Conn Pictures Corporation
Produced by Maurice Conn
Directed by Russell Hopton
Darro . . . . . . . . . .
. . . Clifford "Fishtail" O'Reilly
LeRoy Mason (billed as Roy) . Henry "Hank" Langford
Gloria Shea . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cynthia Jackson
Berton Churchill . . . . . . . . . . J.C. Anderson
Stanley Fields . . . . . . . . . . . . Lefty Stevens
Frank Shannon . . . . . . . . . . . Dan O'Reilly
George Cleveland . . . . . . . . . Clemmons
Fred 'Snowflake' Toones . . . . Snowflake
Dewey Robinson . . . . . . . . . . Homer
Horace B. Carpenter . . . . . . . Tom
Lester Dorr . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Collins (Bookkeeper)
Edward Hearn . . . . . . . . . . . . Oilman Lease Holder
Russell Hopton . . . . . . . . . . . Joe (Henchman)
Theodore Lorch . . . . . . . . . . . Bartender
Frank McCarroll . . . . . . . . . . . Henchman
Lew Meehan . . . . . . . . . . . . . Oil Worker
Harry Strang . . . . . . . . . . . . . Henchman
Al Taylor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Oilfield Roughneck
Slim Whitaker . . . . . . . . . . . . Henchman Slim
Carleton Young . . . . . . . . . . . Oilfield Roughneck
This film is the epitome of the "boy enthusiasm" flicks that Frankie Darro was so closely associated with through much of his career.
Beginning with a montage of scenes from the oil fields, we see Clifford, whom everyone calls "Fishtail," as he steps onto an oil rig wench and his father, Mr. O'Reilly, starts it so Fishtail can ride to the top of the rig. Once at the top of the rig, Fishtail hooks on as his father watches proudly. The school teacher, Cynthia Jackson, shows up and shouts for Fishtail to come down and go to school or she'll call the truant officer on him. But Fishtail would much rather work on the oil rigs than go to school and climbs higher, trying to hide. She demands he comes down and Fishtail says she should come up and get him. She then scolds Mr. O'Reilly, who points out Fishtail doesn't seem to take to school. After pointing out that Fishtail should have a better shot at life other than working as an "oil bum," Dan is convinced and calls his son down to go to school. Fishtail pretends he can't hear them. Miss Jackson asks if the rig motor can't be turned off, which makes Mr. O'Reilly scoff, reminding her the drill can't be shut down without the mud hardening around it. Mr. O'Reilly admits that if they don't hit oil soon, he'll have to shut it down anyway.
At the Anderson Producing & Refining Corporation, Mr. O'Reilly has a meeting with Mr. Anderson to explain that he feels sure he's about the strike oil but that he's almost out of gas and needs a little money to keep the operation going. Mr. Anderson refuses, claiming he has no faith that the well will ever strike oil. Mr. O'Reilly remains confident the land is good. Mr. Anderson points out that Mr. O'Reilly only has thirty days left on his lease before the land reverts back to the company, and that they've been drilling for two years. Mr. Anderson offers Mr. O'Reilly one thousand dollars to vacate the land, but Mr. O'Reilly explains this time it's for himself and his son and that he's going to use his thirty days to keep drilling.
After Mr. O'Reilly leaves, Mr. Anderson's flunky, Lefty, points out that Mr. Anderson was being very generous with his offer. Mr. Anderson admits that he knows the land definitely oil rich and he wants it before Mr. O'Reilly can find it and enact the ten year lease pending if O'Reilly strikes oil.
In the schoolroom, Miss Jackson is teaching the class about primitive man. Fishtail is bored, trying to amuse himself at his desk in various ways. Through the open window, he can see the oil rig in the distance. When Miss Jackson's back is turned, Fishtail dives out the window for freedom. She chases after him. Outside, a man is getting out of his car at the oil fields when he sees Fishtail running across the field with Miss Jackson in pursuit. As Fishtail runs by, the man grabs him and wrestles him to the ground. Miss Jackson arrives and starts yelling at the man for hurting a child.
