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Archive for the ‘Gene Autry’ Category

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Directed by John English
Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Story by Alan James
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney

Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Dell Middler), Jim Davis (Wade McQuarrie), Bob Steele (Walt Middler), Pat Buttram (Pat “Cougar” Claggett), Terry Frost (Wyatt), Edgar Dearing (Colonel Middler), Paul Frees (Narrator)

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Silver Canyon (1951) is an interesting late-period Gene Autry movie. It’s a Civil War picture, with Jim Davis playing Wade McQuarrie, a Quantrill-like Confederate guerilla. McQuarrie’s wreaking havoc on the Union’s supply lines and Army scout Autry is sent to sort it all out.

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These later Autry’s give up a song or two to make room for more action, a trend with most Singing Cowboy pictures from this period. This one even tosses in a lynch mob for good measure.

You get the usual Autry cast from this period — Gail Davis and Pat Buttram — with the added benefit of Jim Davis as the stylish, ruthless guerrilla leader — and Bob Steele as a Confederate sympathizer who gets mixed up with the raiders. As we’ve all said around here a million times, it’s often the roster of character actors who take these things up a notch, and that’s the case here. Factor in the great Paul Frees as narrator, and this one stands out among Gene’s later pictures.

Silver Canyon LC

Gene Autry always surrounded himself with real pros, usually folks he’d worked with time and time again. From John English to Gerald Geraghty to William Bradford, and from the Iverson Ranch to Pioneertown, this would’ve been a very familiar undertaking for all concerned — including those of us watching it.

Silver Canyon is another example of the care that’s gone into preserving Autry’s movies. The Image DVD is terrific, with the usual lineup of extras. It has not been re-issued as part of the four-picture sets from Timeless Media Group.

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Directed by John English
Written by Norman S. Hall
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney

Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Melody Colton), Kirby Grant (Lt. Randolph Mason), James H. Griffith (The Apache Kid), Philip Van Zandt (Curt Reidler), Pat Buttram (Shadrach Jones), Champion

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This might put me in the minority, but I prefer Gene Autry’s later pictures. Could be for any number of reasons. His acting’s better. There’s a greater emphasis on action. Gail Davis is often around. And some actually take place in the Old West.

Indian Territory capture 1Case in point: 1950’s Indian Territory. Autry’s a Confederate veteran serving with the U.S. cavalry now that the war’s over. He’s been sent to get to the bottom of Indian attacks on settlers — and ends up tangling with The Apache Kid (James H. Griffith) and an Austrian gunrunner (Philip Van Zandt). With the help of sidekick Shadrach Jones (Pat Buttram) and the daughter of a local rancher (Gail Davis), Gene restores order to Apache Springs.

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The supporting cast can really make a movie like this, and this one is certainly no exception. James H. Griffith wouldn’t be my top-of-mind pick to portray an Apache renegade, but he’s so good, you have no trouble looking past that. Gail Davis displays some of the spunk that made her Annie Oakley series (produced by Gene’s company) such a treat. And Pat Buttram’s sidekick role doesn’t feel nailed onto the story as is so often the case.

Indian Territory was filmed around Pioneertown, the live-in movie set not far from Joshua Tree and Palm Springs — developed by Russell Hayden, Dick Curtis and Roy Rogers.

Pat Buttram (from the Melody Ranch Theater introduction included on the DVD): “They thought it’d be a great location and they built this Western street… they built it to turn a stagecoach around in. That made it so wide, when you had a crowd scene, you had to send seven busloads of people up there to even be seen on those streets. We’d have to use a little corner here and a little corner there.”

Indian Territory ad
Indian Territory is available in Volume 2 of The Gene Autry Collection — put together by Image Entertainment and later Timeless. There was a stand-alone release (from Image) prior to that. With either one, you get a gorgeous transfer and plenty of extras, from the Melody Ranch Theater stuff featuring Gene and Pat to a radio show and still gallery. Gene’s films have been treated with great care, as Indian Territory proves. Recommended.

