Cast & Crew
Don "red" Barry
During the Civil War, Cavalry lieutenant Joe Weldon is summoned to Washington, D.C., where he is told about a secretive group of Southern vigilantes known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, which is trying to persuade California to secede from the Union. The group, led by former California governor Glynn, has been using the telegraph to send false messages to Union and cavalry troops. Joe is ordered to investigate their operation, which has created much mayhem, and alert the Western cavalry units when he has uncovered the ringlearders. As Joe and his fellow soldiers, Tumbleweed Smith and "Melbourne" Tommy Atkinson, travel West, Confederate Secret Service agent Delancey Cartaret also travels to Hermosa, CA with his sister Judith. Cartaret meets Glynn and Breckenridge Colton, Glynn's Texan henchman, to discuss their strategy. Unknown to Judith, who is a loyal if naïve supporter of the South, her brother, Glynn and Colton intend for California to become a separate nation rather than join the Confederacy. Glynn has already contacted Napoleon III of France, who has assured him that he will support Glynn's Empire of the Pacific. While Glynn, Cartaret and Colton begin planning to take complete control of the telegraph system within two weeks, Joe and his friends settle in near Hermosa in a mine they are pretending to work. Using the name "California Joe," Joe makes the acquaintance of Ned Potter, who is the local telegraph operator, and his young daughter Twinkle. Soon after, Cartaret and his cohorts, along with their henchmen Ashley and Harper, murder Potter, who is not sympathetic to their cause. Cartaret wants to kill Twinkle as well, but Colton persuades him to let Judith take care of her. Believing that she is to live with Judith while her father works in Chicago, Twinkle happily settles in with her new foster mother, and goes to the mine to visit Joe, Tumbleweed and Tommy. She hears their hidden telegraph set-up, via which they are intercepting Cartaret's false messages, and tells Judith about it. Meanwhile, Cartaret and his men have sent a phony order to the cavalry to let a gold shipment pass through without an escort, and they attempt to steal it. Their robbery attempt is foiled by Joe and his pals, who then escort the shipment to the cavalry post. Afterward, at the telegraph relay station, they find Potter's body, as well as a code book that Harper is trying to hide. Harper confesses that Cartaret killed Potter, then attempts to shoot Joe, but Joe outdraws him. With the aid of the code book, Joe deduces that Glynn and the others are double-crossing Southern interests by starting their own empire. He returns to the mine, where he finds Judith searching for the telegraph equipment. Joe tells her about Potter and the code book, and the disillusioned Judith realizes that her brother has been deceiving her. When they ride to town, Joe and his men discover that Glynn has ordered his cohorts to kill them for stopping the robbery. Joe shoots Colton and arrests Glynn as he is attempting to escape. Glynn admits to Joe that Cartaret is about to leave town with a large shipment of stolen gold, the reward for which could help Judith start a new life. Joe then goes after Cartaret, whom he is forced to shoot when Cartaret shoots at him. Later, Joe returns to Washington, where he is promoted to captain. Glynn is convicted of treason, but government officials agree to release Judith into Joe's custody. Joe and Judith then plan on returning West with Twinkle.
Don "red" Barry
Actress Helen Talbot was borrowed from Samuel Goldwyn for this production. A July 15, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Twinkle Watts, a "seven-year-old girl skater and bowling expert," was to be featured in a "skating episode" written especially for the film; however, this sequence was not filmed. The Variety review commented, "the appearance of Twinkle Watts, child iceskating star, on a pony instead of gliders seems somewhat incongruous and a waste of talent." A Hollywood Reporter production chart includes Hal Taliaferro in the cast, but his appearance in the finished picture has not been confirmed. The production chart also lists John English as Spencer Bennet's co-director, and "Smith and Keller" as the film editors. The extent of English's contribution to the completed film, if any, has not been determined, nor has the identity of editor "Smith" been established. Modern sources include the following actors in the cast: Jack O'Shea, Robert Wilke, Foxy O'Callahan, Bob Burns, Lee Morgan and Jack Kirk.