The man explains he was only trying to help but Miss Jackson is incensed, leading Fishtail away. She trips and the man catches her. She says, "Never mind, Helpful Harry! You've done enough!" "Not Harry . . . Henry. Henry Langford." Starting to warm to him, Miss Jackson tells Mr. Langford he can drive them back to the school.
Later at home, Fishtail and his father are doing dishes and Mr. O'Reilly is pointing out to his son that he knows Mr. Anderson is after something. There is suddenly a loud clanging noise coming from the rig. They run to the window to look and see a car speeding away. They hurry out to the field where they find one of the workers tied up and the drill left on full speed so it snapped. The worker says he didn't see who did it. Devastated, Mr. O'Reilly returns home with Fishtail behind him. Mr. O'Reilly suggests they take the thousand dollars from Mr. Anderson.
At Anderson's office, Mr. O'Reilly is about to take the money when Fishtail enters with Mr. Langford. Fishtail insists they don't want Anderson's money and they go back to the fields where Mr. Langford explains he has done a geological survey and wants to back Mr. O'Reilly. They begin work to fix the broken drill and get the rig running again. Fishtail is helping on the rig but Mr. Langford insists he go back to school. He suggests Fishtail let Miss Jackson tutor him at night, a situation that would not only catch Fishtail up on his studies but give Mr. Langford the chance to see Miss Jackson more often as well!
At the O'Reilly home, Miss Jackson is teaching Fishtail arithmetic using apples, except Mr. Langford is eating one. Going to get the man something to eat, Fishtail and Mr. Langford sing a duet about "My teacher told me so, she knows everything" on the piano. They sit down to eat and Fishtail takes cues from Mr. Langford on proper etiquette. Miss Jackson says the next night they'll study history and Fishtail protests, pointing out that the tutoring was all Mr. Langford's idea as a means to spend more time with her. Mr. Langford chases Fishtail around the house in anger.
Working on the oil rig again, Miss Jackson brings lunch for Mr. Langford and Fishtail. As they eat fried chicken, Fishtail talks about incompatibility in marriage, like a husband and wife both liking dark meat and there not being enough to go around.
Anderson's men go around and bully the independent oil drillers that Mr. Langford is backing, offering them less money than their oil is worth, then Mr. Anderson suggests to Mr. Langford that he should come and work for his company. Mr. Langford warns Mr. Anderson to back off. At The Wooden Rig bar, the workers are gathered. Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Langford arrive and a man calls everyone's attention. Mr. Langford addresses the crowd, urging the man to organize and demand decent prices for their oil from Anderson or they'll sell to someone else. After the meeting, Mr. Langford is attacked and beaten by Anderson's thugs. Miss Jackson tends to Mr. Langford's cuts and bruises at home and then they share a kiss.
The oil men confront Mr. Anderson about his dirty dealings and are assured by the man that he's going to be square with them and doesn't condone the behavior of his thugs. Once the men have left, Mr. Anderson tells Lefty that he wants him to take care of Mr. O'Reilly. Later at the oil rig, Mr. O'Reilly is riding the wench up to the top when the cable starts to break. Everyone below, including Fishtail, watches in horror as the wench swings out of control and the cable finally gives way, sending Mr. O'Reilly plunging to his death. Mr. Langford stops Fishtail from coming too close. Fighting back tears, Fishtail insists he's all right.
At the house, Mr. Langford tells Miss Jackson that he's convinced Mr. O'Reilly was murdered, and most likely by Mr. Anderson. Work on the rig continues. Days pass and finally they feel they are getting close. Lefty informs Mr. Anderson that the rig is close to striking oil at last. Mr. Anderson tells Lefty to bring Fishtail to him that night. That evening, after Mr. Langford says goodnight to Miss Jackson, a car follows him. Lefty and his thugs force Mr. Langford off the road and then order him to drive his car and follow them to a remote place where they are to hold him against his will until the thirty days have run out. Lefty leaves Mr. Langford under the supervision of a thug named Homer.
