Western Wednesdays: Idaho Kid (1936)

The Idaho Kid [Rex Bell] befriends an amateur holdup artist [David Sharpe], along the way they meet slovenly and dirty-faced Slagel [Charles King] who proposes the two men work the Hollister [Earl Dwire] range. It is soon revealed that Idaho is none other than Hollister’s own son. As it turns out, Idaho was raised by a rival clan called the Endicotts because his father disowned him. However, Idaho left the range at 10 years old, due to a feud between the Endicotts and the Hollisters.

Upon entering the Hollister range, one of Hollister’s men shoots Endicott’s ranch hand Jess Peters [Lane Chandler], Idaho attempts to explain to Hollister and is immediately let go.
Upon returning the unconscious Peters to the Endicott range, John Endicott [Lafe McKee] hires Idaho and the kid to work his spread.

After Hollister’s men attempt to blow up access to a nearby spring, Idaho and the kid get the drop on them and proceeds to use the dynamite to ensure the Endicotts obtain the proper amount of water needed to nourish the cattle. Slagel conspires to end Idaho for all time, however Idaho finishes him off first. Hollister threatens war on Idaho if he doesn’t leave town, which Idaho obliges to.

Unbeknownst to Idaho, Endicott has also waged war on Hollister. Upon learning this, Idaho heads to town and takes a bullet from Hollister for his trouble. The kid informs Hollister that he just shot his own son!

“Idaho Kid” is a tightly plotted, if meandering western. There is quite a lot that happens and the film is heavy with exposition, however the film is quite plodding in places. Actors recite lines to one another and oftentimes five to ten seconds go by before the next line is delivered. The direction by Robert F. Hill, who directed under numerous aliases and was one of poverty row producer Sam Katzman’s right hand, is pedestrian and the film is just routine.

Rex Bell, born George Beldam, is a dashing, handsome lead and displays a decent charisma but is not among the most memorable performers that slipped on a 10-gallon hat. I will admit that Bell does look masterful on horseback and handles action scenes, how relatively few there are in “Idaho Kid,” with flair. It should be noted that Bell was married to one-time “It” girl, Clara Bow, an actress whom dominated the silent screen, starring in the 1927 silent masterpiece “Wings,” which was the recipient of the first ever Academy Award for Best Picture. Idaho Kid was one of Bell’s final films as a western leading man, he later became involved in politics and served as the twenty-first lieutenant governor of Nevada from 1955 until his death in 1962. Bell was honored in Las Vegas with the christening of the Rex Bell Elementary School.

In my previous paragraph, I mentioned how little action there is in this film and I am not exaggerating. There is a brief, two seconds worth, saloon shootout and some scant brawls here and there but all told, “Idaho Kid” is more reliant on story than action, which is detrimental to the level of western we are dealing with. This isn’t “The Searchers” or “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” this is a Saturday matinee adventure that should be light on story and heavy on action. This makes Idaho Kid a tedious watch, especially for those unfamiliar with the territory.

This is all the more a shame when you consider the cast of characters you have in this film. Marion Shilling, Lane Chandler, Lafe McKee and especially Charles King make for an all-star cast of “B” western heavy hitters. Indeed, you will hear more about them as I continue to review for Cinema Crazed. Charles King is given little to do and is usually deliciously evil and downright disgusting in these films as the heavy but you only get brief glimpses of this in “Idaho Kid.”

Idaho Kid was produced by brothers Max and Arthur Alexander’s Colony Pictures, whom also produced some of Ken Maynard’s final westerns as a solo performer. The Alexanders also produced westerns starring Guinn “Big Boy” Williams under the Beacon Pictures banner and later made some of the Texas Rangers films for PRC that starred Tex Ritter, Dave O’ Brien and James Newill.

“Idaho Kid” is recommended only to those whom are enthusiasts of the “B” western genre.