In a frontier town, two ranching families are at war. The Turners claim that the Waltons have been stealing and reselling their cattle. Even an attempt to hold a peace meeting at the local church just leads to more fighting. Complicating things is that young Clint Turner (John Wayne) is in love with Judy Walton (Susan Fleming). When someone shoots John Walton (Edward LeSaint) through the window of his office, Clint is the number one suspect. Not helping is that Clint had an empty round in his gun. Clint says that he fired at a coyote but he missed. Everyone else in town says that its time to hang Clint without a trial.
Only Sheriff Buck Gordon (Buck Jones) stands between the mob and Clint. Buck was raised by the Turner family and considers Clint to be his brother. However, Buck still knows that Clint might be guilty but there’s no way that Buck is going to allow mob justice to rule his town!
The Range Feud was one of the many B-programmers that were released in the 30s. Running less than 60 minutes, it is a briskly paced western that features a theme that was present in many westerns, the battle between mob justice and the law. The townspeople who are eager to hang Clint without a trial represent the old ways of doing things while Buck represents the new way, in which everyone is innocent until proven guilty and entitled to a fair trial.
Buck Jones was one of the best of the early western heroes. He played tough-but-fair men who could definitely handle themselves in a fight but who preferred to try to reason their way out of conflict. Buck Jones served in a Calvary unit, worked as a cowboy, and started in the film business as a stunt man. He had an authenticity that set him apart from others who merely pretended to be cowboys. That authenticity serves him well in The Range Feud. He may feel bad about having to arrest his stepbrother but any character played by Buck Jones can be guaranteed to follow the law. In real life, Buck Jones died a hero. In 1942, Buck Jones was at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston when a fire broke out. Though Jones initially was able to get out of the nightclub, he subsequently reentered to help other people get out. Severely burned, he died of his injuries two days later.
Of course, the main reason that people will track down this film is for a chance to see the young John Wayne playing a key supporting role as Clint Turner. It’s always a little bit strange to see Wayne playing a young man. He’s one of those actors who you always assume was always in his 40s. Wayne is likable as the free-spirited Clint, though it is again strange to see Wayne playing someone other than an authority figure. For once, it’s Wayne who ends up in jail and who is dependent on someone else to save him.
The Range Feud is an entertaining and fast-moving western. Fans of the genre and of Buck Jones and John Wayne will appreciate it.