Cast & Crew
Edward Van Sloan
Timothy "Pop" Owens, the mayor of Owensville and co-owner of the local bank, is continually frustrated in his attempts to discipline his wayward son Tom. Tom currently owes two thousand dollars to gambler and gunman Sam Skelly, who orders him to pay his debt or else. Desperate, Tom takes the money from the bank's vault but is interrupted by Skelly's henchman Berger, who, along with his cohorts cleans out the vault. When Tom protests, they shoot and wound him, and after he goes home, Pop realizes that his son is involved when he learns from the sheriff that blood was found at the scene of the crime. Knowing that he can replace the money only by using a trust fund he has established for Tom and his daughter Janet, Pop makes the bank the beneficiary and then goes to Skelly with an unusual proposition. Pop asks Skelly to hire someone to kill him so that the bank will collect the trust fund and thereby avoid scandal and disaster when the bank examiners arrive in two days. Pleased with a chance to get rid of Pop, Skelly agrees to send the notorious Cherokee boys to kill him. Soon after, as Sarsaparilla, Thumber and Butch Cherokee have a drink in the Owensville bar, they provoke a fight with wandering cowboys "Tucson" Smith, "Stony" Brooke and "Lullaby" Joslin, who are known as The Three Mesquiteers. The Mesquiteers easily best the Cherokees and take possession of their unique guns, which cause the sheriff and townspeople to mistake the Mesquiteers for the outlaws. Taking them to the bank, Pop gives the Mesquiteers orders to kill him, and they decide to perpetuate the charade to protect Pop from the real Cherokee boys. Later that afternoon, the Mesquiteers learn of the connection between the Cherokees and Skelly and go to Skelly's saloon, where they see Tom enter Skelly's office. They overhear as Tom accuses Skelly of sending the Cherokees after Pop, then orders him to return the bank's money or else he will go to the sheriff with the whole story, even though he will be implicating himself. Skelly tells Tom that he will return the money but instead arranges for the Cherokees to kill him as he travels back to Owensville. The Mesquiteers save Tom from his pursuers, but are once again mistaken for the outlaws and arrested. Further complications result in Pop telling Tom that he has hired the Cherokees to kill him, and father and son are reconciled when Tom confesses his part in the bank robbery. As they are about to leave home to find the sheriff, Skelly and his men arrive and kidnap them. The Mesquiteers escape from jail after hearing Janet notify the sheriff of the latest events, and find Skelly and his men holding the Owens men captive. After a shootout in the hills, the Mesquiteers are able to capture the bandits and prove their real identities to the sheriff. Pop thanks them for reuniting his family, and the Mesquiteers ride off to join a rodeo.
Edward Van Sloan
The opening title card to the film reads "Republic Pictures presents The Three Mesquiteers in Riders of the Rio Grande," followed by pictures of Bob Steele, Tom Tyler and Jimmie Dodd with their names and character names superimposed. Modern sources include John James, Henry Hall and Yakima Canutt in the cast. This was the last entry in The Three Mesquiteers series, which began in 1936. For more information on the series, consult the Series Index and the entry for The Three Mesquiteers (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.4617).