(Average=4.00 out of 5; Total Number=3)
An Early B-Western With John Wayne Trying Out The Rodeo (rating=4)
In several of the B westerns that John Wayne made for Lone Star/Monogram between 1933-35 he played an undercover agent. That is again the situation in "The Man from Utah," a 1934 effort that was Wayne's sixth film for the poverty row studio. But this time around there is a rather interesting twist when Marshall George Higgins (George "Gabby" Hayes) sends John Weston (Wayne) undercover to a rodeo to investigate who has been murdering the riders. The thought of the Duke at the rodeo is certainly enough to catch your interest, even if he is going to be doubled by the legendary stuntman, Yakima Canutt, who also plays Cheyenne Kent. However, do not be startled with Wayne first appears, strumming a guitar and trying to lip-synch singing a song, because that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie and just a unpleasant reminder that in the first of these films Wayne played a singing cowboy named Singin' Sandy Sanderson.
The romance side of this Western is a bit more than usual, with Wayne being interested in good girl Marjorie Carter (Polly Ann Young, sister of Loretta and Sally Blane) and bad girl Dolores (Anita Campillo). Most of the rodeo scenes are stock footage taken at some real rodeo, and the inserts are rather blatant, but what else did you expect from a poverty row studio. The story by Lindsley Parsons, who did several of Wayne's Lone Star Westerns, was apparently popular enough that Monogram used it again in 1937's "Trouble in Texas" with Tex Ritter, in 1944's "The Utah Kid" with Bob Steele and Hoot Gibson, and in 1952's "Lawless Cowboys" with Whip Wilson. The director was Robert B. Bradbury, who did most of these early films with Wayne. "The Man From Utah" is at least different from these Wayne's other Lone Star films that it is at least an average example of what he was doing at that time.
An Unusual But Enjoyable Early John Wayne Western (rating=4)
I quite enjoyed The Man From Utah (1934), but it is a rather peculiar old western. John Wayne plays John Weston, a stranger who rides into town, saves the local marshal's life in the aftermath of a bank robbery, and soon finds himself entering a rodeo as an undercover detective of sorts. It seems that the rodeo organizer's boys keep winning all the prize money at each event, while outsider entrants who have a chance to win keep getting "snakebit," literally. It's up to The Duke to infiltrate the gang, figure out how they operate, and save the day. There is a good bit of rodeo action, but a significant portion of it comes from stock footage used in a good number of other early films; this is clearly a mark against The Man From Utah, but it is an understandable way to make a cheap movie back in depression-marked 1934. If you haven't seen the footage elsewhere, it won't matter at all to you. What really distinguishes this film is the music. The movie opens with John Wayne riding into town strumming a guitar and singing; I believe this is stock footage of someone other than The Duke, though. What really got me, though, was the insertion at times, usually during a chase scene, of unusually prominent music consisting mainly of organs and horns (at least, that's what it sounded like to me). I suppose this was done to add tension or excitement to important parts of the film, but the sound of quasi-classical music coming from out of nowhere during an old western really struck me as quite odd. The Man From Utah does have its problems, but it still features John Wayne playing the hero as only he can; this and the presence of the always entertaining Gabby Hayes make this an entertaining old western that all fans of The Duke should enjoy.
Quite The Hero (rating=4)
John Wayne is quite the hero in this short, old western. An enjoyable video showing him in his beginning years of acting. He even sings in this one.