 films and the most "colorful" face for Republic. Bob Kortman played a powerful role as the General's henchman and Dennis Moore is very convincing as the man on the run from the General and even his old friend Captain Ashley. "The Lonely Trail" has some wonderful moments and a must see for John Wayne fans.
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Enjoyable post Civil War drama about the power of intolerance.
mark.waltz9 May 2014
Warning: Spoilers
It seems that after the Civil War ended, some resentful Yankees took on the land of Dixie with a vengeance, sending in "Carpetbaggers" to try and teach the people of the south a lesson for having separated from the union. In doing so, these people are breaking the law themselves, stealing their land, increasing taxes to unspeakable amounts, and shooting rumored enemies on sight for no reason other than just trying to fight for their rights. John Wayne plays a Northern soldier who tries to expose the injustice, and takes up with an old childhood pal (Ann Rutherford) who at first doesn't think he's on their side. It's ironic to see Rutherford here, as just two years later, she would be the much younger Andy Hardy's girlfriend in a series of MGM comedies where she appeared to be younger than she was rather than someone who could be the same age as John Wayne. This mixes both comedy and drama with political intrigue, and ranks as one of John Wayne's best Republic films before he went on to superstardom with "Stagecoach". The print released through Olive Films is much better than some of the same films which he did at the same time that fell into the public domain, so that makes this one a lot more watchable, even though many of those films are entertaining in their own right.
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Going Against Your Neighbors
bkoganbing27 January 2007
John Wayne is indeed traveling The Lonely Trail in this film. He's a Texan who enlisted with the Yankee army and has now returned home after the war to the scorn of his neighbors. They've been given less reason than ever to like the color blue. Reconstruction has come to Texas in the position of profiteering carpetbagger Cy Kendall who had a specialty in roles showing corpulent corruption.

The more Wayne sees, the more he doesn't like, the trick now is to convince his neighbors he's really on their side.

Sad, but this is one of John Wayne's worst films. It abounds in racial stereotyping. East Texas back in the day was not too different from the culture of the Deep South, it had its share of cotton plantations and slaves. Looking at the blacks in this film you would think those Yankees were their enemies as well. Seeing Etta McDaniel and Fred Toone and the other plantation hands singing because of the 'death' of the young master Dennis Moore is one of the worst examples of racism I've ever seen in any film.

Only the most devoted fans of the Duke will find anything good in this film.
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A rather standard B cowboy picture
MartinHafer21 November 2007
Early in his career, John Wayne was a very, very busy man--working in a long string of B-Westerns throughout the 1930s. While all of them are reasonably good, they are so short and so similar that I just can't bring myself to watch them all (and there were MANY). They're not bad, mind you, but they also aren't all that memorable. It seems that when this Wayne film came on TCM I wasn't very busy so I decided to watch--and this is exactly what this film is--a decent time-passer.

As the film begins, you can see that this film is influenced by the BIRTH OF A NATION myth concerning the Reconstruction period. According to this myth, the good Souterners were taken advantage of by evil Northern opportunists bent on robbing the Southerners blind and taking away all their freedom. While it is true that there was, for a while, martial law in the Southern states following the Civil War, the truth is that Reconstruction didn't go far enough--soon allowing the old Southern power structure to return and forcing the Blacks back into subservience.

While this film is not so offensive and over the top as BIRTH OF A NATION (where all the Blacks were raping idiots), in this film they are portrayed as happy with the status quo and liked their old slave owners. This "happy ex-slave" portrayal is rather insulting and I'm sure it will raise a few eyebrows in many viewers! Fortunately, 21 years had passed since BIRTH OF A NATION and so in addition to showing Black Americans a little more sympathetically, they also ultimately revealed that not ALL the Northerners were evil Carpetbaggers! If you are looking for an accurate history lesson, this is certainly not the film to see! Now as for the rest of the film, Wayne is in excellent form--showing some improvement in his acting skills since earlier films (which were VERY rough). He still wasn't exactly the John Wayne of the 40s and 50s in style, but he was getting close. The plot is also pretty exciting and very watchable--much like a Gene Autry film (but without the cars and phones you might see in an Autry film).

