The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1937) Preston Foster, Jean Muir, Van Heflin, Virginia Weidler, Margaret Irving Movie Review

The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1937)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Preston Foster and Virginia Weidler in The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1937)

Striking Gold

Saloon owner John Oakhurst (Preston Foster) finds himself becoming guardian to a baby girl he names Luck (Virginia Weidler) after his mother died in child birth. And it seems the young child is lucky as John prospers in the mining town although John hopes the arrival of schoolmarm Helen Colby (Jean Muir) and the Rev. Sam Woods (Van Heflin) will help set a good example to Luck before she ends up involved with the outlaws which frequent his place with the permission of his business partner The Duchess (Margaret Irving). When outlaw Sonoma (Bradley Page) tries to goad John in to a showdown it ends up with Sonoma and another man dead. But the trouble sees John and the Duchess booted out of town with Helen going with them only for them to end up stuck in a mountain cabin in the freezing cold, horseless after they are stolen.

To be honest I rarely come across one of these old one hour westerns which are more than just barely average as so many recycle the same story ideas. But "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" is the exception to the rule as this 67 minute western from 1937 has one of the better storylines you will come across and it is little wonder that the Bret Harte short story on which it is based has been used a few times on the big screen.

The strength of "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" lies in the story which takes us from John being a gambler and profiteer of others gambling to being made an outcast as due to the chancing face of the town he lives in leads to some not wanting him, his establishment or the outlaws who frequent it in town. As such whilst we get this view of a changing community we also get a glimpse at John who whilst wanting to be a better person for Luck won't be bullied by the community. It makes a pleasant change to encounter one of these movies where the storyline genuinely evolves whilst we have characters with real depth.

What this all boils down to is that "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" is a pleasant surprise as whilst this isn't a great movie it is certainly a lot better than what you usually get in one of these old one hour westerns from the 1930s.