Monday, December 17, 2007


I've sampled the "singing cowboy" genre once before (LAND BEYOND THE LAW) and had no truly compelling reason for another trip to that well, but I'd never seen Gene Autry in a movie (I really only know him for "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer") so I thought I'd give this a whirl. Autry plays himself, kind of, not an actor but a singing cowboy named Gene Autry. The British owner of the ranch Autry works on has died and his young son (Ronald Sinclair), a Little Lord Fauntleroy-type, has arrived in the States with a guardian to sell the land to cranky Bill Elliott. Of course, Autry and his doofus sidekick (Smiley Burnette) had promised the father they would turn the boy into a Real Westerner and they do, rather quickly, nicknaming him "Little Spud." With that plot point out of the way, Autry has to deal with an angry Elliott who is not only mad about losing the ranch, but also mad that he is still owed money by the father's estate, and mad that Autry decides that he and the boy should get into Elliott's business, selling horses to the Army camp nearby. Autry and Elliott both put in identical bids to the Army, so the colonel (Guy Usher) sets up a race to determine the winner--and believe it or not, Autry's men wear white hats and Elliott's wear black! Elliott tries to sabotage the outcome by setting fire to a barn, Autry has a flirtation with the colonel's daughter (Judith Allen), who is pretending she's a maid, and Burnette raises multiple instances of havoc at the Army camp. There is an irritating running gag in which Autry is always shouting at the colonel because he thinks the old man is deaf. There are a few songs, one of which, "Ridin' the Range," is a rather gloomy song about how miserable a cowboy's life is. The Army camp is called Fort Wayne, perhaps in tribute to John Wayne (this film and Wayne's early westerns were made by Republic Pictures). Autry is OK though he doesn't have much of a personality--mostly he displays a mellow sturdiness. A decent little B-western. [DVD]

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