Beloved for launching comedy stars such as Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and the Our Gang kids, producer Hal Roach added a handful of westerns to his repertoire in the late 1920s. Roach had a distribution deal with MGM, and his oaters, although nowhere as popular (or well made) as the comedies, enjoyed that studio's great distribution system. In The Desert's Toll, in which a cowboy goes in search of the villain who murdered his girlfriend's father, Roach attempted to turn handsome, mustachioed second-lead Francis McDonald into a sagebrush star. McDonald was almost too "pretty" to play a cowpoke believably, however, and the attempt proved a failure. As it turned out, the actor did not weather the passing of time too well and eventually gave up leading roles in favor of a series of especially despicable villains. His career lasted well into the 1960s.
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