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Heritage of the Desert (1939)

Passed | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 23 June 1939 (USA)
John Abbott returns to the desert land he owns, and after being wounded by hired gunman Chick Chance, he is befriended by rancher Andrew Naab and his son, Marvin. Naab's daughter, Marian, ... See full summary »


Lesley Selander


Zane Grey (based on the novel by), Norman Houston (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Donald Woods ... John Abbott
Evelyn Venable ... Miriam Naab
Russell Hayden ... David Naab
Robert Barrat ... Andrew Naab
Sidney Toler ... Nosey Naab
C. Henry Gordon ... Henry Holderness
Willard Robertson ... Nebraska
Paul Guilfoyle ... Snap Thornton
Paul Fix ... Chick Chance
John 'Skins' Miller John 'Skins' Miller ... John Twerk
Reginald Barlow Reginald Barlow ... Judge Stevens


John Abbott returns to the desert land he owns, and after being wounded by hired gunman Chick Chance, he is befriended by rancher Andrew Naab and his son, Marvin. Naab's daughter, Marian, falls in love with John but is about to marry Snap Thornton to keep a promise made by her father. She runs away on her wedding day but is captured and held hostage by outlaw Henry Holderness. John, the Naabs and fellow ranchers rush to her rescue. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


HUNTED TURNS HUNTER...and a dead man rides for vengeance! (re-release poster) See more »


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

23 June 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Heritage of the Plains See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Wide Range System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The 20 Zane Grey stories sold by Paramount to Favorite Films for theatrical re-release, and then to Unity Television Corporation for television broadcast are as follows: The Light of Western Stars/Winning the West (1930), Fighting Caravans/Blazing Arrows (1931), Heritage of the Desert/When the West Was Young (1932), The Mysterious Rider/The Fighting Phantom (1933), The Thundering Herd/Buffalo Stampede (1933), Man of the Forest/Challenge of the Frontier (1933), To the Last Man/Law of Vengeance (1933), Wagon Wheels/Caravans West (1934), Rocky Mountain Mystery/The Fighting Westerner (1935), Drift Fence/Texas Desperadoes (1936), Desert Gold/Desert Storm (1936), The Arizona Raiders/Bad Men of Arizona (1936), Arizona Mahoney/Arizona Thunderbolt (1936), Forlorn River/River of Destiny (1937), Thunder Trail/Thunder Pass (1937), Born to the West/Hell Town (1937), The Mysterious Rider/Mark of the Avenger (1938), Heritage of the Desert/Heritage of the Plains (1939), Knights of the Range/Bad Men of Nevada (1940), and The Light of Western Stars/Border Renegade (1940). See more »


Remake of Heritage of the Desert (1932) See more »


Here's A Heart
Music by Victor Young
Lyrics by Frank Loesser
See more »

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User Reviews

Another great script and great cast
5 May 2015 | by morrisonhimselfSee all my reviews

By "great cast," players of no great fame these days, I mean actors of talent and ability.

Zane Grey often badly over-wrote his stories including dialog, but Norman Houston, the script writer of "Heritage of the Desert" has put together a thoroughly believable story and dialog, apparently with the help of "additional dialogue" by Harrison Jacobs.

About 20 minutes in, the female lead, played by Evelyn Venable, explains why her family, despite the vicious opposition by the bad guys, intends to stay put, to remain on the land they have reclaimed from the desert.

Her face and her verbalizing feel so true, especially, perhaps, to me because I too love the desert and I understand very well what she means.

Russell Hayden plays the brother. He was a good-looking and very likable actor who sometimes seemed to have trouble enunciating. Here he is as close to perfect in his performance as any actor can be.

There are some wonderful relationships to watch in "Heritage," presented in poignant fashion, and not something we usually find, or find so beautifully done, in a B western. Or in any movie.

Watch, especially, "Father Naab," the daddy, Andy, played so well by Robert Barratt.

Bad guy "Nebraska" is another absolute wonder. Actor Willard Robertson has what might be his best-ever role, and does he play it to the hilt. This is an eye-opening performance.

Donald Woods is the nominal star. He is a nice-looking, mild man, a very good actor as a city boy trying to fit into the Wild West. This is a different role for him, to my knowledge, and he plays it as if he's done it a thousand times.

"Nosey" "I didn't learn how in no college" is played so beautifully by Sidney Toler, I had to look twice at the IMDb credit listing. I've never seen him in a role like this and he is just marvelous.

Either Nosey or Nebraska could be said to have stolen this movie, their roles are that good.

Paul Fix is just superlative as the breezy "Chick Chance," a happy killer and all-round bad guy. When given the chance to let his personality out, Mr. Fix can mesmerize.

Paul Guilfoyle has a really difficult role as "Snap." You will have mixed emotions about him, but I won't say more. No spoiler from me. But he does an excellent job with his character. He seems to be a trained stage actor and handled this part really well. (I plan now to read his bio here at IMDb.)

Lesley Selander is one of the great pro directors. There is one director flaw here, involving a box of dynamite, but try not to notice. It doesn't hurt the movie, just Mr. Selander's reputation for perfection.

Camera angles and editing merely add one more layer to the excitement.

All in all, from major to minor player, to the story, the dialog, the scenery, this is a great motion picture. I want to see other versions later, partly to compare, partly to enjoy again the story. And I highly recommend this 1939 version, which is available at YouTube.

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