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Snakes in Movies
Desert Gold (1936)
Spoiler Alert !

Some of these pictures and descriptions may give away plot details that you might not want to know before watching the film.
This is an early western talkie with a couple of funny snake scenes, including a fun parody of the cowboy-shooting-a-rattlesnake cliche followed by a real cowboy-shooting-a-rattlesnake scene. A trigger-happy tenderfoot learns that not all snakes found in the desert are dangerous and need to be shot at, then later he learns that some snakes are dangerous and need to be shot. Both scenes are very unusual for a western, with interesting and factual information about snakes that are used realistically in the movie. The script is based on a novel by Zane Grey but I don't know if the snake scenes are from the book or added by the screenwriters.

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Desert Gold Desert Gold Desert Gold

Three men are riding horses on a trail in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona looking for a gold mine. One of them, an inexperienced mining engineer, jumps off his horse, and struggles to hold his horse while awkwardly firing his gun two times at a snake and missing. One of the other cowboys stop him:

Cowboy: "Wait a minute!"
Tenderfoot: "He was about to attack me and my horse."
Cowboy: "Not him. He's just a gopher snake. He wouldn't hurt you. See, (strokes the snake) perfectly harmless."
Tenderfoot: "He doesn't look it."
Cowboy: "These things catch gophers and bugs. It's against the law to kill one of them. In fact out here it's about the only thing it is against the law to kill."
(He puts the snake back on the ground.)
Tenderfoot: "Yeah, well, I still don't like the look in his eyes."

Desert Gold Desert Gold Desert Gold
Desert Gold Desert Gold Desert Gold
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Desert Gold Desert Gold Desert Gold

Later, after the men rescue an Indian chief who was shot by the bad guys, the Indian sends the tenderfoot out to find him a medicinal herb. He finds the plant but there's a rattlesnake next to it. He tries to shoo the snake away and then talks to it, telling the snake that he just needs a little bit of herb and then he can leave and the snake can stay, but instead, the snake strikes at him. He doesn't seem to understand that the snake is a dangerous rattlesnake as he keeps talking to it and making fun of its hissing. (Rattlesnakes don't hiss, they rattle, so it's possible the subtitles think that the rattling sounds we hear are hissing sounds.) He tells the snake that he met its relative (the gopher snake he found earlier) then reaches down to grab the snake, promising to throw it 20 feet away. But before he can get close enough to the rattlesnake that it can bite him, his partner shoots the snake, telling him: "You fool, that was a rattlesnake!) (We dont' see the snake getting shot, we only hear a gunshot sound.) The tenderfoot then pretends that he knew it was a dangerous snake all along.

The snakes we see are both real, but the gopher snake may be dead. The rattlesnake is live but obviously not one that is in the same space with the actors. Both species are common snakes in Arizona where the movie is set.