The Painted Desert (1931)
Release Date: March 7, 1931
Directed by: Howard Higgin
J. Farrell MacDonald
This film is in the public domain. Watch it for free here.
Western pardners Jeff (MacDonald) and Cash (Farnum) find a baby boy in an otherwise deserted emigrants camp, and clash over which is to be “father”. They are still bitterly feuding years later when they own adjacent ranches. Bill, the foundling whom Cash has raised to young manhood, wants to end the feud and extends an olive branch toward Jeff, who now has a lovely daughter. But during a mining venture, the bitterness escalates.
Picture Play magazine, June 1931
Perhaps, if you see this, you will tell me what it’s all about or go further and explain the reason of its being. For a duller and more pointless picture I’ve never seen. Yet William Boyd is interesting and so is Helen Twelvetrees. So, too, is the Western scenery. But neither one nor the other can make a picture unaided by a story, or at least some general conception of what is in mind. Mr. Boyd, Miss Twelvetrees, and Clark Gable act their respective roles with more distinction than is usually found in a Western, but there is no denying their wasted efforts. So, too, are the activities of stampeding cattle who might just as well have been allowed to graze in peace, and dynamiting cliffs seem wasteful until the thought comes that perhaps the picture was written around the destruction for commerical purposes. It begins when two old-times find a deserted baby and quarrel over it. Years bring their estrangement with the ex-baby, now grown to man’s estate in the person of Mr. Boyd, falling in love with the daughter of his foster father’s enemy. It really doesn’t matter except for the scenery.
Photoplay magazine, March 1932
You’ll like this Western, which makes no pretenses other than entertainment. It’s far above the average, with Bill Boyd (uh-huh, the actor) as just the sort of virile guy he does best, and J. Farrell McDonald and William Farnum, swell as the two old Westerners but almost kiss and certainly make up. Helen Twelvetrees is the girl. You’ll find it a nice show.
“I did everything–wagon, mine and all. And I’d do it again. If you or any other man come between me and what I want!”
Behind the Scenes:
Gable’s first speaking role.
Gable earned $750 a week for the role, with an option on a contract.
It is often stated that Gable learned to ride a horse for the role, but that is not true. Gable learned to ride many years before, on his grandparents’ farm. His agent did hire him an instructor to perfect his riding style.