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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Crimson Trail (Universal, 1935)


Buck rides for Universal





 
 
 
From time to time on this blog we have mentioned the great Buck Jones (left). I am especially fond of the lyrical and charming John Ford-directed Just Pals, a Fox picture of 1920, in which Buck played the town bum, Bim.

In my review of that movie I gave a brief summary of Jones’s career:

Buck was one of the great silent cowboys. Brought up (according to some) on a ranch in Indian Territory, he learned roping and riding early and after Army service he joined the Miller Brothers’ 101 Ranch Wild West show and became their champ bronco buster. He settled in Hollywood and got work on many Westerns, especially with Tom Mix, then starred in his own. With his famous horse Silver, Buck was one of the most popular actors in the genre, and at one point, amazingly, he was receiving more fan mail than any actor in the world. He successfully made the transition to talkies [at Columbia] and starred in nearly 150 pictures. He died aged 50 in 1942 after receiving horrific burns in a fire in a night club.

I’ll be writing more on Buck’s Western career later on.

Today, though, we’ll have a look at one of his Universal pictures of the early 30s. We were talking the other day about how Ken Maynard separated from the studio in 1934 (Universal boss Carl Laemmle couldn’t stand his appalling behavior anymore and thought his last Western really bad; Maynard went off in a huff to Mascot). Laemmle replaced Maynard with Buck Jones – billed then as Charles ‘Buck’ Jones - as his principal Western star. Buck led in four Westerns for the studio in 1934, and seven in ’35, of which The Crimson Trail was one.


The first thing you notice is the poor quality of the print and the sound. Buck’s Columbia pictures are often in quite good nick but some of these Universal ones would benefit greatly from remastering. Still, they are ‘period’ artefacts and you live with it.

There’s rarely any music either, perhaps as a budget-saving measure. These pictures are hardly big productions. But actually silence can make a refreshing change every now and then.

One reason I like The Crimson Trail is because a young Ward Bond is the bad guy. I say young, but maybe youngish would be nearer the mark: he was born in 1903. He had made his Western debut with his great pal John Wayne in an uncredited bit-part in The Big Trail in 1930, and he then became a regular heavy in Buck Jones oaters (this was already his seventh). In The Crimson Trail he is a ranch foreman, Luke, who is secretly leading a gang of rustlers, the skunk. You can tell he’s bad because he drinks. Prohibition had ended in 1933 but it had left its mark. Heroes usually refused alcohol in post-‘33 Westerns while the bad guys swigged from a bottle.

Buck is captured by Ward's gang. Loco delights.

Luke shoots rancher Bellair (Carl Stockdale, who alibied one of the key suspects in the sensational Hollywood murder of director William Desmond Taylor in 1922, and was in 116 Westerns, from 1913 to 1942).

Stockdale

Buck and Silver come to the aid of the fallen Bellair and his glam daughter, Kitty (Polly Ann Young, Duke’s amour in The Man from Utah). But Buck is nephew to Bellair’s rival and enemy, Carter (Charles K French, a Western regular ever since The Mexican’s Crime in 1909), and despite the kindness Buck has shown, he is persona non grata at the Bellair ranch.

Buck goes to the aid of the wounded rancher - and the fair maiden, natch.
Silver looks protectively on.

Buck finds the outlaws’ cabin and overhears their wicked plans but is captured by the hooligans. Now we are introduced to someone even badder than Ward Bond, the evil and aptly-named Loco. He seems to have strayed over from another Universal lot, one where a horror movie was being made, for he has a crazed and manic laugh and delights in telling his victim about the pain he is shortly to undergo. He toys with a grisly axe.

Bleifer is Loco

Loco is played with gusto by John Bleifer, born in Poland in the then Russian Empire, known for his work on the 1935 Les Miserables. It could just as easily have been Lon Chaney. Bleifer didn’t do Westerns as a rule.

Will Buck escape? Heart-in-mouth time

However, Loco is cheated of his prey for Buck escapes, you will be amazed to hear. Meanwhile, though, the Bellair ranch hands, led by Tom (Charles Brinley, a Western stalwart who appeared in 126 titles from 1916 to ’39) want revenge for the shooting of their boss, and with torches they ride at night to burn the Carter ranch.

Now Luke abducts the fair Kitty and takes her to the cabin-lair, where, in pure 30s-horror style the mad Loco has designs on her, in a sadly innocent way, and she recoils in horror. Luke ain’t pleased with that either because when he discovers Loco pawing the girl he shoots him. Luke then puts Kitty on his horse and, riding double, they head for the border, but of course they are no match for Silver. There’s a great fistfight between Buck and Ward. The girl sends the clever Silver to find the ranch hands. “Silver, go fetch them!” He duly gallops off, finds Tom and the boys, and when Tom asks the nag, “Something wrong?” Silver nods and neighs and leads them to the battling duo. There’s a “surprise” ending when we find that Loco isn’t dead after all, the bad guys are bested, the two ranchers make up and move in together (Carter’s ranch having been burned down), Buck gets the girl and we end with a kiss. A most satisfactory time was had by all. The End.

