King of the Texas Rangers1941
King of the Texas Rangers (1941) is a Republic film serial. Set in the years prior to America entering World War II, the plot is slightly anachronistic in that the serial features a mix of period western and modern elements, which was not unknown in the B-Western films also produced by Republic. Although the serial's plot involves cowboys battling Axis agents in Texas. Nazis are never named as such but it is strongly implied within the serial.[N 1]
When Captain King of the Texas Rangers is murdered by saboteurs, his son, Tom ("Slingin' Sammy Baugh"), a famous football star, leaves college and joins the Texas Rangers himself. Shortly after, Tom is given the mission of avenging his father's death and defeating the foreign agents.
John Barton (Neil Hamilton), supposedly a respectable citizen, works with "His Excellency" (Rudolph Anders), a mysterious leader of a gang of saboteurs, intent on destroying the Dobe Hills Oil Company oil fields in Texas. Tom teams up with Sally Crane (Pauline Moore), a reporter who witnessed his father's murder, and Mexican officer Lt. Pedro Garcia (Duncan Renaldo). The agents are working across the border in both countries with destroying the saboteurs' hideouts being their goal.
One of the targets of the gang of saboteurs is an invention by Professor Nelson (Joseph Forte) who has developed a new type of aviation fuel. Tom protects the professor, riding aboard a train as his bodyguard. foiling the plot to kidnap the inventor. When rumours spread that the new aviation fuel is dangerous, Tom and Sally set out in an aircraft to prove the fuel is safe. When Pedro learns that Tom's aircraft is rigged with a time bomb, he warns him in time for Sally and Tom to parachute to safety.
The saboteurs plan to destroy the Whitney Dam would flood the oil fields in Texas, and when Sally finds one of their hideouts, Tom has to rescue her. Barton and his gang finally get their hands on the formula for the special aviation fuel and set out in a dirigible flown by "His Excellency". Their attack on the oil fields is thwarted when Tom and Pedro crash their aircraft into the dirigible, killing the gang. The two lawmen parachute to safety and are later honoured by the Texas Rangers for their bravery.
King of the Texas Rangers (production number 996) was budgeted at $138,536 although the final negative cost was $139,701 (a $1,165, or 0.8%, overspend). The serial was the cheapest Republic serial of 1941. King of the Texas Rangers was filmed in the Big Bear Valley, San Bernardino National Forest, California between June 17 and July 18, 1941.
Other actors were curious and sceptical about footballer Sammy Baugh as the lead in a sort of western. However, according to co-star Kenne Duncan, Baugh turned out to be a good horseman (he was raised on a ranch in Texas), took direction well and learned about acting quickly.
In the opinions of researchers Jim Harmon and Donald F. Glut, King of the Texas Rangers contains "one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time." King (Baugh) jumps onto a speeding train and gets into the engine cab just as the train enters a tunnel in a mountain. The villains detonate explosives causing a landslide at the other end of the tunnel. In the resolution, Baugh yells "Open that throttle!" and the train shoots out of the tunnel to safety.
The official release date of King of the Texas Rangers is October 4, 1941, although this is actually the date the sixth chapter was made available to film exchanges. In the early 1950s, King of the Texas Rangers was one of 14 Republic serials edited into a television series broadcast in six, 26½-minute episodes.
King of the Texas Rangers was reviewed by Jesse Sublett in his retrospective analysis of the myth of the Texas Rangers, "Lone On The Range: Texas Lawmen: A history of the Texas Rangers." Sublett, said, "A search of movie databases can quickly overwhelm the researcher with Ranger movies ..." King of the Texas Rangers is identified as the most important film on the mythology of the Rangers from the period 1926–1948.
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