In watching the old John Wayne films of the 1930s, the ones mostly produced before Wayne became a star in the Western classic Stagecoach (1939), I became familiar with the name Robert N. Bradbury. Bradbury directed Wayne in many of his early films like Riders of Destiny, The Lucky Texan, West of the Divide, Blue Steel, The Man from Utah, The Star Packer, The Trail Beyond, The Lawless Frontier, Texas Terror, Rainbow Valley, Westward Ho, and Lawless Range. Bradbury had 132 directing credits, and 55 writing credits.
Bradbury was born on March 23, 1886 in Walla Walla, Washington. His son, Robert Adrian Bradbury, was born in Portland, Oregon on January 23, 1907. My mother, Lavinia, and her twin sister, Virginia loved Robert Adrian Bradbury. They would have been thrilled to know that he had a twin brother. Lavinia and Virginia would go to the movies in Nevada, Missouri as teenagers in the 1930s and swoon at the twinkle in Robert Adrian Bradbury’s eye. Robert Bradbury appeared on stage in vaudeville with his parents and with his twin brother Bill Bradbury and then moved on to film. His film career spanned decades as Bob Steele.
As a child of the 1950s I fell in love with television. My family was the first on the block to have a TV set. Although new shows like The Lone Ranger, The Cisco Kid, and Range Rider dominated the weekends, old westerns from the 1930s filled up the extra hours. When the Christmas catalogs came in the mail, like most other boys my age, I poured over the pages of cowboy hats, guns, belts, boots and circled what I wanted for Christmas. If I was watching a TV western staring Bob Steele, my mother was there watching with me. I thought perhaps she just liked cowboy films.
Bob Steele wasn’t just another cowboy. When he stepped into the saddle he flew on to it. He was only five foot five, the same height as my mother and my aunt. With just a short run he could leap at a horse with his right leg elevated just enough to set into the stirrup and then slip his left foot in the stirrup as he swung his right leg over to the right side. You can see him do this in the “oater” Sundown Saunders, which I found on Prime.
What I really like about the film Sundown Saunders is the well thought out story and how everything relates from start to finish. It’s like a primer for wannabe writers, directors, and actors. Everything is related. One thing leads to another from start to denouement. Bob Steele films without his father’s touch were nowhere near as good.
Check out IMDB for more information on this film and similar era productions – imdb.com/title/tt0028324/
IMDB Review #1
Read this review scoring 6 out of 10:
Wow…Taggart is one of the meanest villains in the history of westerns!
MartinHafer22 October 2013
While “Sundown Saunders” is a low-budgeted B-movie, it does stand out in one way–it features one of the nastiest and slimiest villains you’ll ever see in a western. Taggart (Ed Cassidy) commits crime after crime after crime and there seems to be no end to his willingness to do evil. First, he convinces a family that he’s a government agent and cheats them out of a thousand dollars by basically selling them property belonging to someone else (in this case, it’s Sundown Saunders’ ranch). Second, he shoots several folks in the back! Third, he plans on robbing the local bank. Fourth, he plans on marrying the daughter of a man he cheated AND who he thinks he’s murdered! And, despite all these crimes, the guy is audacious enough to stick around and doesn’t hide. Can Sundown Saunders (Bob Steele) and the Sheriff get the goods on this evil galoot and send him to his reward? See the film for yourself!
For the most part, I enjoyed this film. Like other Steele starring films, this diminutive actor did a decent job of acting and his horsemanship was very nice. However, there were a few odd plot problems. When the nice family is cheated and are homesteading on Saunders’ property, he says nothing to the family! I sure would have said something–as would any sane person. And, when a local guy sees Taggart sneaking in and out of the hotel by climbing down the roof, why doesn’t he bother telling the Sheriff–especially since there have been a plethora of shootings? Still, the acting is nice, the villain enjoyably rotten and the film kept my interest, so on balance it’s well worth seeing.
By the way, although it isn’t very important, the version of this film I saw from archive.org was actually 63 minutes long, not the 59 listed on IMDb.
IMDB Review #2
Fair B-Western With a Little Bit of Action
Snow Leopard13 November 2002
This is only a fair B-Western that delivers a little bit of action and a couple of high points.
Jim “Sundown” Saunders (Bob Steele) wins $250 in a horse race with Lewis (Hal Price) and, instead of money, Lewis gives him a deed to a 640-acre ranch in the Panamint.Sundown and his pal Smokey (Milburn Morante) head for the ranch and encounter Dad Preston (Jack Rockwell) and his daughter Bess (Catherine Cotter), and discover that the Prestons have plans to buy the ranch from Taggart (Ed Cassidy), posing as a government land agent. Taggart hires Jack Mace (Charles King) to pick a saloon fight with Sundown and, when the fight is stopped, the two decide to finish it out on the trail. Taggart follows and after Sundown whups up on Mace and rides off, Taggart shoots Mace in the back. Mace is found by a passer-by and taken to town, where Sheriff Baker (Earl Dwire) concludes the unconscious man was shot by Sundown, and calls for his arrest. Taggart meets Preston and Bess at the ranch and Preston hands over the purchase money. Later, Taggart ambushes Preston and steals his wallet to get the fake deed back. Taggart, whose busy day has only begun, meets with bandit leader Burke (Edmund Cobb) and they go to his hotel room and plan a bank raid for the next day. Meanwhile, Mace, before dying, tells the Sheriff that Sundown wasn’t the man who shot him, so Sundown and the Sheriff are outside the window and overhear the robbery plans. Preston, found by Smokey and Sundown, voices his suspicions of Taggart as being his assailant. After Sundown, the Sheriff and a town-raised posse stop Burke and his bandits from robbing the bank, the ever-busy and never-say-die Taggart kidnaps Bess and takes off with her in a wagon. Sundown is in pursuit.—Les Adams email@example.com
American Western star and character actor whose career spanned six decades. The son of director Robert N. Bradbury, he appeared in vaudeville with his parents and with his twin brother Bill Bradbury appeared as a child in a series of 16 semi-documentary short films directed by their father, The Adventures of Bob and Bill. As Bob Bradbury Jr., he played juvenile roles in silent films, then took the stage name Bob Steele in 1927. He appeared in scores of films during the Thirties, rising to B-Western stardom and an apparently solid position as one of Republic Studios’ top draws. Occasionally he made an appearance in more prominent films, as in his role as Curly in Of Mice and Men (1939). But he remained primarily a figure in Westerns. His stardom diminished by the mid-40s, and he spent the next quarter-century in character roles, some highly visible, such as his part in The Big Sleep (1946). But he also eventually turned up as a virtual extra in pictures like Shenandoah (1965). He appeared often on television and regained some fame in his role as Trooper Duffy in F Troop (1965). He died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, California, following a long illness.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver firstname.lastname@example.org
Born January 23, 1907 in Portland, Oregon, USA
Died December 21, 1988 in Burbank, California, USA (emphysema)
Birth Name Robert Adrian Bradbury
Nickname Bob Bradbury Jr.
One of Bob Steele’s bad guys was Charles King. King almost always was the bad guy. He had beady eyes, a black mustache and a pot belly. Not the usual requirements for a cowboy film, but he could fight a mean fight. I think he and Bob Steele had it down to a science. There was no choreography of fist fights in the early days. He appeared in over 400 films. He attempted suicide in the mid 1950s and died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1957.
In Sundown Saunders you can see Bob Steele at his best. It was written and directed by his father. Both good guys and bad guys worked together before and after this production.