Cast & Crew
When "English Nightingale" Kitty Rivers tries to leave Silver City, Arizona to escape the amorous attention of corrupt and cruel Sheriff Jake Mannen, her stagecoach is held up by Mannen cohorts Frank McCloskey and Shot-gun Keeler and their gang. Before McCloskey can take her back to Silver City, however, a stranger rides up and forces the outlaws to give up their guns. Impressed by her rescuer, Kitty voluntarily returns to Silver City, where he is headed, only to discover that he is Clay Tallant, her fiancé Orin's brother. After McCloskey, who has been accused of robbing the stagecoach, coldbloodedly shoots and kills the town marshal and then escapes, Mayor Ed Comstock asks Clay to take over the job and arrest Keeler and the other outlaws. Although Clay successfully stares down and arrests Keeler, Mannen's crooked judge soon frees them. Disgusted by this political "reality," Clay refuses Comstock's offer until he hears that Mannen threatened Orin because of Kitty. Clay's first deed as marshal is to write an ordinance forbidding the carrying of guns in town. To counter the new law, Mannen hires gunfighter Tex Randolph to "take care" of Clay, but once Tex meets his brave and upfront opponent, he declines to kill him and later becomes his deputy. After several failed attempts on Clay's life, which include an ambush in which Orin kills McCloskey, Mannen traps Clay, Tex and Orin in a burning jail and then murders their servant Pompey when he tries to run for help. Saved by the townspeople, Tex, Orin and Clay, who has given up Kitty for his brother's sake, challenge their foes in the rising smoke. Mannen takes aim at Clay from above, but a mysterious black woman shoots Mannen with a rifle. After the battle, the black woman mourns at the gravesites, then follows behind as Clay leaves the reformed Silver City with Kitty at his side.
J. Farrell Macdonald
Richard Dix was an actor known for his rugged portrayals of action adventure heroes. He had been around since the silents, rising to big stardom as a leading man in talkies for RKO during the 1920s and 30s. At the time of The Arizonian, however, his star was slipping. The movie's success brought a much needed boost to Dix's career and to RKO. In addition, Louis Calhern is appropriately slimy as the crooked Sheriff Mannen, and the beautiful Margot Grahame is spunky as Dix's love interest.
The script by the distinguished and prolific Dudley Nichols (who was also a longtime collaborator with John Ford) makes The Arizonian distinctive from the typical genre programmer. In an unusual twist, the film focuses not on cowboys and Indians, but rather on the shady dealings of internal politics and the difficult problems of trying to oust someone in power. The story was so compelling that RKO remade it again just four years later as a vehicle for George O'Brien called The Marshal of Mesa City (1939).
Producer: Cliff Reid
Director: Charles Vidor
Screenplay: Dudley Nichols
Cinematography: Harold Wenstrom
Film Editing: Jack Hively
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Richard Dix (Clay Tallant), Margot Grahame (Kitty Rivers), Preston Foster (Tex Randolph), Louis Calhern (Sheriff Jake Mannen), James Bush (Orin Tallant), J. Farrell MacDonald (Marshal Andy Jordan).
by Andrea Passafiume
The working titles of this film were The Peacemaker and Boom Days. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Edward Van Sloan and D'Arcy Corrigan to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Parts of the picture were filmed at the RKO ranch. Modern sources add Bob Kortman to the cast. RKO remade this film in 1939 under the title The Marshal of Mesa City .