Cast & Crew
In 1875, Chino Bull, a former marshal renonwed for his speed with a gun, tires of bloodshed and moves to the untamed Powder River country to mine gold with his longtime pal, Johnny Slater. One day, outlaws Loney Logan and Will Horn attempt to force Chino to trade his fresh horses for their exhausted ones, but Johnny gets the drop on them and orders them to move on. Johnny bemoans Chino's refusal to carry a gun, but Chino insists that he has left killing behind and goes into town to pick up supplies. In Powder River, Chino meets Loney's slick brother Harvey, who is a dealer at the Bella Union Station saloon, which is owned by the curvaceous Frenchie Dumont. Harvey's taunting of Chino is interrupted when drunken townsman Sam Harris shoots up the saloon, killing the town marshal in the process. Mayor Lowery asks the bystanders for help, and without using a gun, Chino sneaks into the saloon and knocks Sam unconscious. Lowery offers Chino the job of marshal, but Chino refuses and returns to his camp. There, he finds that Johnny has been shot to death and their cache of gold stolen. Believing that Loney is responsible, Chino returns to town and accepts the marshal job, and later, his suspicions that Loney is the culprit are heightened when Harvey suddenly has enough money to open his own saloon. Chino introduces himself to Frenchie and warns her that he will not tolerate any crooked gambling, and she subtly threatens him by telling him that her boyfriend, gunslinger Mitch Hardin, watches over her operation. One night, Chino observes Frenchie using loaded dice and arrests her, although she is able to alert Mitch to the situation by yelling at him through a window. Mitch then storms into Harvey's saloon to confront Chino and is angered to see that Chino is not wearing guns. Harvey offers to arm the marshal, but before the combatants can draw, Mitch is overcome by a headache. The gambler cheated by Frenchie attempts to shoot Mitch, but Chino disarms him. Grateful to Chino for saving his life, Mitch forgets his grudge against him, and as the two men converse, they become friends. Chino releases Frenchie, and later, greets the stagecoach as a pretty Easterner named Debbie Allen disembarks. Chino is immediately drawn to Debbie, who asks him for the whereabouts of Dr. Mitch Hardin. Chino escorts her to Mitch's hotel, where she is surprised by Mitch's cool reception. Debbie, who was once Mitch's fiancée, has come to take him back to Connecticut, but he refuses to go and states that he gave up practicing medicine after the tumor in his brain caused him to black out during an operation. Although Debbie is taken aback by Mitch's rudeness, she presses him to return with her until suddenly Frenchie enters Mitch's room and Debbie deduces their relationship. Debbie books a ticket on the next morning's stagecoach, then goes for a ride in the countryside with the infatuated Chino. When he returns to town, Chino is consulted by mine owner Purdy and the mayor, who wants to ship $300,000 in gold. Hoping both to trap Loney and prevent Debbie from leaving, Chino arranges for a fake shipment to be followed by the real shipment on the stagecoach, which will therefore not be able to carry passengers. Knowing that Harvey will pass the information onto Loney, Chino makes sure that he hears about the gold shipment, while Frenchie, jealous of Debbie, taunts Mitch about Chino's interest in her. Infuriated, Mitch gets drunk and refuses to listen to Chino's insistence that his life is worth saving. The next morning, Mitch, enraged that Chino has arranged for Debbie to stay in town, joins him on the stage carrying the gold in order to kill him. Chino understands that what Mitch actually wants is to be shot himself, and proves to the gunslinger that he cannot shoot Chino. Soon after, while the stage is on a ferry crossing the river, Loney's men attack, although through their combined efforts, Chino and Mitch are able to save the gold. When they return to town, however, the citizens are outraged that popular Pike Kendrick, one of the coach's guards, was killed by the outlaws. Mitch, suffering from a headache, goes to his room, where Debbie pleads with him to have faith in himself. Debbie praises Chino's friendship, but when Mitch shows her the gold he stole from Chino's camp after killing Johnny, who drew on him first, Debbie agrees that he should leave town. Meanwhile, Chino, knowing that Harvey's men will summon Loney, arrests Harvey, despite his protests that he cannot be jailed for something his brother did. Chino then meets Debbie, who informs him that both she and Mitch will be leaving town, albeit separately. While they are talking, two of Loney's men, attempting to kill Chino, shoot and seriously wound Debbie. Chino sends for Mitch, who examines Debbie and states that the bullet is only an inch from her heart. Although he protests that he is unfit, Mitch operates on Debbie and is amazed that he is able to save her. The next day, as Debbie convalesces, an upbeat Mitch states that he wants to return home with her and find a doctor who can treat his brain tumor. Debbie gently tells him that with his restored self-confidence, he no longer needs her, and he realizes that she is in love with Chino. As Mitch then readies his horse to leave, Loney and his men arrive, and Mitch joins Chino in a gun battle with the gang. Chino and Mitch triumph, and after Chino tosses his marshal's badge on Loney's body, he helps Mitch carry his saddlebags, which had been shot up during the fight. When Chino sees gold dust spill from the saddlebags, he opens them and recognizes his gold. Begging Chino to listen, Mitch explains that he did not intend to kill Johnny, but Chino insists on a gunfight. Mitch outdraws Chino and shoots his gun out of his hand, but then collapses from a headache and dies in Chino's arms. Later, Debbie and Chino bid Frenchie farewell as she boards a departing stagecoach and promise to put flowers on Mitch's grave for her.
Paul E. Burns
Guy Ed Hearn
Samuel A. Landy
Harry M. Leonard
William B. Murphy
Fred J. Rode
Stuart N. Lake's book consists of four articles that were originally published in The Saturday Evening Post: "Buffalo Hunter" (25 October 1930); "Guns and Gunfighters" (1 November 1930); "Tales of the Kansas Cow Towns" (8 November 1930); and "The Frontier Marshal" (15 November 1930). Although Lake's book is about Wyatt Earp and his contemporaries, the characters were changed for Powder River, and only certain incidents from the original were used.
The picture opens with voice-over narration by Rory Calhoun, as his character "Chino Bull," describing how he left his job as a marshal and went west to mine gold. According to studio publicity, Doodles Weaver had a featured role in the film, but he does not appear in the released picture. Hollywood Reporter news items include the following actors in the cast, although their appearance in the finished film has not been confirmed: Stanley Blystone, Robert Stephenson, Max Wagner, David Shutta, Jeffrey Sayre, Paul Palmer and Paul Kruger. Hollywood Reporter news items and studio publicity note that the picture was partially shot on location at Glacier National Park, MT. Although the onscreen credits list two songs, "Just Let Me Love You" and "Love Me, Love Me, Love Me," they were not heard in the viewed print, nor were they included in the film's dialogue cutting continuity, deposited in the copyright records.
Lake's book was used as the basis for three earlier films: Fox Films' 1934 production Frontier Marshal, directed by Lew Seiler and starring George O'Brien, Irene Bentley and Alan Edwards; the 1938 Twentieth Century-Fox picture Frontier Marshal, directed by Allan Dwan and starring Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly and Cesar Romero (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); and the 1946 Twentieth Century-Fox film My Darling Clementine, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell and Victor Mature (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).