Early John Wayne Film: The Man from Utah

Watching the John Wayne film The Man from Utah with my grandparents was an interesting experience, in that it made me quite aware of the change in attitudes from their generation to mine. When they watched The Man from Utah, they were watching for recognizable landmarks, and managed to place the setting as Lone Pine California, where apparently a lot of westerns were filmed. Myself on the other hand, I could hardly contain myself from snickering under my breath.

Don’t get me wrong: I love old films. If you look at the movie reviews on this site, you’ll see I’ve reviewed quite a few old movies, and most of them favorably. I probably watch 3 old movies for every new one I see. The Man from Utah is among the goofiest b-movies I’ve watched.

A lot of people don’t know this, but when John Wayne made his big breakthrough with the classic John Ford western Stagecoach, that was actually the actor’s 50th film. Prior to that, he’d starred in or played bit parts in tons of quickly filmed low-budget westerns with the Lone Star production company. I’ve watched another John Wayne film from this early period that I rather enjoyed called Paradise Canyon. If you’re curious about John Wayne pre-Stage Coach, watch Paradise Canyon. Don’t go out of your way for The Man from Utah.

Anyways, what makes The Man from Utah so ridiculous is that much of the movie revolves around a rodeo that Wayne’s character is competing in. The entire movie is about an hour long, and the rodeo takes up a large portion of the runtime. The rodeo though is composed almost entirely of stock footage from other rodeos.

When piecing together the stock or archival footage, they didn’t pay much attention to inconsistencies. The funny part is, whenever someone ropes a calf or rides a bull, it cuts to a huge, boisterous crowd cheering, but in other scenes, the crowd in the stands seems tiny in comparison. Look at the screenshots below.

look how huge the crowd is here.

Now look how much smaller the crowd is here.

See the difference? This is the sort of incongruity you’ll find in Ed Wood films.

For the record, The Man from Utah wasn’t horrible. I was entertained, and as I said before, my grandparents really enjoyed it. People interested in the history of film might find some aspects of this intriguing, and fans of snarky humor can laugh at how obvious some of the “special” effects are, like how it will show an out of focus cowboy chasing and roping a calf, only to cut to a close up showing that cowboy was John Wayne, with the calf now perfectly tied up. Also, you know how most actors use a stunt double to take a fall or a punch for them? I think John Wayne had a run double–that is, whenever he’s shown running, his face is out of focus, leading me to think he had someone else run for him.

Oh well. John Wayne is John Wayne. I disagree with his politics, find his views on Native Americans atrocious, and yet I’ll watch just about anything he stars in.

The Man from Utah comes packaged with another 30s b-movie starring John Wayne titled “Randy Rides Alone.” If you’re already snickering at the title, you might find some amusement in the movie itself. Again, Paradise Canyon is a better film, but Randy Rides Alone has a pretty funny ending.

—-I have a new book out titled A Rapturous Occasion. It’s a comedy of errors set around the end of the world. It’s available right now on Amazon in paperback and as an ebook (the ebook is priced at $0.99!).

click on the image to see my book on Amazon

Did I mention The Man from Utah begins with John Wayne riding a horse into town while singing? Of course, it’s someone else’s voice.

If you’ve seen The Man from Utah with John Wayne, what was your opinion of it?


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