Grippng showdown shoot-out in the rocks

Buck wears make-up that appears to have been applied with a trowel. But the whole thing is gripping. My dog Wyatt was fascinated throughout and was especially interested in the galloping scenes, of which there are many. Buck particularly spends most of the picture galloping hither and yon.


 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Wyatt Earp’s Revenge (Sony, 2012)


Wyatt leads the posse




 
 
Yet another chapter in the long story of the fictional Wyatt Earp was written for us in 2012, in the shape of the Darren Benjamin Shepherd screenplay from a story by Jeffrey Schenck and Peter Sullivan for the straight-to-video production of Wyatt Earp’s Revenge. Like most Wyatt Earp stories, it is complete hooey historically, but we don’t watch screen Wyatts for fact; we watch them as fiction.
 

This one starts in San Francisco in 1907 with a young journalist (David O’Donnell) interviewing an aging Wyatt (he would have been 59) about an event that took place when he was in Dodge in 1878. The older Wyatt is played by Val Kilmer, 53. Mr. Kilmer was of course Doc Holliday in 1993, in Tombstone, but here he was been promoted. The younger Wyatt, for most of the film, is played by Canadian Shawn Roberts, 28 in 2012 (Wyatt was actually 30 so it’s pretty close). This was Mr. Roberts’s first and last Western, to date. He’s OK, I guess. He plays a rather stern and unsmiling Wyatt, very tough naturally.

Val as Wyatt
 
Wyatt Earp in 1907
 
The plot is based on a soft-focus lovey-dovey romance between Wyatt and the singer-showgirl Dora Hand (Diana DeGarmo). There is no mention of Earp’s real consort, his common-law wife, the prostitute Mattie Blaylock. There is actually no evidence at all for any affair between Earp and Hand. Spike Kenedy (Daniel Booko), who has become in this film a sort of outlaw leader with a gang (he wasn’t), shoots at night into the house of his enemy Mayor Kelley (which is helpfully labeled MAYOR KELLEY) and kills Dora – Kelley is away at Fort Dodge at the time. That part is true. Marshal Wyatt Earp, as angry as he is sad, raises a posse to track down Kenedy. Of course Earp wasn’t marshal of anywhere and it was County Sheriff Bat Masterson who led the posse, of which Assistant Marshal Earp was a member. But in this version Bat (Matt Dallas) is little more than a flunky. They also have with them other minions: Charlie Bassett (Scott Whyte) is on the posse and later Wyatt recruits Bill Tilghman (Levi Fiehler) as he is half Indian and a famed tracker. Bassett was in fact the marshal of Dodge then. Tilghman, who was not half Indian, would become marshal of Dodge but not until 1884. In 1878 he was a deputy to Sheriff Masterson.

Bat Masterson, Charles Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Bill Tilghman 

The screen versions

Wyatt blames all the violence on the Civil War. “You have to understand the War Between the States. The war formed us, made us who we are. After killing your own cousins, your own brothers, killing strangers meant nothin'. Lawless times followed those long dark years.” He also tells how his family suffered when his daddy went off to the war (he didn’t actually).

What really happened? Well, Jim Kenedy, known as Spike (the photograph left is said to be of him), was the son of rich rancher Capt. Mifflin Kenedy of the Rancho de Los Laureles in Texas. The younger Kenedy, a known rake, had got into a scrape in Ellsworth back in 1872 when he shot cattleman Print Olive (click the link to read my essay on him), whom he accused of cheating at cards. Olive’s bodyguard and fixer, Jim Kelly, shot Kenedy in the leg. Friends of Kenedy got him away and back to his daddy’s ranch. He seems to have led a reasonably quiet life there for the next five years but Dr. Henry Hoyt, who knew him well, recounts in his highly enjoyable memoirs A Frontier Doctor (clink the link for a review of that) how Spike could not resist the siren lure of Dodge City.

The screen Spike

Spike seemed to think that his daddy’s wealth meant that he was above the law. In July 1878 he was arrested by Assistant Marshal Wyatt Earp for carrying a pistol and was fined. A month later he was back in court and fined again after being arrested by Marshal Bassett for disorderly conduct. Kenedy complained bitterly about these arrests to Mayor James ‘Dog’ Kelley but Kelley gave him short shrift, saying he backed his officers to the hilt and Kenedy had damn well better behave while in Dodge. Some versions have Kenedy being thrashed by Kelly in a fistfight and going off to Kansas City to recover from his bruises. At any rate Kenedy vowed that he would get revenge.

