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The Renegade Ranger

A Columbia Picture (1938)

Producer: Bert Gilroy
Director: David Howard

Screenplay by Oliver Drake,
from story by Bennett Cohen

Featuring:
George O'Brien as Jack Steele
Rita Hayworth as Judith Alvarez
Tim Holt as Larry
Ray Whitley as Happy
Lucio Villegas as Juan Capillo
William Royle as Ben Sanderson

Songs: "Move Slow, Little Doggie": by Willie Phelps; "Seņorita": by Albert Hay Malotte

Black and White, 59 mins. running time


Rita made The Renegade Ranger on loan-out to RKO Pictures in 1938. This was one of a long series of films directed by David Howard and starring George O'Brien. Their collaboration ran from 1931 until 1940. The Renegade Ranger was Rita's first western since before she signed on with Columbia Pictures, but she fared better here than in the earlier ones and received first-rate notices.

Judith Alvarez (Rita Hayworth) is impelled to turn renegade when corrupt politicians begin creating laws to cheat she and her neighbors in Pecos County out of their land. Ben Sanderson (William Royle) is the guiding force behind the injustice done to these people. His partner, Sam Dunning, is murdered and Judith is thought to have done it. Texas Ranger Jack Steele (George O'Brien) is sent to capture her.

The night Jack arrives in Pecos County, Judith and her gang hold up Sanderson for money that rightfully belongs to her. When the tables turn on them, Judith is caught up in the line of fire, until Jack, a witness to the scene, carries her off to safety. A grateful Judith takes him to her hideout and initiates him into her group, unaware that he is a ranger. Within her camp, Jack finds a former friend, Larry (Tim Holt), who threatens to blow his cover if he tries to make trouble for Judith. Larry explains that she is not a criminal -that Sanderson is the bad guy. But Jack only sees that she has taken the law into her own hands and must be stopped.

Sanderson raises the reward for Judith's capture to a hefty $5,000. Hank (Jim Mason), one of her own comrades, betrays her. While Judith, Jack and others are on a scouting expedition, they are ambushed. Judith and Jack escape, but now Jack has the opportunity to arrest her. He takes her to the local jail. There he tells Sanderson that she will not be tried in Pecos County, where the lawmakers are against her.

Jack plans to have her taken out of the county for a just hearing conducted by the state. From all he sees and hears of Sanderson, Jack begins to understand what that made Judith turn against the law. Sanderson knows he is cooked if Judith pleads her case in the capital. He has her broken out of prison and brought to his ranch. A repentant Hank tells Jack what has happened and where to find Judith. Jack and Judith's men are off to the rescue.

At Sanderson's ranch, Jack overhears a dispute between Sanderson and his henchmen. It was Sanderson himself who had the murder of Dunning carried out, not Judith, and now he plans to kill the girl. Just then, Jack rushes in and saves her. Soon Sanderson will be out of power. Judith and her men are granted pardons and the people are promised to have their land returned to them. Judith rejoices in Jack's embrace.

The Renegade Ranger was released on September 16, 1938. Rita played the leader of a gang fighting to restore justice to their land. Although the man does come to her rescue, she was certainly not a typical damsel in distress type leading lady seen in many westerns. She road a horse and had several dramatic scenes which she carried off very well. Her hair had been recently lightened from ultra black to a dark chestnut shade that the film shows was even more complimentary to Rita, and also photographed better.

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