Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mixed Up: "The Heart of Texas Ryan" (1917)

Legendary cowboy star Tom Mix stars in this poorly done silent western. If you think it plays like two films, you would be right.

Mix plays "Single-Shot" Parker, a lovable ranch hand on Colonel Ryan's (George Fawcett) cattle ranch. Ryan eagerly awaits the return of his daughter, Texas (Bessie Eyton), who has been away at college. Of course, there's trouble a-brewin' in the small southwest Texas town of Cactus Gulch!

The local marshal, "Dice" McAllister (Frank Campeau) is in cahoots with local cattle rustler Jose Mandero. Parker and McAllister get into a fight, but that doesn't stop our hero from driving the town nuts with a drunken Fourth of July celebration. Parker has fallen in love with Texas through her portrait, and follows her advice when she states that more can be done with words than a gun. This advice comes in handy when Mandero and his men kidnap Texas, who is later released by a Mandero lieutenant who owes Parker his life. Mandero continues to rustle, and Parker rides after him for the final showdown.

According to the DVD, "The Heart of Texas Ryan" started life as a film based on a Zane Grey story, done before rights could be hammered out. Some of the scenes from the first film are cut in with new footage, and it does not work. The first film had more comic elements, so out of nowhere we get a fight with the marshal and a fourth of July celebration, all of which add nothing to the main plot.

The film makers then make the mistake of telling an audience something that has happened with a title card instead of showing it, a huge misfortune in a silent film. At one point, Mandero escapes, and we are told. The finale is supposed to be a breath taking climax as one major character rides to the rescue of another before an execution takes place, and it is told to us instead of being shown. This is silent film! Without sound, dialogue and title cards were kept to a minimum! Instead, the director and writers take the easy way out, using strategies that many in today's more advanced world use! What a disappointment.

"The Heart of Texas Ryan" is of little interest as cinematic history. Western buffs might want to see it to complete their area of interest, and it was fun to see icon Tom Mix, but otherwise the film is a letdown. (* *) out of five stars.