Overall, this is very much a 1930s kids' film that is modest in its pretenses but still entertaining and watchable. For die-hard fans of the Duke, it's probably a must-see. For others, it's just a run of the mill 30s Western.
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The Enjoyable "Lonely Trail" is Populated by a Big Cast
glennstenb26 December 2019
The title of the film "The Lonely Trail" is vaguely fitting, for it really seems that this "junior epic" deserved a more memorable or apt title to really get the thing going at full tilt. It is easy to see that with a little more intrigue, a little more romance, and a little more star-power this production could have been expanded into a much bigger deal in the late 1930s. But as it is, the film is on fairly solid footing, from being under the direction of the experienced western director Joseph Kane all the way down to the most minor of bit parts being held by competent players, including uncredited appearances by the prolific Lafe McKee and the famous supporting player Charles King. There are several components in this film that required more than merely standard attention, including musical notifications being passed through the night by some of the characters and an array of period costuming considerations. A-list actress Ann Rutherford and her eyes added some high-end legitimacy to the movie, and the very ample cast of supporting players is a "who's who" of B-westerns. For sure, John Wayne has a nice, stalwart presence here, but his normal magnetism really isn't on display, nor is it needed... the picture is just too grand in scope for the short running time it has to permit Wayne to be set apart; but Wayne's white horse is a beauty. Cy Kendall, as the General, is the presence that keeps the film's energy going in a strong, power-wielding role that he handles very nicely and convincingly... Kendall occasionally had some memorable roles in his career and this one is a good one. This picture even has some punctuating musical score offerings at just the right times. Drama is the deal here, comedy relief nearly non-existent, and action pops up only when needed... it isn't manufactured. The indoor sets are varied, while the outdoor sets are visually quite interesting, with jagged mountains and expansive valleys in evidence on the macro, and oaks, chaparral, and even eucalyptus trees abounding in the micro. It is interesting, too, to note that viewing the film in 2019 is more distant from when the picture was made in 1936 (83 years) than the picture being made was from the era that it depicts in 1865-66 (70 years). So in summary, for this viewer, this is a B-western that thought at one time about being a fairly grand film, but which decided to adhere to the 60-minute B-western standard and therefore never quite found its way to becoming really special. But it's still a pretty good film.
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Painful to watch
Single-Black-Male26 October 2004
Although I am a John Wayne fan, this film was painful to watch. Which begs the question, did John Ford bring something to John Wayne's career that he didn't possess before they worked together? I would say that they both needed each other. The John Ford films without John Wayne weren't that good, and the westerns that John Wayne appeared in like this one (which were not directed by John Ford) were just as bad. So what exactly did John Wayne lack in this film? I think the non-John Ford directed John Wayne westerns lacked a story, emotional depth, colour, scenery and a bit of spectacle. Before the John Ford/Wayne collaboration, westerns were just some B picture, but what John Ford did was to give it spectacle like the Cecil B. DeMille films.
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Before Margaret Mitchell began pounding out . . .
oscaralbert11 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
. . . that Racist Revisionist Endless Melodramatic Exercise in Hate Speech known as GONE WITH THE WIND (on the shelves of most every American Urban High School Library, while THE Great American Novel--THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN--is Universally banned by the self-proclaimed Know-Nothings!), she was "inspired" (more accurately, Dispired) by this John Wayne flick, THE LONELY TRAIL. Wayne plays "John Ashley," to whom Ms. Mitchell pays homage with her similarly mealy-mouthed "Ashley Wilkes" character. TRAIL covers the entire War to Defeat Lazy Southerners' Racist Evil in about 12 seconds (beating GWTW by roughly an hour and a half--which most viewers will find to be a definite improvement!). Ann Rutherford plays the model for Ms. Mitchell's "Scarlett O'Hara," called "Virginia" here. To pad out GWTW into an Umpteen-hour soap opera, Mr. Mitchell splits Ashley and Virginia into a couple characters each. Otherwise, most of the familiar GWTW scenes are here, such as when Clark Gable convinces the Union Commander that Ashley is NOT the Grand Wizard of the KKK. By cutting out most of Ms. Mitchell's unseemly histrionics and cursing, TRAIL clocks in at a shade under 56 minutes, which is more than enough of a not-so-good thing.
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Somewhat disappointing!
JohnHowardReid12 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Much of interest in this western including a night-time climax with our heroes fighting the villains in silhouette and insurgents carrying torches dynamiting the gates of the fort. Wayne and his sidekick Toney (called "Tony" in the credits, but then Etta McDaniel is given an "s" in her surname so the official spelling is none too reliable) make a late entrance, after a montage of spectacular Civil War stock footage and a lot of material in which the heavies led by Cy Kendall (love his broad-brimmed hats) establish their oppression.

The bad guys as usual have it all over the goodies in charisma. Wayne is pleasant enough, but squawky-voiced Rutherford is a pain and Mr Meadows/Moore is bland to the point of somnambulism. As for Mr Toones, we will pass over his stereotype in silence. Yes, give us dyed-in-brutality Bob Kortman and his naive but willing henchman Yakima Canutt any day.

The one thing the nice folks have going for them is an ingenious series of musical look-outs, featuring Stephen Foster's "Camptown Races". Another pleasant musical device has a fine choir singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" as the faithful retainers stage a mock funeral.

A rather extensive support cast list has been provided for this one by Republic's publicity boys, but why no credit for Charles King as the sentry? And isn't that Lafe McKee in a cameo part as the father prisoner?

For all the threats and on-camera opportunism, there is not a great deal of gutsy action in this one. Even the climax is resolved with disappointing rapidity. The presence of Yakima Canutt in the cast often guarantees thrilling stuntwork, but even that is limited to a couple of falls and a good leap from horseback on to a fleeing buckboard.

Joseph Kane has directed this chase with some welcome running inserts, and has generally handled the film competently, making fair use of his Lone Pine locations. (That is Mount Whitney you can see in a couple of backgrounds, even though this is supposed to be set in Texas).

Incidentally, former stuntman turned producer Paul Malvern was a crack shot. He and Wayne insisted on actually shooting the dipper out of Duke's hand. Kane refused to direct such an "idiotic" stunt, so Malvern himself took over for this one shot. (Actually it required two. The first shot hit the dipper all right, but failed to knock it out of Wayne's hand).
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