James 'Dog' Kelley

Kenedy came back to Dodge with a fine racehorse. Kelley had gone off to Fort Dodge for medical treatment and during his absence allowed actresses Fannie Garretson and Fannie Keenan (the latter the stage name of Dora Hand), who were appearing at the Varieties Theater, to use his house. At about four in the morning of October 4, four shots were fired through the thin walls into Kelley’s bedroom, killing Dora Hand as she slept. Assistant marshals Wyatt Earp and Jim Masterson (Bat’s brother) investigated. In the Long Branch saloon the bar tender told Earp that Kenedy had left shortly before the shots were fired and returned soon after. Earp and Masterson then found a friend of Kenedy’s who confirmed that Kenedy had fired the shots.

Fannie Keenan aka Dora Hand

Diana DeGarmo as Dora, lovey-dovey with Wyatt
 
The next morning Bat Masterson put together a posse consisting of himself, his deputies Bill Tilghman and Bill Duffy (who does not appear in the movie), with City Marshal Bassett and Assistant Marshal Earp (presumably the last two were deputized as sheriff’s men because they would be out of their jurisdiction otherwise). The Dodge City Times rather sensationally called it “as intrepid a posse as ever pulled a trigger”. The problem the posse had was locating Kenedy, who had disappeared into the vastness of Kansas on his fast horse.

The posse members searched for some time, in vain. As the five rested their tired horses at a ranch, almost by a miracle they saw a distant rider approaching and it was Kenedy. Their horses were scattered so they awaited Kenedy on foot. Masterson ordered that if the man tried to escape, he, Masterson, would shoot at Kenedy while Earp should shoot the horse. About 75 yards in, Kenedy spotted them and went for a gun, wheeling his horse to make a run for it. As planned, Earp downed the horse and Masterson shot Kenedy in the shoulder. The posse hired a team and took Kenedy, who was badly hurt, back to Dodge.

For two weeks Kenedy languished in pain in a jail cell, until his father arrived. Then he was released by Judge RG Cook. Earp always maintained it was because of Captain Mifflin and his expensive lawyers, though the Times simply reported, “The evidence being insufficient, the prisoner was acquitted.” Mifflin and his son went back to Texas. Hoyt wrote that Kenedy’s arm and shoulder were shot to pieces and he only lived a year or two more. In fact he died in 1884.

Such were the facts of the case. Casey Tefertiller, in the most authoritative biography of Earp, Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend, will give you a little more detail if you are interested.


Of course the movie has little truck with anything as boring as mere fact (though personally I reckon the true story would have made a great film). In this one Marshal Earp and his minions Masterson and Bassett take off their stars when Judge Hinkle (Lyle Kanouse) warns them they have no warrant and they ride out, later meeting Indian tracker Tilghman, who tracks Kenedy for them. Kenedy is heading for the Mexican border (that would be quite a ride).

The movie now invents a family that Kenedy comes across, farmer Ed (Wes Brown), his wife Susie (Kaitlyn Black) and their young son Conrad (Mason Cook). Though the family welcome Kenedy as a tired traveler, Kenedy is vile and perfidious. One good thing, though: he gives the boy a derringer, and of course he'd have one, being a skunk. You know how I like derringers. The parents don’t want their son playing with firearms but that doesn’t stop Kenedy, and it doesn’t stop the boy wanting it. Later we learn that the journalist interviewing Wyatt in 1907 is a now-grown Conrad.

Kenedy then murders a bill sticker who is putting up a WANTED poster on him, and shoots farmer Ed in the back. Then he does a border roll on a local lawman (Peter Sherayko) and shoots him too. When the posse come up to the farm, the boy begs to be allowed to go along, to get revenge with his derringer, but Wyatt says no dice.

Now we are introduced to Sam (Steven Grayhm), a brother of Spike. He joins his brother, along with some gang members, a man in a Confederate cap and a Mexican (i.e. bad guys), played by Brian Groh and Martin Santander. The posse manages to shoot Sam and they take him to a local doctor, who seems to take pleasure on inflicting pain while getting the bullet out. The doc introduces himself as John Holliday (Wilson Bethel, joining the long list of actors who have played Doc Holliday).

Bethel as Doc
 
Doc as Doc
 
(There are several photographs claimed to be of Holliday but according to an article in True West magazine, kindly sent to me by reader Walter, this is the only one that can be authenticated for sure. Holliday is 20.)

Still they haven’t got Spike, though. There’s a gunfight, in which Charlie Bassett is hit, Wyatt saves Bat in extremis and they dispose of Spike’s gang. Then Spike’s dad appears, in the shape of Trace Adkins. Singer Adkins liked Westerns and did quite a few but he never really convinced in the genre.

 
Trace as Mifflin
 
Anyway, they finally get back. Spike dies and then Ned Buntline (Bill Wiff) appears, and presents Wyatt, Bat, Charlie and Bill each with a long-barreled Colt’s Buntline Special.


