Cast & Crew
After brothers Tom and Jeff Cloud find the corpse of their foreman Juan Amordor hidden under a bush on their Texas ranch, they ride into town to report the murder to Sheriff Elmer Gaul. Later, they learn from neighbor Kathleen Boyce, with whom Tom is having an affair, that her husband Earl witnessed the murder and now fears for his life. When a stranger rides onto their land, Tom says he recognizes the man as Kid Wichita, who is actually the Clouds' outlaw brother James. Wichita then offers to help them find Juan's killer, in exchange for food and shelter, and Tom agrees. Later, Tom, Jeff and Wichita visit Earl, who steadfastly refuses to say who killed Juan. That evening, Wichita meets up with his henchman Turkey and the rest of his gang, and together they catch a rival gang, made up of of neighboring ranchers, in the act of rustling Tom's cattle. Wichita steals their saddles, takes them back to the ranch and reports the attempted rustling to Tom. When Tom offers to pay Wichita for his help, he asks instead for half ownership of the ranch. Shortly after Tom returns the saddles to the rustlers, neighbor Sam Beard arrives to warn him that they now plan to kill him. Later, Wichita and his men go to Earl's home and threaten him with harm unless he continues to keep quiet. After they leave, Tom arrives, and Kathleen tells him that Wichita's gang has also been rustling cattle. When Tom notices that a few head of his cattle are missing, Wichita pays him $300 as compensation. As Wichita is leaving to meet his gang, Jeff asks to come along, but Tom forbids his younger brother from leaving. Wichita and his gang then ride into town, shoot Elmer and go to the Boyce ranch. There, Wichita helps himself to a drink, while Earl eyes the rifle that Tom leant them for protection. Meanwhile, Tom's neighbor, John Gaul, visits his son Elmer at his office, finds his corpse on the floor and takes up his sheriff's badge. Later, Kathleen informs Tom that Earl has threatened to kill Wichita. That evening, Wichita and his gang return to the Boyce home, and when Earl reaches for Tom's rifle, Wichita grabs it and kills him. As soon as Wichita leaves, Kathleen rushes to tell Tom about the killing, saying that she will report it in the morning. Afraid that suspicion will fall on Tom for Wichita's act, Sam begs him to leave immediately. Soon Turkey arrives to say that while out riding, they were attacked by the rival gang, who kidnapped Jeff. Tom, Sam and Wichita go to the gang's hideout to rescue Jeff, and after they succeed, Wichita rides away, while Tom threatens to come after him. Later, when Wichita returns to the Cloud ranch, Tom says he will turn him over to Gaul for Earl's murder. Wichita then draws his gun, but before he can shoot, Sam grabs his and kills him.
John Barrymore Jr.
Winton C. Hoch
The working title of this film was Thunder in the Dust. Alan LeMay's novel was serialized in Collier's (2 December 1933-10 February 1934). The onscreen credits read: "Written and produced by Alan LeMay." The opening credits also include the following written prologue: "All of this picture was made near Amarillo and Canyon, Texas, on the ranches of these cattlemen: Newton Harrell, John Currie, Hugh Currie, Frank Miller; and in the Palo Duro Canyon with the help of more Texas people than can be named on this screen." A reproduction of each rancher's cattle brand appears under his name. According to an August 18, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was financed by N. Peter Rathvon's Motion Picture Capital Corp. A June 30, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that no studio interiors were to be used in the shooting of the picture. The Sundowners marked the directorial debut of George Templeton and the acting debut of John Barrymore, Jr. (1932-2004), the son of actors John Barrymore and Dolores Costello. Barrymore, Jr., who later performed under the name John Drew Barrymore, was the father of actress Drew Barrymore.