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Branded a Coward (1935) HD online

Branded a Coward (1935) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Western
Original Title: Branded a Coward
Director: Sam Newfield
Writers: Richard Martinsen,Earle Snell
Released: 1935
Duration: 58min
Video type: Movie
Safely from behind some shrubbery, Johnny Hume, a boy of 6 or 7, witnesses the slaughter of his mother, father and brother by the guns of a gang led by "the Cat". Twenty years later finds Johnny grown to manhood, an expert bronc rider and target shooter - but paralyzed with fearful memories in an actual gunfight. This is brought home to him when some outlaws stick up the local saloon and Johnny ends up cowering behind the bar. Accompanied by his sole pal, stuttering Oscar, Johnny hits the trail in shame. Along the way, he encounters a stage holdup and snaps out of his fear long enough to plug a couple of the highwaymen, chase the rest away, and wrest the runaway coach from a final thug. Aboard the coach is Ethel Carson, most grateful for Johnny's bravery. Johnny takes the stage on to Lawless, Arizona, where Ethel, the wounded stage driver and, worst of all, Oscar extol his prowess as a gunman. As a consequence, he's offered the job of marshal, which resurrects all his fears - until he...
Complete credited cast:
Johnny Mack Brown Johnny Mack Brown - Johnny Hume
Billie Seward Billie Seward - Ethel Carson
Syd Saylor Syd Saylor - Oscar
Lloyd Ingraham Lloyd Ingraham - Joe Carson
Lee Shumway Lee Shumway - Tom Hume
Roger Williams Roger Williams - Tex - Henchman
Frank McCarroll Frank McCarroll - Dick - Henchman
Yakima Canutt Yakima Canutt - 'The Cat' - Original
Mickey Rentschler Mickey Rentschler - Young Johnny Hume
Rex Downing Rex Downing - Young Billy Hume

The earliest documented telecasts of this film took place in Los Angeles Monday 2 May 1949 on KNBH (Channel 4) and in Salt Lake City Friday 25 November 1949 on KDYL (Channel 4).

Reviews: [7]

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    The title, "Branded a Coward" more or less sets the tone for this unusual Johnny Mack Brown series western. Produced by Poverty Row's Supreme Pictures and directed by Sam Newfield, this entry departs from the normal series western and cowboy hero.

    In the opening, Johnny Hume's (Brown) family is murdered by Yakima Canutt and his gang as Johnny hides in the bushes. Fast forward 20 years and we find Johnny as a sharp shootin', hard ridin' rodeo cowboy. But he has a reputation of shying away when the real gunplay starts. In fact during a saloon robbery, Johnny is seen cowering beside the bar unable to take a hand in confronting the outlaws.

    Johnny decides to move on. Soon he is joined by his sidekick Oscar (Syd Saylor). They come upon a stagecoach robbery and Johnny finally finds his courage and drives the outlaws away while killing several of them. Inside the coach is heroine Ethel Carson (Billie Seward) to whom Johnny takes a fancy. Ethel's father Joe Carson (Lloyd Ingraham) claims Johnny's father gunned down his brother and thus forbids Johnny to see his daughter.

    Johnny discovers that the gang that murdered his family headed by an outlaw known only as "The Cat" is operating in the area. Carson, who has a drinking problem, discloses to the outlaws that a shipment of gold is expected. In the meantime he goes gunning for Johnny and is shot accidentally by an outlaw and Johnny is blamed.

    Johnny vows to prove his innocence. "The Cat" attempts to lure Johnny into a trap and..........

    As I have mentioned, this picture has an unusual number of twists for a Poverty Row quickie, namely:

    1) The hero is shown as an actual coward;

    2) The comedic sidekick is murdered;

    3) The hero actually gets to kiss the girl...twice;

    4) An unexpected surprise ending.

    Johnny Mack Brown had a shot at major stardom with M-G-M in the late twenties. He even appeared with Greta Garbo. After 1930's "Billy the Kid" he drifted into "B" movies and serials eventually turning that into a lucrative twenty year career.

    The inclusion of Yakima Canutt in the cast ensured some top flight stunt work. He performs his signature "falling from the team of horses under the stagecoach and up the back of the coach" stunt and does a dangerous looking high dive off of a cliff, as well. He can also be visibly seen doubling one of the actors in the climatic fist fight.

    A different and enjoyable series western.
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    Johnny Mack Brown is the one that is Branded A Coward in this B western produced by a Poverty Row studio called Supreme Pictures. It's not really his fault, he sustained a great emotional trauma as a child, seeing his family massacred by an outlaw only known as 'The Cat'. When he grew up he became a trick shot artist, but when it comes to gunplay with targets that shoot back, Brown can't forget.

    But when he and sidekick Syd Saylor spot a stagecoach holdup they take a hand in and save the gold shipment and Billie Seward. A grateful town makes him their marshal which Brown decides to accept after he hears that it was the Cat's gang that did the robbery and is operating in that area.

    This is one unusual B western in that it breaks one parameter of a B western which I will not tell and it has a surprise ending as to who the identity of the mysterious Cat is.

    I'd check this Johnny Mack Brown western out.
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    Johnny Mack Brown made some of the best and fastest westerns for Universal during the 1940s. Here, in one of his 'Supreme Pictures', the story is a little off beat, in that although playing the crack shot rodeo rider Johnny Hume, in an early bar hold up sequence, he hides behind the bar as a shivering, frozen wide-eyed coward, unable to use the gun shaking in his hand.

    The reason for this is because twenty years earlier, his mother and father, who were driving their covered wagon through unknown territory with him and his older brother, were suddenly ambushed and killed by an outlaw gang. His visual flashback to this scene turns him 'yellow' in the presence of real danger. Hence to everyone he's a coward.

    This covered wagon ambush, with every one in the family getting killed (except for the hero) was used several times, not only in the remake "Fast on the Draw" (1950), but also in the totally botched "The Rawhide Terror" (1934), "Cavalcade of the West" (1936) and I'm sure in a few others. Of course, the other brother really doesn't die but grows up to be the new leader of the enemy gang! (Sorry for the spoiler!) Guess who has to kill him at the end?

    You don't see a cowardly hero again until "Sugarfoot" (1958-1959) on TV. But Johnny, although he then skips town with his side kick, Oscar (the sometimes tedious Syd Saylor), suddenly is magically transformed having no trouble at all with two six guns ablazin' knocking off some 'henchmen' and rescuing 'Ethel' (a name forever associated with Vivian Vance, if it wasn't a bad enough unglamorous name already) from an attempted stage robbery, and capturing the stage coach single handed. Back in the town of Lawless, he reluctantly agrees to become sheriff, because we now realize he has a score to settle with "The Cat."

    As noted by others, it was unusual to see the sidekick getting killed. Then we had the low melodramatic trick of never seeing the face of the boss villain, in this case "The Cat," but only his shadow. And in another unusual twist, Johnny kisses the girl in the middle of the picture, not just at the end. In much of the movie we have more dialog by different characters than we would get, say in a John Wayne 'Lone Star,' but this tends to slow the movie down.

    When I was around seven years old, Johnny Mack Brown was my favorite cowboy. Inexplicably, this movie doesn't tell me why. We do see his athleticism, because we can see that he actually is the one leaping up on his horse three times. The Mighty Yak, Yakima Canutt, does his amazing, great, slide under the stage coach and then climb up the back of it trick, and he also does a tension building drop off a cliff into a river.

    But really that's about it. Billie Seward is undistinguished. Syd Saylor's stuttering act gets a little grating. He has a much broader role, as a publicist / acrobat in the Clyde Beatty serial "The Lost Jungle" (1934), although the feature version is better than the serial. He also does okay as Tex Ritter's sidekick in westerns like "Arizona Days" (1937) and "Headin' for the Rio Grande" (1936). He appeared, mostly uncredited, in over 400 movies and TV shows.

    Despite the unusual elements, it moves a little too slowly. I give it a four.
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    While I like a Johnny Mack Brown film because of his natural look and acting style, "Branded a Coward" just has too many strikes against it to make it a film I'd recommend. The biggest problem is the casting of a truly annoying character actor, Syd Saylor, in the film. He plays his usual stuttering sidekick--and made me feel ill watching him. Saylor's shtick was to stutter so badly that he made Porky Pig look like a polished Shakespearean actor by comparison! It not only was insensitive, it was grating. The other problems concern plot and clichés--more about that in a moment.

