Friday, September 16, 2011

Patricia Knox (Flaming Bullets, The James Brothers of Missouri)

Flaming Bullets (1945) has a certain sadness about it. Yes, it is as drab as they come, but that is de rigeur for PRC westerns; and it is the last of the Texas Rangers trio oaters. But that is no great loss, truth be told. It is, however, the final starring vehicle for Tex Ritter and while he may not come across as a strapping hero, why Tex's way with a down home tune was certain to be missed at the neighborhood houses after 1945. Happily, High Noon (1952) was still in the future.

Then there is Flaming Bullets' leading lady, the redoubtable Miss Patricia Knox, a popular starlet at PRC. Patricia, although described as a redhead, comes across as a typical bleach blonde saloon hostess, if a bit on the blowsy side. She doesn't drink herself ("Never touch the stuff"), but makes sure that her customers do and is even willing to allow good old Guy Wilkerson to set up his dentist's chair in a corner if that will attract a crowd. I Like Patricia's Belle, and with the exception of Ritter's couple of cowboy ballads, she is the one redeeming thing about Flaming Bullets. Oh, yes, and the fact that old Charlie King gets to strut his comedic skills in a sequence or two.

Now, how do you square this? The James Brothers of Missouri (1949), legendary outlaw brothers Jesse and Frank (Keith Richards and Robert Bice), are in reality nice guys helping lovely Peg Royer (Noel Neill) retain the stage line after Marlin (Roy Barcroft) has her father (John Hamilton) murdered. The real baddie here, apart from Marlin of course, is instead general store owner Belle Calhoun (Patricia Knox), who wants the government stage line contract for herself. But to the world in general, and the orphaned Peg in particular, Belle shows a concerned, yes almost motherly front. Which is kind of a neat trick from somebody who looks more like a blowsy saloon gal than a store proprietor. Patricia Knox, we feel forced to report, did not weather the years all that well and actually looks older than her years. But she is quite good as the duplicitous Belle and her scenes with ace villain Barcroft remain some of the highlights of this latter-day Republic serial, which came with the usual caveats of tightened budget and general lowered expectations.

We admit to know little about Patricia Knox, who apparently was a Los Angeles gal born and bred and had begun her career in a chorus line or two. In 1943, she divorced her husband, Bruce Knox, complaining that hubby had made life so miserable that she was "too mad to ask for alimony ...!"

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