Needing another Bad Movie of the Week, I naturally fled to the refuge of Internet TV—Amazon Prime Video in this case. The Western genre of the 1930s and 1940s is a solid vein of low-budget productions. It may have been that money was tight in those days (The Great Depression), and people needed cheap entertainment. For what it’s worth, it’s a cinematic archaeological study.
It wasn’t until Stagecoach in 1939 that westerns started to grow up. The first really adult western was Shane in 1953. In the meantime a lot of mediocre talent found success, wealth, and ultimate prominence. Roy Rogers grew to stardom playing catch-up to Gene Autry, the original “singing cowboy.” He was in an early Gene Autry film, where the two had a fight scene. Autry won, according to Rogers, AKA Leonard Sly.
This is Texas Legionaires, also billed as The Man from Music Mountain, from 1943, released through Republic Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia, and the poster shot shows the original title and spelling. The Man from Music Mountain is a more apt title, since there is no way you can watch this movie and spot scenery that resembles Texas.
Roy Rogers plays himself, riding into town after a career of singing on the radio with his group, the Sons of the Pioneers. He is met with a home-coming celebration in his honor, such festivities being marred by an open dispute between cattle ranchers and sheep herders.
The younger Winters sister, Penny (Ann Gillis) has taken a shine to Roy, who has his eyes on the older sister.
The situation grows deadly as Roy’s friend Adobe Joe Wallace (Hank Bell) gets wise to Marsh’s nefarious scheme. Before he can tell Roy, he is dry-gulched by the two rowdies.
Leaving out a load of detail, Roy gets himself secretly deputized and begins an investigation of the goings on. He fakes an accident to get himself ensconced as an invalid at the Winters ranch. An creditable performance is delivered by Renie Riano as Christina, the housekeeper.
Following an interesting series of reversals, the movie concludes with the standard shootout at the Winters ranch house. Roy tracks down the fleeing Victor Marsh and pulls him off his horse in a final showdown.
It was de rigueur for these movies. We see a wagon load of running gun battles, men on horses chasing others, letting fly with their six guns at impossible range. It’s all for show. Viewers want to see some gun smoke and hear bullets fly.
This is a singing cowboy flick, so there needs to be some singing. Roy sings. His sidekick Pat Brady sings. The Sons of the Pioneers sing. Nothing is added to the plot.
The sheep herder versus cattle rancher theme was eventually settled in The Sheepman, in 1958, wherein Glenn Ford starts up a sheep operation in cattle country just to stir up a fight with a crooked rancher. He sells off the sheep after winning the battle. John Wayne pretty much closed down the genre in Big Jake. In the title role, he rescues a sheep herder from hanging and purchases the flock. And that was about the last we ever heard of sheep herders versus cattle ranchers, giving this production archaeological value.
Roy Rogers went on to bigger things, including a successful music career and a restaurant chain bearing his name. He died in 1998, a few months before Gene Autry.