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The Telegraph Trail (1933)

A greedy businessman-turned-renegade foments an Indian uprising against the coming telegraph to perpetuate his economic stranglehold on the territory.


Tenny Wright


Kurt Kempler (screenplay), Kurt Kempler (dialogue)


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Complete credited cast:
John Wayne ... John Trent
Duke Duke ... Duke - John's Horse
Frank McHugh ... Corporal Tippy
Marceline Day ... Alice Keller
Otis Harlan ... Uncle Zeke Keller
Albert J. Smith ... Gus Lynch
Yakima Canutt ... High Wolf
Lafe McKee ... Lafe


Greedy opportunist Gus Lynch, in order to continue to gouge townsfolk for necessary supplies, convinces High Wolf and his Indian tribe that they need to prevent the completion of the new telegraph lines or their tribe will be wiped out by a new influx of white men. Receiving an incomplete message warning of a white man's involvement in the recent Indian uprisings, cavalry scout John Trent is sent in to rectify the situation. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The story of how the telegraph was laid from East to West, with plenty of hardships and Indian attacks. (Print Ad- Register-Herald,((Pine Plains, NY)) 16 March 1933)




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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

18 March 1933 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

High Wolf See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Leon Schlesinger Studios See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (original)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Yakima Canutt appeared here in only his second outing with John Wayne. From this film on, the two were to research, choreograph and perfect the western genre fight scene by camera angle position and their throwing of punches technique. From here on, their technique would be employed by Hollywood and became one of the most widely used techniques in the film industry. See more »


Shot of the cavalry charging, you can see the tracks of the camera car. See more »


Corporal Tippy: [Referring to Alice] I told ya she's in cahoots with Lynch.
John Trent: I don't know what their game is, but I'm not letting any woman pull the wool over my eyes!
Corporal Tippy: What wool?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits list "Duke" second, closing credits list "Duke" last. See more »


Featured in Footlight Parade (1933) See more »


My Pony Boy
Music by Charley O'Donnell
In the score during the pony express ride
See more »

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User Reviews

Who Says Trigger's the Smartest Horse in the West
26 May 2006 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

At this point in his career John Wayne was doing B films for Warner Brothers and it was decided to give him a smart horse like Roy Rogers's Trigger. And what do they name the horse? Duke. That's something Wayne must have had a hand in.

Here John Wayne is an army scout and he gets Frank McHugh as an army corporal/telegrapher as sidekick. When a good friend of their's is killed while sending a message for help by wire during an Indian attack, these two are sent to take personal charge of the construction of the last leg of the telegraph.

There's a nasty villain played by Frank Hagney who runs a shipping outfit and with his Indian friends wants to keep the telegraph out. How the telegraph would affect his business is never quite made clear, but this is a B western so plot holes back then were a pretty common occurrence.

Wayne and McHugh are very effective together, too bad they never got to work together again.

For those who've never seen the entire film, the last minute of The Telegraph Trail are seen in Footlight Parade in a scene where James Cagney is in a movie theater observing his competition as he's a director of stage musicals. Ironically enough Frank McHugh is also in the cast of Footlight Parade which makes one wonder how the Warner Brothers slipped up there.

By the way, for the only time I can recall in any of his films, John Wayne sports a two gun holster. Butts reversed in the manner of Wild Bill Elliott. If anyone can recall another film he did like that, I'll correct this review.

I would recommend The Telegraph Trail for Wayne fans to see how well he and Frank McHugh connect. Another twist in his career and Frank McHugh could have had a grand career as western sidekicks.

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