Friday, December 17, 2004

Gene & Roy: a few more reviews

(These were originally posted on 10/10/03. I haven't changed these as much as some previous reviews.)

Riders of the Whistling Pines (1949) Gene Autry plays a forest ranger who has recently retired. While on his way to take over a campground he has purchased he shoots at a mountain lion, only to apparently shoot a fellow ranger (Ranger Carter played by Jason Robards, Sr., father of the better known Oscar winner). Even though the death is ruled a 'hunting accident' many of the town's residents, including the man's daughter Helen (played by Patricia White, who continued working in television & film into the early 1990s).

Naturally, we all know that the ranger was actually killed by Bill (Damian O'Flynn), a henchman for the local logging company. It seems that Ranger Carter had discovered that many of the trees were infested with a destructive moth and logging had to be stopped. Once cleared of the crime Gene is put in charge of spraying the forest, which puts him at odds with the loggers. Of course in the end, Gene wins the day and the girl.

Plenty of singing by Gene and others along the way, plus Clayton Moore (known for his long-time role as The Lone Ranger) does a nice turn as another logging company henchman. Moore actually displays a comedic side in a scene involving a ringing phone, Moore does a 'slow burn' rivaling Edgar Kennedy at his best. This is typical Autry fare, but fun and actually touching in some scenes with a Jimmy Lloyd as a fellow pilot who mourns his late wife.

King of the Cowboys (1943) This wartime flick exists in two versions. The DVD has the version shown in general release, followed by the additional scenes filmed for the Armed Forces. In the general release film the head saboteur (Lloyd Corrigan) is the governor's secretary, while in the 'government' version he is an unnamed industrialist. Why they change the occupation of his character doesn't make any sense to me, since he meets the same fate in both films. My guess is that the DOD didn't think our fighting forces should see a film in which a government employee (even a male secretary) is working against the best interests of the U.S.

Anyway, Roy and sidekick Smiley Burnette are asked by the governor to bring in a group of saboteurs, who have been blowing up warehouses and otherwise disrupting the war effort. The gang is never said to be working for the Nazis, nor is there more than a few mentions of the ongoing war (mostly shown in newspaper headlines or in posters on walls talking about buying bonds, etc.). Roy finds himself in enough life threatening circumstances to fill your typical Republic serial, but he's able to take down the gang, plus sing a number of songs all in a single feature. No wonder the guy was so popular!

My Pal Trigger (1946) Roy & Dale Evans had already appeared in close to a dozen films together at this point. Here they are joined by George "Gabby" Hayes, this time playing rancher Gabby Kendrick, the father of Susan (with Dale in this role) and owner of Golden Sovereign. Roy seeks to mate the Sovereign with his own mare in hopes of raising the offspring, but Gabby refuses the request and insults Rogers while doing so. When Sovereign is killed later by the rancher who first rustles the horse from the Kendrick ranch, Roy is found at the scene and arrested. We then follow Roy as he first escapes and later turns himself in, along with Trigger who had been born during his travels.

It is a convoluted tale, but entertaining and it gives Roy a chance to sing, ride and get into several fights (all of them with multiple antagonists) which he doesn't always win. A fictionalized tale of how Roy got Trigger and I doubt that anyone, even the kids in the audience, took it for the truth. A solid Rogers/Evans effort and you can never have too much of that.

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