Honor of the Range (1934, directed by Alan James)

In an old west town, Sheriff Ken Bellamy (Ken Maynard) is an honest and upright lawman who thinks that he is trusted and respected by all.  His brother, Clem (also played by Ken Maynard), is a storeowner who is less respected and very jealous of his brother.  When Ken is asked to store some money in a safe, Clem decides to help the local outlaw, Rawhide (Fred Kohler), steal the money.  Clem gives Rawhide the combination but Rawhide then betrays Clem and takes him hostage.  Meanwhile, the townspeople think that Ken must has stolen the money so they toss him in jail and appoint a man named Boots (Frank Hageny) as the new sheriff.  Now, Ken has to not only figure out how to escape from jail and the townspeople but also how to defeat Rawhide’s gang.

Ken Maynard and his white horse Tarzan were two of the biggest western stars of the pre-code era.  Most of them were routine programmers but Honor of the Range stands out because it allows Maynard to step out of his usual heroic role by having him also play Clem.  Maynard could be a stiff actor when he was playing a traditional hero but here he seems to be enjoying playing the untrustworthy Clem.  Maynard actually produced Honor of the Range himself and it’s much more serious than the typical Ken Maynard western.  The town’s betrayal of the sheriff is played straight, as is Clem’s resentment of his brother.  With higher production values than usual and Maynard looking credible whenever he was holding a gun or riding his horse, Honor of the Range is one of the better westerns to be distributed by Universal during the pre-code era.

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