THE THREE MESQUITEERS
- Perhaps the most famous Trigger Trio of the B Western era, the Three Mesquiteers series was produced by Republicfrom 1935 to 1950, interchanging actors throughout. The concept for the series gives a Western twist to Alexander Dumas’s Three Musketeers. The idea was based on characters in a series of Western novels by William Colt MacDonald, published beginning in 1933. Ray Corrigan, Bob Livingston, and Max Terhune were the original Mesquiteers. Others were inserted into the roles interchangeably: Raymond Hatton, Bob Steele, Tom Tyler, Duncan Renaldo, and even John Wayne in New Frontier (1939). The same recurring characters made up the Mesquiteers: Rusty or Lullaby Joslin, an old hunter type providing comic relief; Tucson Smith (originally played by Ray Corrigan), the more normal of the three who is in the middle age-wise; and Stony Brooke (originally Bob Livingston, also John Wayne), always a hot-tempered, romantic cowboy. The 3M Ranch is under the joint ownership of the Three Mesquiteers, but various business interests and general ranch work, such as trail drives, brings them adventures of every sort. Over time they evolve from being roaming cowboys doing good wherever they go to being part-time government agents. Plots of the films involved searching for air-transport hijackers; rustlers using refrigerated trucks; a foreign spy ring that is about to obtain “monium,” a top secret metal that will change everything. Through it all, the Mesquiteers ride horses and even call upon the U.S. Cavalry when they need help. Interestingly, different episodes would be set in different historical periods with no explanation. The early films were set in the general period of the historic West, during the period of the open range. The Three Mesquiteers (1936), though, has the three returning from World War I, yet they find themselves aiding a covered-wagon train. Later films were set during the Civil War, the 1940s, and, again, the historic West. “In this expanded ‘Western’ space,” Richard Slotkin says, “past and present are superimposed on each other—or, more precisely, confront each other—and through their conflict produce a moral drama” (1992, 275).
Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. Paul Varner. 2012.
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