splash  In Overland Stage Raiders, the “Three Mesquiteers” fight bad guys in the modern-day west. The “stages” being raided are buses bearing gold shipments to the east. Airborne hijackers steal the gold, but the Mesquiteers defeat the crooks and then parachute to safety. The film stars John Wayne, on the brink of stardom. Louise Brooks plays his love interest.

For Brooks, Overland Stage Raiders was little more than a $300.00 paycheck. For columnists and critics, Brooks’ supporting role in this lowly B-western was yet another attempt at a comeback for a once famous star. Louella Parsons wrote “Louise Brooks, who used to get glamour girl publicity about her famous legs, is starting all over again as a leading lady in a Western with John Wayne.”

In the Fox West Coast Bulletin, the East Coast Preview Committee noted “The production is well acted and directed and presents several novel touches, as well as excellent photography.” Film Daily thought the “Fast-moving cowboy and bandit story will entertain the western fans. . . . George Sherman directed the picture, and gets a maximum of action and speed from the story.”

Variety went further, “This series improves with each new adventure. Starting out as typical cow country stories, Republic has seemingly upped the budget as successive chapters caught on. Raiders is as modern as today, yet contains plenty of cross-country hoss chases and six-shooter activity. . . . Louise Brooks is the femme appeal with nothing much to do except look glamorous in a shoulder-length straight-banged coiffure. . . . Should please juveniles and elders alike.”

Despite Brooks’ new hairstyle, and despite her appearance in this lesser film, there is little to redeem it. Brooks adored Wayne, but could not stand the humiliation of this sort of film. Overland Stage Raiders would be Louise Brooks’ last movie. She soon left Hollywood, and slid into decades-long obscurity.

As the years passed, John Wayne became of superstar, and in the 1950s his early films were re-released both in the United States and in Europe. And once gain, Overland Stage Raiders was shown in movie theaters, and even in the 1960s and 1970s, on television. The posters and lobby cards for the reissue emphasized Wayne’s name, while Brooks’ was deleted.

RELATED MATERIAL:

  • Promotional Materials
  • Posters & Lobby Cards
  • Scene & Publicity Stills

RELATED LINKS:

PREVIOUS Louise Brooks Film

STORY SYNOPSIS:
“Because the Oro Grande Mining Company, which ships gold on buses, is being crippled by robberies, Stony Brooke parachutes from a small plane onto the bus route and saves it from being robbed, aided by his fellow Mesquiteers, Tucson Smith and Lullaby Joslin. After the Mesquiteers get a badly needed $1,000 reward for their work, Stony convinces mining company president Frank Harmon to hire pilot Ned Hoyt to transport his gold, and puts up the reward for half-interest in the venture. Stony suggests to Ned that he buy a bigger plane to ship passengers as well as cargo, but Ned is reluctant as he once lost his pilot’s license for a year and changed his name to keep his identity a secret. Stony then suggests to the townspeople, who are “cattle poor,” that they buy into the new airline, using their cattle as collateral. Soon they hire a second pilot, Bob Whitney, who knows that Ned and his sister Beth’s real family name is Vincent, but keeps their secret out of friendship. Radio operator Joe Waddell, a former flyer who lost his nerve six years previously, wants to co-pilot with Ned, and is jealous when Ned instead chooses Bob. Mullins, who heads the bus company, then approaches Joe with an idea, and shortly thereafter a cattle train is held-up. One of the cattlemen, though wounded, rides to the airfield and tells the Mesquiteers, who ride to the train in time to save the cattle. Soon the “air express” opens to great success. One day, on the bus, Mullins overhears two men talking about Ned after seeing his name in the paper. A short time later, the same two men hold up the passengers on the plane and kill Bob. Though Joe receives the distress message, he does nothing, but when Stony and Beth see parachutes mysteriously floating in the sky, they rush to the airport. Because Ned has emptied the fuel tank, the two killers need him to land, but the plane does not come back to the airport and soon everyone in the territory knows that a $100,000 gold shipment is missing. When word breaks that Ned had once been in prison, he becomes the prime suspect in the robbery. After the two killers secretly radio Joe, Joe informs Mullins, but Mullins refuses to let Joe go to them. Meanwhile, Stony, who thinks that the robbery is an inside job, questions the passengers, who were forced to parachute from the plane, and learns that just after the robbery, Ned had called Joe on the radio. The Mesquiteers then tie Joe up and trick the killers when Lullaby disguises his voice like Joe’s on the radio and asks their location. Then, while the Mesquiteers ride to the plane, Beth finds Joe, who tells her he has been robbed. While she tries to call the sheriff, Joe cuts the telephone lines, then goes to warn Mullins. At the plane site, the Mesquiteers overpower the killers and attempt to leave, but are soon met by Mullins and his gang. Stony makes a break for their horses, and the Mesquiteers take the gold, but Ned is wounded. Soon, with the aid of smoke bombs, the Mesquiteers defeat Mullins and his gang just as the sheriff, who found Beth at the airport, comes to arrest them. Finally, with the mystery of the robberies solved, a recovered Ned flies off to merge with another airline.”

PRODUCTION HISTORY:
Production of the film took in Southern California beginning August 4, 1938 with location shooting done at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, California.

