Lionel Barrymore and Ronald Reagan star, respectively, as grandfather Henry Jones and grandson Gil Jones, two proprietors of a Mexican ranch, in The Bad Man. Gil is overjoyed to discover that his childhood sweetheart, Lucia (Laraine Day) has returned to town, but feels slightly dismayed by her marriage to Morgan Pell (Tom Conway), a Manhattan businessman. Later that day, Mexican outlaw Pancho Lopez (Wallace Beery rides into town and causes trouble for the good folks by rustling all of their cattle and injuring Gil. Meanwhile, Morgan admits to Lucia that he's worried about the possibility of her still being in love with Gil, but she reassures him that this isn't the case, and reminds him of her undying commitment to their marriage. One month later, Mr. Hardy (Henry Travers, a banker, arrives at the ranch, and acts suspiciously by revealing his overeagerness to foreclose. In a desperate move, Henry makes a feeble attempt to stave off Hardy's actions by trying to convince Gil to marry Hardy's daughter, Angela (Nydia Westman). Meanwhile, "Red" Giddings (Chill Wills secretly pines for Angela, who is the great love of his life.
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Morgan then crops up and offers $20,000 for the ranch, alerting Henry to an ulterior motive -- he gets Morgan and Hardy to confess their suspicion of oil on the property. Gil hastily signs the deed that gives the ranch over to Morgan. Just when matters cannot seem to get any worse, Lopez turns up once again and takes everyone hostage, except for Gil, who has trekked off to the barn. Lopez makes none-too-subtle advances to Lucia and indicates his warm feelings toward Henry, as well as his innate dislike of Morgan and Hardy. When Henry decides to play off of this dislike by informing Lopez of both men's attempts to wrangle the ranch away from him, a bidding war ensues, and Lopez craftily attempts to determine how much ransom he can get for his captives. Gil then draws a gun on him, but is overcome by Lopez's men; Lopez prepares to hang Gil, but suddenly recognizes Gil as the same man who saved his life several years earlier. He then works toward fixing the financial problems that are plaguing the Joneses, and the romantic problems that are plaguing Gil, Lucia, Red and Angela. Based on a war-horse stage play by Porter Emerson Browne, The Bad Man had been previously filmed in 1923 and 1930; Boris Karloff starred as a Chinese warlord in a thinly disguised 1937 reworking of The Bad Man, titled West of Shanghai. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi