Sunset Trail (1939)

Sunset Trail (1939)Sunset Trail is a western film released in 1939 by Paramount Pictures. The film follows the story of Hopalong Cassidy, a man posing as a confused Easterner who doesn’t understand the ways of the West, trying to solve a murder. Sunset Trail is the 22nd of 66 films involving the Hopalong Cassiday character.

Although Sunset Trail received mediocre critical reviews, it has since been cited as a fine example of the Hopalong Cassidy series due to its solid acting performances, crisp direction, and colorful photography.

Cast and Crew of Sunset Trail

Sunset Trail was directed by Leslie Selander. Norman Houston wrote the original screenplay for Sunset Trail, while Ed Paul composed the score. Russel Harlan oversaw the film’s cinematography, and Robert Warwick provided editing services. Earl Sitar designed the sound, and Lewis J. Rachmil served as art director. Earl Moser and Henry Donovan designed wardrobes and props, respectively.

Sunset Trail stars William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy. Other stars include George Hayes as Windy Halliday, Russel Hayden as Lucky Jenkins, Charlotte Wynters as Ann Marsh, Jane Clayton as Dorrie Marsh, Robert Fiske as Monte Keller, Kenneth Harlan as John Marsh, and Anthony Nace as Steve Dorman.

The supporting cast includes Kathryn Sheldon as Abigail Snodgrass, Maurice Cass as E. Prescott Furbush, Alphonse Ethier as a superintendent, Glenn Strange as a bouncer, Claudia Smith as Mary Rogers, Jack Rockwell as a stage driver, and Tom London as a patrol captain.

Plot Synopsis for Sunset Trail

Sunset Trail follows the tale of Hopalong Cassiday, who goes undercover as a bumbling, hypochondriac city-dweller named William "Harold" Cassidy. His mission is to assist a sheriff in brining Ann Marsh’s husband’s murderer to justice. Marsh’s husband John was recently killed on a stagecoach, and $30,000 was robbed from his person. John Marsh had just made the money by selling cattle to a casino owner, Monte Keller.

Monte Keller, the express agent for the stagecoach, tells Ann to head back to Silver City, along with her dauger Dorrie. The two open a dude ranch and wait for Hopalong Cassidy’s arrival. Cassidy arrives along with other guests, but Ann isn’t particularly impressed by his demeanor. She’s also uncomfortable with Steve Dorman, the man who Keller instructed to work for Ann. Cassidy’s associates Lucky Jenkins and Windy Halliday also go to work at Ann’s ranch. Lucky becomes romantically interested in Dorrie, who is also afraid of Steve.

One night, Cassidy is gambling at Keller’s casino when he realizes that many of the serial numbers on the hundred dollar bills he’s winning match the serial numbers of the bills stolen as part of the $30,000. Cassidy confronts Steve regarding the issue, and Steve attempts to escape. A gunfight ensues, and Cassidy is forced to shoot and kill Steve. Following the altercation, Ann and the rest of the dude ranch guests discover Cassidy’s true identity.

Cassidy sends Lucky to warn the Silver City police that Keller’s men are about to rob a stagecoach. Cassidy also tells Ann to make Keller her partner and to pretend to rob him of his money, while in disguise. Cassidy engages in a poker game with Keller and wins back the $30,000 before boarding the stagecoach. At the same time, one of Keller’s henchmen reports to Keller and tells him that Steve has been murdered, and that Cassidy is not actually a confused Easterner, but instead of cowboy of the wild west.

Keller and his men chase down the stagecoach, while simultaneously being chased by the Silver City police officers. Hopalong gets into a fight with Keller, and Keller is knocked from his horse and shot by Cassidy. With his mission completed, Cassidy, Lucky, and Windy leave the ranch, breaking the hearts of Dorrie and Ann.

Additional Information on Sunset Trail

Sunset Trail is available on DVD as part of the Hopalong Cassidy Ultimate Collection, a set of DVDs that comes in a commemorative lunchbox.

The character of Hopalong Cassidy has been immortalized in a series of museum displays. The major displays include the Autry National Center located in Los Angeles, the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper near Wichita, Kansas.

There were essentially two types of films in the lengthy Hopalong Cassidy series: those in which he wears black and plays a seasoned wild west veteran, and those where he dresses as a foppish dude rancher. The former type typically includes more action and shooting, while the latter generally consists of character development, dialogue, and romance. Sunset Trail is unique in that it offers a mix of the two, with Hopalong Cassidy taking on the role of the inexperienced Easterner for the first half of the film, and transforming into a sharp-shooting, card-playing cowboy in the second half.

Regardless of its filmic merits, many critics cite Sunset Trail as one of the most entertaining entries in the Hopalong Cassidy series.