The Light of Western Stars (1940, directed by Lesley Selander)

In the dead of night, a train stops in an isolated western town.  Only one passenger disembarks.  Majesty Hammond (Jo Ann Sayers) is a wealthy Bostonian, who has traveled all the way to the town to try to prevent her bother from marrying a local woman.  Majesty takes a seat in the station and waits for someone to come get her.

After a few minutes, a drunken ranch foreman named Gene Stewart (Victor Jory) enters the station.  He has made a bet with the local sheriff (Tom Tyler) that he can convince the first new woman to arrive in town to marry him.  Stewart’s friends find a priest but before Gene can force the priest to marry them, a local girl named Bonita (Esther Estrella) rides up and tells Gene that one of the ranch hands, Danny (Alan Ladd, the future Shane in one of his earliest roles), has been forced to flee town after getting into a fight with the sheriff.

As if that’s not bad enough, Gene then discovers that Majesty’s brother is going to marry Flo Kingsley (Ruth Rogers), who happens to be Gene’s employer!  Ashamed of his behavior, Gene leads Majesty to Flo’s ranch.

After some initial weariness, Majesty is convinced that Flo and her brother really are in love.  Flo explains to Majesty how life works out in the frontier and Majesty is even able to forgive Gene for his drunken antics.  Majesty decides to buy a ranch in town but what she doesn’t know is that corrupt businessman Hayworth (Morris Ankrum) is using the ranch to smuggle weapons to the Mexican army and that he’s working with the sheriff!  Majesty is going to need Gene’s help to run the ranch but, after getting into another fighting with the sheriff, Gene goes into hiding.  Can Majesty find Gene and convince him to return to town?

Based on a novel by Western specialist Zane Grey, The Light of Western Stars is only 65 minutes long but it packs a lot of plot and a lot of action into those sixty minutes.  Of course, the plot is pretty standard stuff but, for B-movie fans, it’s a chance to see Victor Jory in a rare leading role and also a chance to see what Alan Ladd was doing before he became a noir mainstay.  Hard-drinking and occasionally irresponsible, Gene is an interesting hero and Jory does a good job playing him.  Alan Ladd doesn’t make a huge impression as Danny but he looks convincing fleeing town on horseback and that’s all the role really requires.

For many viewers, though, the main appeal of Light of Western Stars will be the beautiful Jo Ann Sayers as Majesty.  Primarily a stage actress, Sayers only appeared in 16 films before she got married and semi-retired but she made an impression in every one of them.  That’s certainly the case here, where her beauty makes it very plausible that even a wanted man would return to town just to be with her.

One response to “The Light of Western Stars (1940, directed by Lesley Selander)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 1/3/22 — 1/9/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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