Written by John Rathmell and Oliver Drake
Story by Bernard McConville
Based on the book by William Colt MacDonald
Directed by Joseph Kane
The Three Mesquiteers is a prolific series of dime store cowboy novels (beginning with 1933’s Law of the .45’s by William Colt MacDonald) that became a long-running movie franchise. The span of films lasted 12 actors in the three lead roles over 51 films, probably most famously John Wayne during a long stint. Republic Pictures produced all of the films in the series. The original film is simply called The Three Mesquiteers, and stars Robert Livingston, Ray “Crash” Corrigan, and Syd Saylor. Saylor was replaced by Max Terhune as Lullaby Joslin and the three lasted until the 17th film in the series – Pals of the Saddle, where John Wayne took over for Robert Livingston (Livingston also missed one film when he was injured and was replaced by Ralph Byrd.) The cast changes the get more complicated (including Livingston returning after the other two stars were replaced) and if I ever get around to watching all 51 films I’ll be sure to do a retrospective.
As is the case with all popular things, there were a slew of imitation cowboy trio series trying to capture the magic of The Three Mequiteers. Monogram Pictures lured Ray Corrigan away for The Range Busters series (1940-43, with Max Terhune also showing up for a few), and then got later Mesquiteer Raymond Hatton for The Rough Riders series (1941-42). Their final attempt was The Trail Brazers (1943-44). Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) had two attempts of their own, The Texas Rangers (1942–45) and The Frontier Marshals (1942). Info on these films can be found on the wonderful B-Westerns site.
Ghost-town Gold is the second film in the series. It’s also the “supernatural” one, in that ghosts are referenced, though ultimately it turns out to just be an elaborate ruse by a crazy old man. Spoilers. It is a typical cheapo Western excursion of the 1930s, back when movies were pumped out like crazy to fill theaters before TV turned America into a land of couch potatoes. Thanks to the magic of existing sets and stock players, these cheap films look way more expensive than many of the cheap films produced today. The supporting cast (as is the case in many of this films) is like a laundry list of legendary Western actors and actresses. Kay Hughes plays the daughter of the mayor, she had a career that was notable for many parts in Westerns. Dirk Barrington is played by LeRoy Mason, who often played the villain in cowboy pictures before his life was cut short by a heart attack. Yakima Canutt, Bob Kortman, and Frank Hagney are among the other players.