CAST:

John Wayne
Stony Brooke
Ray Corrigan
Tucson Smith
Max Terhune
Lullaby Joslin
Louise Brooks
Beth Hoyt
Anthony Marsh
Ned Hoyt
John Archer
Bob Whitney (as Ralph Bowman)
Gordon Hart
W. T.Mullins
Roy James
Dave Harmon
Olin Francis
Henchman Jake
Fern Emmett
Ma Hawkins
Henry Otho
Sheriff Mason
George Sherwood
Henchman Clanton
Arch Hall Sr.
Joe Waddell (as Archie Hall)
Frank LaRue
Hank Milton (as Frank La Rue)
Chuck Baldra
Henchman (uncredited)
John Beach
Henchman Dutch (uncredited)
Fred Burns
Rancher (uncredited)
Yakima Canutt
Bus Driver (uncredited)
Burr Caruth
Evans (uncredited)
Tommy Coats
Henchman (uncredited)
Curley Dresden
Rancher (uncredited)
Edwin Gaffney
Henchman Gat (uncredited)
Milton Kibbee
Airline Passenger (uncredited)
Jack Kirk
Henchman (uncredited)
Bud McClure
Rancher (uncredited)
George Morrell
Rancher (uncredited)
Bud Osborne
Rancher (uncredited)
George Plues
Henchman (uncredited)
Dirk Thane
Henchman (uncredited)
Slim Whitaker
Pete Hawkins (uncredited)
Bill Wolfe
Rancher (uncredited)

CREDITS:

Studio:
Republic Pictures
Associate Producer:
William Berke
Director:
George Sherman
Assistant Director:
Harry Knight (uncredited)
Production manager:
Al Wilson
Unit manager:
Arthur Siteman
Writing Credits:
Bernard McConville and Edmond Kelso (story), based on characters created by William Colt McDonald, Luci Ward (screenplay)
Cinematography:
William Nobles
Film Editor:
Tony Martinelli
Format:
Sound – black & white
Running Time:
6 reels (4,941 feet), 55 minutes
Copyright:
September 20, 1938 by Republic Pictures Corp. (LP8299)
National Board of Review:
Passed
Release Date:
September 28, 1938 (elsewhere reported as September 20, 1938)
Premiere:

Country of Origin:
United States

ALTERNATE TITLES:
Under its American title, Overland Stage Raiders, documented screenings of the film took place the late 1930s in Canada, England, Isle of Man, Netherlands Antilles, and Sweden; contemporary showings of the film, either in theaters or on television, have also taken place in Australia, England, Ireland, and The Netherlands. On a few occasions, the film was promoted in the United States under the title The Three Mesquiteers. Elsewhere, this motion picture was known to have been shown under other-language titles including Pozemní stádioví lupici (Czechoslovakia); Storbyens sjakaler (Denmark); Gold in den Wolken (Germany); Cavalca e spara (Italy); Ringo cavalca e spara (Italy – later retitle); Gold in den Wolken (Poland); Грабители дилижансов (U.S.S.R.); Cavalca e spara (Vatican City); Ringo cavalca e spara (Vatican City – later retitle);and Cabalga y dispara (Venezuela).

STATUS:
The film is extant. In the past, the film has circulated on VHS and DVD. In 2012, Olive Films released it on DVD and Blu-ray. (Of note: the UCLA Film and Television Archive holds two 6 reel (ca. 6000 ft.) 35 mm. nitrate negatives.)

RELATED ARTICLES & REVIEWS:
— “Plane and Simple”  by Jeffrey M. Anderson (Combustible Celluloid, 2012)

TRIVIA: about the film

— There were three movies based on William Colt MacDonald’s Three Mesquiteers books, all made before Republic took their turn with the series. Hoot Gibson played Stony Brooke in RKO’s Powdersmoke Range (1935), with Harry Carey as Tucson Smith and Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams as Lullaby Joslin. The movie was billed as ‘The Barnum and Bailey of Westerns!’ — its cast of cowboy stars, included Bob Steele and Tom Tyler (both would later become Mesquiteers in the series), along with William Farnum, William Desmond, Buzz Barton, Wally Wales, Art Mix, Buffalo Bill Jr., Buddy Roosevelt, and Franklyn Farnum.

— In the course of the 51 Republic movies, there were twelve actors who played the Mesquiteers in nine different teams. Robert Livingston was the first to play the part of Stoney Brooke in the Republic series. Wayne played the lead in eight of the 51 films in the Three Mesquiteers series released between 1936 and 1943.

Overland Stage Raiders was one of only two Westerns John Wayne filmed at Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, California — a well known location for genre films. The other, made a few months after Overland Stage Raiders, was John Ford’s legendary Stagecoach (1939).

— On August 3, 1938 Joseph I. Breen, who was a film censor with the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, wrote to  M. J. Siegel of the Republic Pictures Corporation recommending that the number of killings in the film be reduced and pointing out actions cut by censor boards, such as firing into the camera.

— Lullaby Joslin’s dummy was named Elmer.

— Yakima Canutt and Tommy Coats performed stunts in Overland Stage Raiders.