UPDATE: Came across this signed still of James Griffith. Judging from the costume, it’s from Indian Territory.

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Happy Thanksgiving.

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To mark Thanksgiving this year, here’s the sleeve to Gene Autry’s 1950 holiday record (a 78), “Little Johnny Pilgrim,” backed by “Guffy The Goofy Gobbler,” a retread of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Gene Gail Cow Town

The photo’s Gene with Gail Davis in Cow Town (1950). Here’s wishing everyone a good, safe holiday filled with family, friends and plenty of goofy gobbler.

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Happy Birthday, Gene Autry.

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Gene Autry
(September 29, 1907 – October 2, 1998)

Let’s remember Gene Autry on his birthday. And if you’re wondering what I want for Gene’s birthday, this’ll do.

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Two Gene Autry pictures, Sunset In Wyoming (1941) and The Cowboy And The Indians (1949), will be screened at The Autry in Griffith Park on December 27 at noon. What makes this a big deal is that The Cowboy And The Indians features Gene singing his song “Here Comes Santa Claus.” It’s a real solid Autry movie all around.

I’m working on an article on the film for ClassicFlix.com, and have really enjoyed digging into in the last week or so.

Now if someone would run Trail Of Robin Hood (1950)!

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riders-in-the-sky-lobby-card

Directed by John English
Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Director Of Photography: William Bradford

CAST: Gene Autry, Gloria Henry (Anne Lawson), Pat Buttram (Chuckwalla), Mary Beth Hughes (Julie Stewart), Robert Livingston (Rock McCleary), Steve Darrell (Ralph Lawson), Alan Hale, Jr. (Marshal Riggs), Tom London (Old Man Roberts), Hank Patterson (Luke).

South Of The Border (1939), The Strawberry Roan (1948) and a few others are really terrific, but as I see it, Riders In The Sky (1949) is Gene Autry’s best film. It’s a bit darker than the typical Autry entry, even though the plot’s pretty standard (Gene’s friend has been framed for murder by one of those sinister gambler/saloon owner types). But it makes inspired use of Stan Jones’ hit song “Ghost Riders In The Sky” for a moving scene where a dying man sees the ghost riders coming for him.

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I’m not going to name any names — don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. Just know that this is territory very few B Westerns rode into, and you won’t forget it. The writers of these later Autry pictures seemed to be going for something a little different, even if they started with a basic plot. Some say this one was retooled a bit (and retitled) to work in the song. If so, it was done brilliantly. It’s seamless and it makes the movie.

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The cast is tops in this one, too. This was Pat Buttram’s first outing as Gene’s sidekick, though he had appeared in The Strawberry Roan. Gloria Henry is spunky as the daughter of the framed man. Bob Livingston makes a great bad guy. Mary Beth Hughes does all she can with the usual saloon girl role. Hank Patterson’s fun as a stage driver. Of course, he and Buttram would appear together on Green Acres over 15 years later. But the acting honors go to Tom London as a grizzled old prospector. He rarely got meaty parts like this one, and he’s marvelous.

Riders In The Sky looks heavenly on DVD, one of the four films in Gene Autry Collection #8, benefitting from that large-scale Autry restoration project. The others in the set look just as good. Timeless Media Group gives us plenty of extras, including the Nashville Channel intros from Gene and Pat Buttram, at a terrific price. Highly, highly recommended.

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The upcoming Gene Autry Collection from Timeless Media Group, number 8, contains some good ones. It’ll be available November 18. I haven’t seen one of these yet where the quality wouldn’t knock your socks off.

Saginaw Trail (1953)
One of Gene’s last features, this one mixes things up by taking place in the 1820s. Which means Gene’s Levis and flashing shirts are nowhere to be seen — and there’s a swordfight!

Riders In The Sky (1949)
With a picture built around the song “Ghost Riders In The Sky,” how could it not be terrific?

Riders Of The Whistling Pines (1949)
Gene’s up against crooked loggers as deadly insects infest our forests.

Trail To San Antone (1947)
Gene’s involved in horse racing this time, with Peggy Stewart along for the ride.

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