"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Arizona Trail (Universal, 1943)

What can I tell you? It's a mid-40s Tex Ritter oater.
Still, you could give it a go...

You will perhaps forgive me, Tex Ritter fans out there, if I announce to you that I am not the world’s great admirer of Tex. The whole singing cowboy genre left me a bit cold as a young boy (too much singing, too many girls and not enough shooting) and it seems to have lasted. Still, I’ll watch the occasional Gene Autry, Roy Rogers or Tex Ritter oater now and then, and I saw Arizona Trail the other day. And I must admit that although it did seem very dated (a mid-1940s picture looking very much like a mid-30s programmer), it was quite fun.
Very typical of the genre
It starts off with some Paul Sawtell music, which remains cheerfully chirpy throughout. There are only four songs, so that’s not too bad really, and although they are a bit on the cheesy side, they do have the Red River Valley Boys to join in, which is good.
The Red River Valley Boys croon their tune
Fuzzy Knight does his patented humorous sidekick act (though plays down the ‘amusing’ stammer). He is a corporal back from the Spanish-American War in 1898 with his pal, Sgt. Tex. They are in San Francisco, and get immediately into a comic song. So far, so not very promising.
Tex and Fuzzy
But it soon transpires that Tex’s dad, back on the AZ ranch, is unwell and needs him, so Tex and Fuzzy hop a stage and are met in the classic dusty town by none other Glenn Strange (so we immediately know there is skullduggery afoot).

How I love movies with Glenn Strange in them. Strange (1899 – 1973) was a 6’6” deputy sheriff, rodeo performer and cowboy of Cherokee descent. He was in (wait for it) 258 Westerns from The Mounted Stranger in 1930 to a 1973 episode of Gunsmoke. Now that’s dedication. He looked so tough and imposing, a bit like Leo Gordon, though sadly he nearly always had bit parts and rarely got the chance to stand out. That’s the case in Arizona Trail where he’s just one of the heavies (‘Henchman Matt’). Still, it livens the movie up.
Glenn the Great
The girl is Janet Shaw as Martha, usually addressed as ‘Popgun Annie’ because of her propensity to resort to the use of firearms at the drop of a hat. I didn’t recognize her and indeed she only did 4 Westerns, all very B ones.

Of course there’s a plot to grab Tex’s dad’s ranch. Usually it’s a besuited banker, Victor Jory maybe, who leads the plot but this time (and I can’t think of another Western where this happens, correct me if you can) it’s the obese doctor (Joseph Greene) who is the villain. He smiles and pretends to be Tex’s dad’s friend but in reality is scheming to knock him off and get the ranch.
Tex deals with the fat doc
Dennis Moore is Wayne, Tex’s rival. Moore was often cast, either as hero or villain, in oaters all through the 1930s and 40s, especially with Buster Crabbe and Buck Jones. He got the lead or co-lead in serials every now and then, including Perils of the Wilderness (1956) and Blazing the Overland Trail (1956) but mostly he backed up the likes of Tex Ritter. But with Tex crooning Stay Away from my Heart at the gal, poor old Wayne doesn’t stand a chance.
Dennis Moore importunes Tex and Janet
Fuzzy has a bit of actor’s business with a boomerang.

Go on, give it a go if it comes on TV, for old times’ sake. You probably won't regret it.


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