    The film begins with a pioneer family being attacked by bandits. The father and mother are killed and one brother is shot while the other hides in fear of his life. Twenty years pass and the brother who hid is now played by Brown. He is a nice guy and stands for law and order, but he also has a mental block and sometimes fear grips him when he's reminded of the slaughter of his family. This makes it especially tough when he's appointed sheriff and he's determined to bring the bandit leader, 'The Cat', to justice. How it all plays out is the big problem here--it's just too predictable that the brother he assumed was dead is not and is now The Cat!! And, it's REAAAALLLY predictable that The Cat will take a bullet to save Brown. And, it's ridiculous when all the loose ends in the story are tied together too perfectly. The only really great thing about the film is that eventually Saylor's character is killed--I could have cheered!!
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    Director: SAM NEWFIELD. Screenplay: Earle Snell. Story: Richard Martinson. Photography: William Nobles. Film editor: Carl Turner. Production manager: Sam Diege. Sound recording: Erwin Jowett. Producer: A.W. Hackel.

    Not copyrighted by Supreme Pictures Corporation. U.S. release through William Steiner: July, 1935. 57 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: Due to a traumatic experience as a youngster, a prize- winning sharpshooter is afraid of guns.

    COMMENT: I've often said that even the most confirmed Hollywood hack has the makings of at least one good picture in his lifetime. Witness Edward L. Cahn's Law and Order and William Beaudine's Says O'Reilly to McNab. This picture, on a much lesser scale of course, is Sam Newfield's contribution.

    The first requirement of any successful picture is a halfway decent script. Snell has woven four or five traditional western themes into this one (the crack shot who is afraid of guns; the murdering outlaws who capture one of two boys and raise him to follow in their footsteps; the heroine's father who has a grudge against the hero because of something his father did in the past; the outlaw who guns down one of the combatants in a street duel from a hiding place and blames the killing on the innocent aggressor; the mysterious outlaw leader who is actually revealed to be the person you least suspect; the nice heroine's trusted dad whose liking for the bottle sometimes gets the better of his discretion) but used them in an unusual way. Instead of emphasizing these clichès, he tends to brush over them, quickly moving from incident to incident and building to a splendid series of climaxes. "Branded a Coward" could justly lay claim to being the first "psychological western".

    One standard ingredient of the series western that we feel (at least initially) could have been dispensed with is the hero's obligatory sidekick, especially as played here by Syd Saylor. Mr. Saylor is normally a hard act to swallow, but when he puts on his stuttering turn, he's almost impossible. Nonetheless, this "comic" act does give rise to at least one really funny comeback plus one running gag that certainly rates as mildly amusing. And when the unexpected happens, it comes as a bit of a shock.

    Doubtless realizing that for once in his life, the script provided him a golden opportunity to make something of the "C"-grade western, Newfield has pulled out all the stops. Admittedly, half his efforts don't wholly succeed, but he certainly gets full marks for trying. The chasing-the-runaway-stage-sequence, for instance, is largely camera-captured with running inserts (normally a way-way too expensive proposition for Poverty Row). True, the inserts are some of the bumpiest we've ever encountered, but the very fact that they wobble all over the place actually adds to the excitement. And I love that thrilling moment when the stage shoots through a shallow creek! I've never seen a dramatically picturesque shot like that before in over a thousand westerns.

    Newfield's new-found prowess is also helped along by a fine group of support players led by legendary stuntman, Yakima Canutt, who performs his famous falling-off-the-lead-horse-and-passing-under- the-coach act right here. More thrills are provided by cult-favorite heavy, Bob Kortman, who (though uncredited) has a sizable part as one of the Cat's lead henchmen.

