20 Mule Team


1h 23m 1940
20 Mule Team

Brief Synopsis

A miner fights his way across Death Valley to beat out the competition.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Adventure
Western
Release Date
May 3, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

In turn-of-the-century Death Valley, twenty mule teams hauled borax across the inferno of the desert floor. As the borax deposits dwindle, the Desert Borax Company faces bankruptcy and is unable to pay Skinner Bill Bragg and the other drivers their wages. Unable to pay his rent, Bill is locked out of his room at the Furnace Flat saloon by the proprietor, Josie Johnson. Josie's pretty young daughter Jean feels stifled by life in Furnace Flat, and although she is courted by Mitch, a clerk at the borax company, she longs for the romance of the city. Josie's prayers are answered with the arrival of Stag Roper, a slick city dude who persuades the bank president to extend the borax company's note in hopes of discovering a mother load of the mineral. When Stag discovers that Bill has found a bag full of borax crystals on the dehydrated body of Chuckwalla, a prospector who perished in the desert, he blackmails Bill, who is wanted for murder under the name of Ambrose Murphy. Fearful that Stag will expose him, Bill agrees to search for Chuckwalla's claim. The next day, Bill and his swamper, Piute Pete, follow Chuckwalla's trail to the claim and are met by gunfire from Mitch, the prospector's partner. After wounding Mitch, Bill returns to town and tells Stag of Mitch's resistance. Meanwhile, Josie discovers that Jean is planning to elope with Stag, and after locking her daughter in her room, Josie orders Stag at gunpoint to get out of town. In response, Stag shoots Josie and rides off with his partner, Salters, to steal Mitch's claim. Blaming himself for Josie's shooting, Bill recruits Pete and pursues Stag into the desert, where he finds Mitch unconscious, left to die by Stag. After a shootout in which the horses and Pete are killed, Bill exacts his revenge on Stag and then sends Mitch back to town on his mule, Buttercup, risking his own life by remaining behind on the fiery desert floor. Sometime later, Mitch is appointed vice president of the borax company and leaves for Los Angeles with his bride Josie, while Bill, now recovered, learns that he has been granted amnesty.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Adventure
Western
Release Date
May 3, 1940
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

20 Mule Team


1940 was the year Marjorie Rambeau tried unsuccessfully to step into Marie Dressler's shoes. Not only did she take on Dressler's title role in the sequel Tugboat Annie Sails Again (1940), co-starring Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan, but she stepped in to partner Dressler's most popular co-star Wallace Beery in this comic Western. Beery stars as a prospector who, with sidekick Leo Carillo, stumbles on a dying miner with information about an invaluable Borax mine. Douglas Fowley steps in to help him and court Rambeau's daughter (Anne Baxter, in her film debut at the tender age of 17), but he really means to relieve Beery of any claim his newfound bounty. The film was created to exploit Beery's popularity as a big-hearted child man, but the attempt to build a new screen team didn't work out, despite Rambeau's considerable talents at both comedy and drama (she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for The Primrose Path the same year). In his next film, Beery would find his second great screen partner when Marjorie Main stole another comic Western, Wyoming, right out from under his bulbous nose.

By Frank Miller
20 Mule Team

20 Mule Team

1940 was the year Marjorie Rambeau tried unsuccessfully to step into Marie Dressler's shoes. Not only did she take on Dressler's title role in the sequel Tugboat Annie Sails Again (1940), co-starring Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan, but she stepped in to partner Dressler's most popular co-star Wallace Beery in this comic Western. Beery stars as a prospector who, with sidekick Leo Carillo, stumbles on a dying miner with information about an invaluable Borax mine. Douglas Fowley steps in to help him and court Rambeau's daughter (Anne Baxter, in her film debut at the tender age of 17), but he really means to relieve Beery of any claim his newfound bounty. The film was created to exploit Beery's popularity as a big-hearted child man, but the attempt to build a new screen team didn't work out, despite Rambeau's considerable talents at both comedy and drama (she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for The Primrose Path the same year). In his next film, Beery would find his second great screen partner when Marjorie Main stole another comic Western, Wyoming, right out from under his bulbous nose. By Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

According to news items in Hollywood Reporter, Bruce Cabot was originally slated for the role of "Stag Roper." Hollywood Reporter news items also note that this picture was shot on location in Death Valley, CA and Las Vegas, NV. The film marked Anne Baxter's film debut. Reviews note that the preview prints of the picture were processed in sepia.