Sunday, September 28, 2008


Roy Rogers is as much a part of my pop culture background as he is for most baby boomers, but until now, I had never seen him in a movie. When TCM had a Roy Rogers day a while back, running mostly hour-long B-westerns, I picked the one that sounded most interesting to watch. Here, Rogers plays a dual role, and one of them is a bad guy! Well, they're both bad guys, but one is the same kind of revisionist "Jesse James as Robin Hood" figure which Tyrone Power played in 1939. This movie is framed from the beginning as an alternate history, a "what if" tale in which James survives his notorious shooting and goes underground to help common folk who have been bilked by the railroad; slimy Pierre Watkin gets settlers to work the land with the promise that they can buy it for $3 an acre, but later he reneges on the deal and tells them the price is $100. James, working with the tacit approval of the local sheriff (Gabby Hayes), holds up trains carrying railroad money and gives the booty to pals of his so they can buy their land. Two women reporters (Sally Payne and Gale Storm) hoping to make names for themselves come to town to report on the supposed return of James. Also in town is rough tough gambler Clint Burns (also Roy Rogers), a Jesse James look-alike, who is hired by Watkin to create havoc like burning down farmhouses to turn the people against James. I must admit that at one point. I was unsure of which Rogers was the good guy and which the bad guy, but by final shootout, all works out, and Storm even gives up reporting to ride off into the sunset with good ol' Jesse. Rogers is actually not bad, especially as the bad guy when he gets to glower silently rather than smile and sing. This was also my first Gabby Hayes movie, and I had to laugh at how much he sounded like Claude Starrett's imitation of him in BLAZING SADDLES. [TCM]

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