    As for the heroine, Billie Seward, she's a real sweetie, and we like Lloyd Ingraham as her surly, boozy dad. Johhny Mack Brown himself is in fine form. In addition to his usual acrobatic leaps into the saddle, he actually has a chance to act in this one — and he brings it off well.
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    Cowboy hero Johnny Mack Brown starred in over 200 B-movie westerns during his 38-year career in Hollywood. "Branded A Coward" ranks as one of Brown's better oaters. As Johnny Hume, he plays a cowboy who is a crack shot unless somebody else is slinging lead at him. Initially, "Thundering Gun Slingers" director Sam Neufeld's horse opera opens with a family in a covered wagon setting up camp in the wilderness when a gang of ruthless outlaws open fire on them. Johnny watches as his mother and father die from gunfire. Johnny's little brother takes a slug in the shoulder, and Johnny is so frightened that he appropriates a revolver and conceals himself in the brush while the outlaws check the bodies and gallop away. From then on, poor Johnny refuses to get tangled up in a gunfight. After he wins a rodeo championship, Johnny his celebrating his triumph in a saloon when three ruffians brandish their six-guns and try to hold up the bartender. During the confrontation, the bartender shoots one of the outlaws, but he dies at the hands of another outlaw. Meantime, Johnny cowers behind the bar in abject terror. You can see his hand trembling while the robbery occurs. He flashbacks to the past when the desperadoes killed his parents. "I'm just gun shy when guns are needed," he summarizes his predicament. "I've been thinking I would get over it, but I never will. Just when I begin to get the nerve to do something, a picture what happened on that terrible night when I was a kid pops up before me. I guess most people would call it yellow." When the truth comes out about his cowardice, Johnny leaves town. As his sidekick and he are riding to another town where nobody will know about his cowardice, he intervenes in a stagecoach hold-up. When he arrives, Johnny finds the driver wounded and the shotgun rider dead. Fearlessly, Johnny draws his six-shooter and sends the outlaws packing. Whatever cowardice that he felt before, Johnny no longer feels again. The outlaws try to steal the wagon with a passenger, Ethel Carson (Billie Seward of "Twentieth Century"), inside, but Johnny thwarts them. At one point, he leaps astride the team of horses to slow them, then drops beneath the entire coach, climbs up from the back atop the vehicle from the rear, and commandeers the coach from the road agents. Incidentally, stunt man Yakima Canutt performed this audacious stunt later in John Ford's classic western "Stagecoach" with John Wayne.

    Johnny's stuttering sidekick Oscar (Sid Saylor of "Six Gun Man") spreads the word around the town of Lawless that Johnny is an ideal candidate for the post of town marshal. He conjures up tall tales that Johnny dealt with both Billy the Kid and Black Bart. Johnny doesn't want to take the job despite the encouragement that he receives from the town citizens. Nevertheless, Johnny doesn't trust him. He suspects that he may turn yellow again. No sooner than this happens, Johnny gets a warning from the chief villain, nicknamed the Cat, who vows to kill him because he killed his friends. Nobody knows what the Cat looks like. All they know is the Cat is "a cruel ruthless killer."

    Meanwhile, Ethel's father Joe (Lloyd Ingraham of "Our Daily Bread") takes an immediate disliking to Johnny when he catches a glimpse of his six-gun with the initials T.H. on it as well as four notches. As it turns out, Johnny's father killed Carson's brother. Joe argues that Johnny's father took advantage of his position as a lawman to kill his brother. Johnny learns about an anonymous villain known only as 'the Cat' and he resolves to hunt the man down that killed his mother and father. Later, Joe challenges Johnny to a duel in the street. Johnny tries to shoot the revolver out of Joe's hand, but some desperadoes in the saloon shoot out the window and hit old Joe in the heart and kill him. Predictably, Ethel turns against him.

    "Branded A Coward' is an unusual sagebrusher because our hero's amiable sidekick bites the dust.
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    "Branded a Coward" has one of the classic B Western story lines - a young boy sees his parents killed by outlaws and one day comes back to avenge the innocent. The minor twist here is that Johnny Hume (Johnny Mack Brown) really didn't plan it that way, but as one thing leads to another, well, you know.

    Sometimes you have to consider the era when these old time oaters were made. For 1935 this one wasn't all that bad. The leap of faith needed here is how quickly Johnny makes the transition from a 'cowering behind the bar' onlooker to full fledged Western hero when he throws down with the outlaws attacking the stagecoach in the first half. That scene offers the equally classic 'under the stagecoach' maneuver that became a trademark of many films in which Yakima Canutt appeared. Yak portrays gang leader 'Cat' as the story opens, but as things progress, hints are dropped that a new Cat mysteriously appears to take over the gang whenever it's thought the one prior has been compromised.

    I've only seen Syd Saylor a couple of times before and I don't recall him ever doing the stuttering gimmick. It wears after a while, but it's still a downer when he gets knocked off before the picture ends. All the while he tried getting his words out I kept thinking Porky Pig in those old Warner Brothers cartoons, and had to consider whether Saylor's bit had anything to do to inspire that character.

    Well you had to wonder if the finale wasn't just a bit too contrived. With the appearance of Johnny's older brother Billy, who also witnessed the death of their parents, an explanation of how he became the new 'Cat' would have been in order. Instead, you just had to take the twist ending on faith that the good brother would come out on top. But Johnny getting the girl (Billie Seward) at the end of the story - that was just par for the course.