On the New Mexico frontier, war is breaking out behind rancher Sam Chew (Noah Beery) and rustler Sonora Joe (Luis Alberni). Both want to control the land and the cattle that graze upon it and innocent settlers are getting trapped in the middle! The governor decides to send a young sheriff named John Steele to maintain order. No sooner has Steele arrived then he meets a young woman (Mae Madison) and her father, who have both been attacked by and had their cattle stolen by Sam Chew. After Sonora Joe and his gang save his life from Sam’s men, Steele realizes that Sam is more malicious and dangerous than Sonora Joe so he decides that the best way to handle the situation is to deputize Joe and team up with him to stop Sam and his men. It’s a tall order but John Steele is just the man to handle it because John Steele is John Wayne!
This was one of the many B-westerns that the former Marion Morrison made in the decade before John Ford made him a star by casting him in Stagecoach. Wayne was always a good hero, even in a 54-minute programmer like this one. Though there is, as the title promises, an impressive stampede, Wayne is the main attraction here, with Noah Beery serving as a good heavy as always. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this movie, if you’re a western or a John Wayne fan, is that Wayne’s horse is named Duke. This was one of six films that Wayne made with Duke. Back in the 30s, the horses were often as a big a star as the men who rode them and, from the posters I’ve seen, it does appear that The Big Stampede was advertised as starring, “John Wayne and DUKE!” At least Wayne was still able to get top billing.
The Big Stampede had previously been made as a silent film and the remake reuses a lot of old footage from the original. John Wayne, needless to say, did not star in the original film, though he did wear the same costume that Ken Maynard wore in an attempt to keep people from noticing that the footage didn’t always match. It’s not a totally successful ploy, though undemanding audiences in 1932 probably accepted it. The Big Stampede would be remade one more time, in 1936, with Dick Foran taking the starring role.
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