Set in 1877, San Antonio opens with Charley Bates (John Litel) tracking his good friend, Clay Hardin (Flynn) to Mexico. Hardin left Texas after a gang of baddies burned his ranch, stole his cattle, shot him, and left him for dead. Rather than wallow in his misfortune, Hardin has sought out a tally book that links wealthy Roy Stuart (Paul Kelly) to the large-scale cattle rustling scheme. He returns to San Antonio to expose Stuart. Along the way, he meets a singer (Alexis Smith) and her entourage (Florence Bates and S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall).
However, the film’s overall entertainment value hinges on its cast and they prove most capable. Errol and Alexis don’t generate a lot of sparks, but they exhibit a natural rapport which probably accounts for why they were paired so often (their best film being Gentleman Jim). Cuddles Sakall and Florence Bates are in top form in supporting roles played mostly for laughs. In a stagecoach scene with Alex and Errol, they have the following exchange when Florence—anxious to get Alexis married—inquires about the marital status of Errol’s character.
Cuddles (to Florence): “You were very rude. He wouldn’t marry you anyway.”
Florence: “I wasn’t asking for myself.”
Cuddles: “Don’t ask him for me either.”
It’s the kind of silly exchange that only Cuddles Sakall could make genuinely funny with his unique way of delivering dialogue. He and Errol teamed again for the following year’s entertaining comedy Never Say Goodbye with Eleanor Parker.
After San Antonio, Errol Flynn made three more Westerns. Montana reteamed him with Alexis Smith and Cuddles Sakall, but was a low-key affair. His leading lady in Rocky Mountain, Patrice Wymore, became his third and final wife. The most interesting of the trio was Silver River, which provided Errol with a juicy role as an unlikable silver mine owner in an offbeat variation of David and Bathsheba.
(Both Cuddles and Florence Bates have been profiled as Underrated Performers of the Week at the Cafe. Click on their underlined names to read the tributes to them.)