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The Last Outlaw is a wonderful western movie. What I found most impressive was the quality of the editing. Unlike other silent films this movie flows without choppy looking scene changes, and there are several short cuts focusing on the characters as they interact with one another. I have seen worse looking movies from the early 30's, but this was a big budget Paramount movie. There seems to be more dialogue to read than in other silents that I have seen. That being said, the dialogue was actually interesting.
Gary Cooper is every bit the actor in The Last Outlaw that he was in his later movies. His acting looks natural, he shows a sense of humor, and he is believable as the hero of the movie, Buddy Hale. For such an early film in his career Cooper looks like he never needed to learn the craft of acting. He apparently had a natural talent that made him a great actor.
The Last Outlaw is not a serious drama set in the west, but it has a story based on the standard formula that was used over and over by the B westerns of the sound era. A crooked judge and sheriff are stealing the ranchers' cattle until a stranger comes to town and takes over as sheriff. All of the elements are there... Buddy talks to his horse in the beginning of the movie to establish the cowboy/horse relationship. Gary Cooper's gun handling was very well done with plenty of twirling. A youngster, Billy Butts as Chick, joins him as a companion. There is a beautiful girl, Betty Jewel as Janet Lane, as a romantic interest whose cattle are rustled and whose trust is almost lost but earned by the end. Of course, the bad guys always have the guns shot from their hands. Even though these western movie gimmicks were to be worn out after decades of use, the movie does not suffer from these clichés.
For the early part of the movie, Buddy Hale has to prove himself to take the job as sheriff as what seems to be the entire town tries to chase him away. Once he secures the job Chick suddenly is dressed in the most incredible cowboy outfit with a hat that is as large as anything Tim McCoy would have worn.
I would like to see other movies with Gary Cooper from this silent period. The balance between high production values and the quality of Cooper's acting made The Last Outlaw worth the hour of my life spent watching it.
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