Winds of the Wasteland (1936, directed by Mack V. Wright)

When the invention of the telegraph puts the Pony Express out of business, two veteran riders — John Blair (John Wayne) and Larry Adams (Lane Chandler) — decide to start their own stagecoach line.  The richest man in Buchanan City, “Honest” Cal Drake (Douglas Cosgrove), sells them the line to nearby Crescent City.  Though initially grateful, Blair and Larry soon discover that Crescent City is now a ghost town that serves as home to exactly two inhabitants.  Rather than give up, Blair and Larry set up their stagecoach and they suddenly get lucky as settlers start to find themselves in Crescent City.  Blair is even able to convince the local telegraph company to run the wire though Crescent City, which leads to an influx of even more people.  Now, Blair just needs to land the contract delivering mail for the area.  To do that, he’ll have to win a stagecoach race against Drake, who turns out to not be very honest at all.

Winds of the Wastelands is one of John Wayne’s better pre-Stagecoach programmers.  While it has the western action that most people would expect from a B-western, it also has a lot more comedy than some of Wayne’s other poverty row productions.  For instance, a skunk tries to turn the stagecoach into his home and, of course, shows up at a key moment during the big race.  When one of bad guys tries to convince Blair to take his donkey to Crescent City in the stagecoach, Blair asks if there are any other “jackasses” who want a ride while casting a look at Drake’s men.  The movie takes a more serious turn when Drake goes to extreme methods to try to stop Blair and, as a result, Larry is wounded in a gunfight.  Doc Forsythe (Sam Flint), the founder of Crescent City, has to rediscover his confidence to perform the operation that can save Larry’s life.  Fortunately, the doctor’s daughter (Phyllis Fraser) is there to both help him out and to fall in love with John Blair.

This 55-minute programmer featured John Wayne playing the type of character for which he best known, the level-headed westerner who wasn’t going to let anyone push him around but who still fought fair.  Watching this movie, it’s easy to see why, just three years later, John Ford used him in Stagecoach.

One response to “Winds of the Wasteland (1936, directed by Mack V. Wright)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 3/13/23 — 3/19/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

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