Directed by William Witney
Associate Producer: Edward J. White
Original Screen Play by A. Sloan Nibley
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
CAST: Roy Rogers, Trigger, Jane Frazee (Taffy Baker), Andy Devine (Cookie Bullfincher), Stephanie Bachelor (Jean Loring), Roy Barcroft (Matt Wilkes), Chester Conklin (Old Timer) and Bob Nolan and The Sons of the Pioneers.
In what has to be one of the worst examples of shortsightedness in Hollywood’s history, Republic Pictures cut the Trucolor Roy Rogers films to a TV-friendly 54 minutes from running times of around 67-75 minutes each. And, of course, the TV prints were black and white. What’s worse, they cut the original negatives and tossed the “scraps,” so the story goes.
Tracking down the King Of The Cowboys’ Trucolor movies is a real challenge for DVD labels and collectors alike (a fact covered in a recent post). So when another turns up uncut and actually in color, it’s a real cause for celebration. Such is the case with the recently-released Springtime In The Sierras (1947) from Film Chest. Transferred from an ultra-rare complete 16mm color print, it may not be something you’d use to show off your home theater system to the neighbors, but that’s not the point, is it? It’s Roy, it’s complete, it’s in color and it’s now in your hot little hands.
Roy Rogers is after a gang that’s slaughtering wild game illegally. There’s a lot of money in the meat, and these guys are willing to kill (both animals and people) to keep their operation going. Roy’s old friend Captain Foster (Harry V. Cheshire) is murdered, and Roy takes on the gang — with the usual Roy Rogers/William Witney mix of music, comedy and lots and lots of action. There are at least three fistfights, with one between Roy Rogers and Roy Barcroft taking place in a mammoth freezer full of slaughtered game. (Watching these later Rogers films, you have to remind yourself at times that these were aimed at kids.)
There’s plenty of singing, too, which is a real treat with Bob Nolan and the Sons Of The Pioneers on hand. Andy Devine provides his usual comic relief. Dale Evans isn’t around, but Jane Frazee is — and there’s Stephanie Bachelor as one of the deer-killing villains. Sloan Nibley wrote a number of the later Rogers films. This was one of his first, and it shows his flair for story (usually a somewhat oddball one) and gift for balancing the various elements that make up a Roy Rogers movie. Around the time Roy left Republic for TV, Nibley wrote a few good Western features (Carson City and Springfield Rifle, both 1952) before settling into a busy life as a television writer.
The stars here are Roy Rogers and director William Witney. Working together, they created a tough, lean, fast-paced series of films that are slowly being recognized as the gems they are — something those of us who read and write this blog have known for decades. Witney’s under-cranked action scenes are incredible in Springtime In The Sierras, with a couple riding stunts that have to be seen to be believed. (I’m not one to stop a picture midstream, but there’s a riding/shooting stunt in the last reel I had to stop and really study.)
So what does the DVD look like? I’m happy to report that it’s all there, from Republic logo to Republic logo. It’s a little soft, attributable to the 16mm material and the Trucolor process. (That’s a screen grab to the left.) If you’ve seen Trucolor before (during this period when it was two-strip instead of three), you know what to expect. It’s a long way from Technicolor, with a rather other-wordly range of hues that I find beautiful. The disc also includes Roy and Dale hosting an episode of The Chevy Show from Easter, 1961. It’s a black and white kinescope of a color program, complete with Corvair commercials and appearances by Martin Milner and George Maharis of Route 66.
Film Chest has done us all a favor by helping us check another color Rogers off our Want Lists. The fact that they did it with care makes it all the better. Highly recommended.