Chris Morrell (John Wayne) is an honest cowboy who keeps an eye on Nina (Shirley Jean Rickert), a little girl whose Indian mother died when Nina was just a baby. When oil is discovered on land that belonged to Nina’s mother, Nina is offered $50,000 for the land. Because Nina is only eight years old, her legal guardian will be responsible for taking care of the money. Chris and Nina set out to find Nina’s father so that he can sign the guardianship papers and make Chris into Nina’s legal guardian.
When outlaw Sam Black (Yakima Canutt) decides that he would rather be Nina’s legal guardian, Chris sends Nina to a ranch owned by his old friend, Bud Moore, while he defeats Sam and his men. At the ranch, it turns out that Bud Moore has died and the new ranch owner is another outlaw named Vic (Jack Rockwell) and Vic wants Nina’s oil claim for himself. What Vic doesn’t know is that Nina’s father is one of his ranch hands.
For a 52 minute programmer, there’s a lot going on in ‘Neath The Arizona Skies. There’s actually too much going on and, with that short of a run time, it feels as if more than a few important plot points were glossed over, like how Chris came to look after Nina in the first place. John Wayne is stiff but likable as Chris while Yakima Canutt does his usual double duty as both an outlaw and a stuntman. There are a few good action scenes, especially when Chris runs off Sam’s gang for the first time. Sheila Terry plays Wayne’s love interest, who has to be first convinced that Chris isn’t actually an outlaw. As Nina, Shirley Jean Rickert is energetic but you’ll quickly get tired of her yelling, “Daddy Chris!” whenever anything happens. This isn’t one of the best of the 50 poverty row films that Wayne appeared in before Stagecoach made him a star but, even in this film, there are still hints of the screen presence that would later become Wayne’s trademark.
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