Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

September 8, 2020

the pre-western Charles Starrett at Chesterfield Pictures (1933-1935)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:32 am

CHARLES STARRETT (1903-1986)

charles starrett cowboy

Anyone vaguely familiar with pre-1960 films knows the name of Charles Starrett from his Western films—-he STARRED in 131 Western features for Columbia from 1935-1952, which is a record for a Western series for one studio. He always exemplified class and gravitas in his Westerns and was truly in a class of his own, best remembered for the many DURANGO KID films he made in the 1946-52 period at Columbia.

However, the Ivy League-educated Starrett, a native New Englander and football star at Dartmouth, was a superb horsemen through his polo playing, not from working on the range, and he did not originally set out to work in Western films.

In the early sound era, after some years of training on the stage, he entered the film industry and his talent and charisma was soon noticed, leading to a series of supporting roles in “A” pictures at major studios and leading roles in “B” features. He certainly had paid his dues by the time Columbia came calling for a new Western star.

Starrett made a number of films at the independent CHESTERFIELD PICTURES from 1933-1935 (I’ve written about Chesterfield earlier here on the KSE blog—-just do a search for the film GRIEF STREET), and three of those features were excellent murder mysteries, which I happened to own in the early days of VHS tapes in the 80’s, back when I maybe owned 20 video tapes, so I watched each one multiple times and I’ve grown to become quite attached to them. I still watch them maybe once a year. I’d already been a fan of Starrett’s from his Westerns, but I’ve now seen maybe 15 of his pre-Western films from the pre-1936 period, and I am a great admirer of his work. Had Westerns not come calling, who knows what direction Starrett’s career may have gone in….

I’ve included links for you to view those three 1933-1935 Starrett murder mysteries below, MURDER ON THE CAMPUS, GREEN EYES, and A SHOT IN THE DARK. Nothing satisfies at the end of a long work day like an escapist murder mystery, and Chesterfield Pictures made some of the best independent features in that vein. They often shot the films at Universal City, giving the settings a touch of class, and used the best directors found on poverty row (here we have RICHARD THORPE and CHARLES LAMONT, both of whom went on to do great work for decades at the majors). The 1930’s were perhaps the Golden Age of cinematic murder mysteries, so here you are with some classics, starring the great CHARLES STARRETT, each running under 70 minutes.

charles starrett cowboy 2

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charles starrett

Charles Starrett in MURDER ON THE CAMPUS (1933)

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murder on the campus

MURDER ON THE CAMPUS (1933)

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GREEN EYES (1934)

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A SHOT IN THE DARK (1935) note: sound is a bit low on this, but you can still follow it well

Enjoy! And thank you, Charles Starrett, for your excellent and entertaining body of work!

 

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