Fishtail arrives at Miss Jackson's home asking if she's seen Mr. Langford. She informs him he left two hours earlier for the rig. Fishtail says Mr. Anderson wants to see him and he doesn't want to go without Mr. Langford, but decides he must. When he arrives at Mr. Anderson's office, the man offers Fishtail a job on one of his rigs and insists Fishtail's well is worthless and that he's willing to take the lease back plus one thousand dollars. Fishtail calmly informs Mr. Anderson, "You're full of bunk," and leaves the office.
At the school, Fishtail tells Miss Jackson he's been looking for Mr. Langford all night. Fishtail goes back to the well. The workers get together at the Wooden Rig bar to organize and find Mr. Langford. At the location where Mr. Langford is being held, Homer is reading him Little Red Riding Hood. Langford takes the opportunity to pull the rug out from under Homer and escape. Lefty is assuring Mr. Anderson that Mr. Langford is secure under Homer, only for the phone to ring and Homer to tell them their prisoner escaped. Mr. Anderson is livid, insisting Lefty call his men and that he'll cave the well in himself.
At the well, some workers assure Fishtail they'll find Mr. Langford. Shortly afterward, Mr. Langford shows up. Fishtail informs him that everyone is at the Wooden Rig and about to start searching for him. Mr. Langford leaves Fishtail to run the rig and hurries to the bar to assure them they use the law to get Mr. Anderson instead of turning into a vigilante group. Mr. Anderson and his thugs show up at the rig to shut it down, holding Fishtail, Snowflake and the workers at gunpoint. Fishtail tries to rally the men to fight back but Lefty knocks him out. The thugs move the workers out and then set up explosives to blow up the rig.
Mr. Langford arrives and gets into a brawl with Lefty while the workers, still held at gunpoint, watch helplessly. The thugs light the fuse on the explosives and as they are about to run, one of them attempts to shoot Mr. Langford but ends up shooting Lefty in the back instead. The thugs run away from the rig and Mr. Langford races up to pick up Fishtail and carry him away from the rig before it explodes. The rig blows up in a huge fireball. A large portion of the structure ironically lands on the car where Mr. Anderson is sitting, crushing it and killing the man. Moments later, a geyser of oil shoots up through the ruins of the rig. Debris and oil rain down on Mr. Langford and he awakes Fishtail to show him the oil gusher. The workers run to cap the flow.
At dinner a week later, Mr. Langford points out that they'll have to stop calling him "Fishtail" and call him Clifford, which he doesn't like one bit. Miss Jackson suggests he go to military school and Clifford says he knows he wished they'd never struck oil. In a rather bizarre and unrelated ending, there follows a montage of military school scenes with a superimposed Clifford marching in uniform. The final scene shows Miss Jackson, Clifford and Mr. Langford sitting politely and sipping tea. Mr. Langford asks Clifford how he likes military school and Clifford begs him to call him "Fishtail" just once.
This was one of several films Frankie made with LeRoy Mason over the years. These included such exciting features as Men of Action and Valley of Wanted Men, as well as the Frankie Darro / Mantan Moreland mystery-comedy On the Spot. Interestingly enough, Frankie and LeRoy worked together in three 1926 Tom Tyler silent westerns as well; Arizona Streak, Born to Battle and Tom and His Pals.
Another person who would co-star with Frankie in other films is Fred 'Snowflake' Toones. A precursor to Frankie's teaming with comedian Mantan Moreland, Snowflake also provided the comic relief in the films Valley of Wanted Men, Born to Fight and Racing Blood.
Stanley Fields also appeared another Frankie film, playing the villainous father Rufe Turner in 1931's Way Back Home.
Director Russell Hopton has an uncredited part in the film playing a henchman named Joe!