Western Wednesdays: Galloping Dynamite (1937)

Bob Dillon [David Sharpe] discovers gold on his boss, Mr. Foster’s range. He enthusiastically goes to tell Foster the good news only to be shot in the back by Reed [John Merton]. As it turns out, Bob’s brother is Texas ranger Jim Dillon [Kermit Maynard] who comes out to investigate.

He arrives at the Foster ranch and meets pretty Jane Foster [Ariane Allen]. She tells Dillon that after his brother was murdered, Reed and his men bought their ranch to mine gold from it. Jim approaches Reed and his cohorts and Reed offers to cut him in on the four-way gold deal that originally included Bob. Som time later, Jim returns to the ranch and meets up with nervous Sam Jenkins [John Ward], the two fight it out until Jenkins escapes on Dillon’s horse Rocky. Reed and his gang see Rocky galloping down the pass, and they shoot the rider. Unbeknownst to them, they just shot their partner. Reed then heads to see the Sheriff [Bob Burns] and pins the murder on Dillon.

Reed, his gang and the sheriff catch up with Dillon at Foster’s ranch where he is promptly arrested. Dillon’s friend Pop [Earl Dwire] helps Dillon escape. He gives Dillon his guitar to play, which Pop attaches to some string, he coerces the jailer to participate in a singalong and while he’s doing that, Pop takes the string and slides the key down to Dillon. Dillon escapes just as the sheriff enters and Pop incapacitates both jailer and sheriff. The following night, Dillon gets the drop on a retiring Wilkes [Stanley Blystone] and attempts to turn him against Reed. Wilkes goes to the mining office to have it out with Reed, but is promptly shot and Reed takes off.

The next day, Reed, the sheriff and their posse head off in search of Dillon. Reed splits off and heads back to the ranch. Dillon catches up with Reed and forces him to write out a confession at gunpoint. Reed’s henchman sneaks up on Dillon and Dillon quickly slugs him for his trouble. Dillon and Reed get into a scuffle and Reed surrenders. Dillon pushes Reed over to the table and forces him to write out the confession. Satisfied with what was written, Dillon packs away the document in his breast pocket only to have Reed’s henchman turn the tables on him. Reed escapes with Dillon in hot pursuit. Reed and Dillon engage in another brawl atop a cliff and Reed’s henchman fires at Dillon but ultimately shoots Reed instead who plummets off the cliff.

For a film with a title as arousing as “Galloping Dynamite,” it was decidedly average, not exceptionally good nor abhorrently bad. The same can also be said for the films lead, Kermit Maynard who lacks the same surefire charisma that his brother Ken had. However, in the defense of Kermit, he does look dashing on horseback and is reasonably adept at handling fighting scenes. The film, based on James Oliver Curwood’s short story “Mystery of Dead Man’s Isle,” previously filmed in 1915 by the Selig Polyscope company, lacks punch and John Merton’s Reed isn’t a strong enough villain to carry the piece. The only endearing aspect of the film was Earl Dwire’s Pop, a lovable old codger who serves as comic center and had me chuckling a few times. The prison escape was nice bit of business, executed quite well. I chuckled as well when Kermit began strumming the guitar, feeling as if he were trying to emulate his older brother, whom was arguably Hollywood’s first singing cowboy. Interestingly, a love story between Kermit and Ariane Allen is curbed, which is a refreshing change of pace from the usual trappings of these pictures.

Kermit Maynard was born on September 20, 1897, in Vevay, Indiana. As stated, Kermit was the younger brother of cowboy star Ken Maynard and he often doubled for his famous brother in the movies. Kermit also starred in a series of silent westerns, billed as “Tex Maynard,” for W. Ray Johnston and the Rayart Film Company.

In 1934, producer Maurice Conn launched his Ambassador Pictures company and hired Kermit to a series of eighteen lower-budgeted oaters. In most of these films, Kermit portrayed a member of the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, however he also produced traditional westerns for Conn, of which “Galloping Dynamite” is one of them. In one of the films Kermit made for Ambassador, he was paired opposite future Hollywood leading lady Ann Sheridan, whom was just starting out in pictures. Sadly, Conn couldn’t sustain Ambassador Pictures and ceased operations in 1937. Conn later produced at Monogram Pictures for Jack Randall and Tim McCoy. However, Kermit Maynard’s days in the spotlight were over.

After his run at Ambassador was over, Kermit quickly sank in to supporting roles, often playing henchmen and other no-good characters in PRC westerns. All told, Kermit Maynard appeared in over 300 sound films over the course of his career. Kermit later became a representative for the Screen Extras Guild, which later merged with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and held that position until 1969. Kermit Maynard died of a heart attack on January 16, 1971 at the age of 73.