Cast & Crew
Cliff "ukulele Ike" Edwards
When outlaws steal the mine payroll from the Marlin City stage, one of the robbers' masks slips, allowing J. Frederick Merriwell, a passenger on the stage, and Ike, the driver, to see the man's face. After Ira arrives in town with news of the robbery, Walton, the owner of the mining company, offers a reward for the identification of the outlaw. Merriwell singles out cowboy Kit Russell as the man, and Kit is arrested for robbery. Kit's fellow gang members, however, force Merriwell to leave town and threaten to torch Ira's house if he testifies against Kit. With no witnesses, the charges are dropped, causing consternation among the citizenry. At a party in honor of Judge Ben Halverson's daughter Jeannie that night, Walton advocates the formation of a vigilante committee. Later, when Kit arrives at the party, all the respectable guests leave, upsetting Jeannie, who is fond of Kit. Speaking privately to Kit, the judge produces official documentation appointing Kit and his pal Ike as special government investigators, who are to expose the leader of the outlaws. Leaving his badge and papers with the judge for safe keeping, Kit goes to the saloon, where Snap, one of the bandits, announces a raid on the Walton's mining company that night. After stealing the gold bullion, the robbers are pursued by the miners. When Snap is shot in the crossfire, Kit rescues him and sends the other bandits riding away as decoys. Impatient with the progress of the law, Walton forms his own vigilante committee and hires Jim Turner to locate the outlaws. After Turner reports that he has tracked Kit's wagon to a cabin in the hills, Walton leads his men there and captures Kit and the others. When the judge hears that Walton plans a vigilante trial for the outlaws, he counsels Kit to divulge his true identity, but Kit refuses to do so until his mission is accomplished. The judge, Sheriff Logan and county commissioner Daniel Slocum attend the trial and watch as Kit and the others are found guilty and sentenced to hang. Later, in their cell, one of the outlaws, terrified by the thought of hanging, blurts out that Slocum is the leader of the gang. His mission accomplished, Kit tells Walton that he is a special investigator, but when Walton tries to verify Kit's claim with the sheriff and Slocum, both men deny any knowledge of his appointment. Overpowering his guards, Kit frees Ike and rides into town to collect his commission and badge as proof. Slocum also rides into town, and after notifying his gang that they have been exposed, he prepares to flee with his profits. Kit and Ike then trap Slocum in his office until reinforcements arrive. When the sheriff and his posse appear, the gang surrenders, but Slocum tries to sneak out the back with the money. Kit pursues and apprehends him, and as the outlaws are carted away to jail, Kit is thanked by Walton and forgiven by Jeannie.
Cliff "ukulele Ike" Edwards
J. Benton Cheney
Albert S. D'agostino
John C. Grubb
Walter E. Keller
Norton S. Parker
But even as he ventured into those occasional A-level parts, he always returned to the world of RKO B westerns he so dearly loved. From 1941-1943, in fact, Holt was among the top ten moneymaking western stars, a ranking he would reach again after World War II. Tim Holt was, simply said, a hugely popular, reliable, and durable western movie star. In fact, his entire family was connected to the genre: father Jack was a significant western star dating back to the early silent era, and sister Jennifer starred in her own series of westerns for Monogram in the 1940s.
RKO had its own history of B westerns, having featured Tom Keene and George O'Brien in dozens of them through the 1930s. They generally had high production values, on a par with Republic's Gene Autry films and Paramount's William Boyd series, and the Tim Holt titles continued this RKO trend.
Fighting Frontier (1943) was one of six westerns that Holt made with actor Cliff Edwards as his sidekick before taking a break from acting to serve in World War II. The movie went through several title changes during its writing and production stages, including Son of the Saddle, Avenging Rider, and Arizona Legion. Holt plays a good kid seemingly gone wrong, running wild with stagecoach bandits, but he's actually a special agent working undercover to learn the identity of the gang's mysterious ringleader. At fifty-seven minutes, the film is well paced and was received as a satisfying entry. The Hollywood Reporter described it as "packed with fast action, fist fights galore, hard riding, and blazin' six shooters that rarely are in need of reloading... Scenically, film is tops... Tim Holt does his usual chores with expertness, and Cliff Edwards appears to good effect as his comic sidekick."
Variety also gave a strong review, noting that "Cliff Edwards and his ukelele handle comedy and two prairie ballads," and deeming the picture to be "packed with suspenseful action under Lambert Hillyer's ace direction."
Responses like those were echoed by the pubic, who made Fighting Frontier and other Holt films consistently profitable. They also explain why Holt was receiving more fan mail than anyone else at RKO during this time except Ginger Rogers.
By Jeremy Arnold
James Robert Parish, Great Western Stars
Buck Rainey, Heroes of the Range
David Rothel, Tim Holt
The working titles of this film were Arizona Legion, Avenging Rider, Five of Spades and Son of the Saddle.