He says he asked Samuel Colt personally to make them (though Colt actually died in 1862). Stuart Lake, author of the racy and often fictional 1931 biography of Earp Frontier Marshal, claims that dime novelist Buntline (EZC Judson) presented these specials to Earp, Masterson, Bassett, Tilghman and Neal Brown in 1876 (though in fact neither Tilghman nor Brown were lawmen at the time).

Neal Brown

If the gun existed at all (and the balance of probabilities is that it did not) it certainly had nothing to do with the posse chasing Kenedy for the Dora Hand murder. Still, I suppose it makes a good bit of the film.

EZC Judson, better known as Ned Buntline (c 1821 to 1886)

It was directed by Michael Feifer, his only Western. He is apparently best known for Merry Kissmas.

Oh well, it’s all harmless enough. I don’t think it’s that good a Western but as long as you don’t actually believe any of it you might be mildly entertained.

 

 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Honor of the Range (Universal, 1934)


Ken in his heyday




 
 
We were talking the other day about Ken Maynard (pictured left), how he separated (with mutual relief) from Universal and made his first feature, In Old Santa Fe, for Nat Levine at Mascot. When Universal chief Carl Laemmle asked Maynard why his latest production was such a very bad picture, the frustrated Maynard retorted, "Mr. Laemmle, I have made you eight very bad pictures." But actually, those Universal Westerns were probably the high-water mark of Maynard’s career. He had successfully transitioned from silent star to the talkies and was, in the early 1930s, at the height of his popularity. The films were formulaic, yes, and very evidently low budget, but then so were 99% of Westerns. Honor of the Range will do as well as any other as an illustration of the Universal Maynard talkies.

It’s one of those pictures in which the star plays the hero and the villain. He is both the sheriff, Ken Bellamy, and his twin brother, the storekeeper Clem Bellamy. The sheriff is all macho and tough while Clem is timid and pusillanimous. They both pine for the town beauty, Mary Turner (Cecilia Parker, who would later become Mickey Rooney’s sister in MGM’s Hardy Boys series). Mary’s dad is a cattleman and the sheriff has suggested that Mr. Parker put the $30,000 he has just got for the sale of some cows in brother Clem’s safe. The trouble is that badman Rawhide has pressured Clem into giving him the combination…

Ken as Clem

Rawhide is played by Fred Kohler. Kohler was a frequent silent and early-talkie heavy and was especially memorable as Deroux in John Ford’s The Iron Horse in 1924. He also featured in those Zane Grey tales Paramount made, appearing in both the original silent ones and the Henry Hathaway-directed talkie remakes with Randolph Scott. He died suddenly from a heart attack in 1938 but not before he had been the heavy in three Maynard oaters.

Fred is the heavy Rawhide

Rawhide draws the sheriff and posse off on a wild goose chase while he is doing his nefarious deeds but it doesn’t work: Ken returns in time and there’s mucho shootin’, and then the villains set the store ablaze. Luckily, Tarzan is there and he rings the bell to summon the fire engine.

Cecilia is the sheriff's squeeze

The townsfolk are mighty suspicious because the storekeeper is the sheriff’s brother and it was clearly an inside job. One loudmouth, Boots (Frank Hagney, who was The Hawk in Warners' John Wayne B Ride Him, Cowboy in 1932) deposes Ken and becomes sheriff himself (the townsmen approve because unlike Ken, Boots likes a drink), incarcerating the ex-lawman in a storeroom, whence he, naturally, escapes.

The bandits have a rather nifty lair, with secret cave doors. Of course they don’t foil Tarzan. He’s far too clever for that. Rawhide has also rigged the place with dynamite to blow if they are discovered. This was rather rash because actor Kohler had in real life lost part of his right hand in a dynamite accident. But he doesn’t seem to have learned his lesson.

He'll get the girl alright. No worries.

There’s a rather bizarre moment when the girl plays a harmonium to avoid having to participate in hanky-panky with the villain.

The rest of the story (it’s only 53 minutes in total so they have to get a move on) is devoted to how Clem rehabilitates himself and dies heroically to save Ken and Mary. Redemption of a badman was of course a standard element of the Western movie.

Don't miss it. (Well, you could, actually.)

There’s some trick riding of Tarzan by Ken, as per usual, and some songs. In one, Ken disguises himself as old Charley the vaudevillian (Eddie Barnes) and is obliged to do a song-and-dance on the stage of the Paradise saloon but he is rumbled when his white wig falls off, revealing his jet-black brilliantined hair, and is obliged to leap from rooftops and suchlike to make his escape and do a few stunts.

Ken borrows Charley's costume

Of course there’s a showdown Rawhide/Ken fistfight and Ken finally goes off to married bliss with Mary, The End, you know how they do.

It was directed by Alan James, who first directed a Western (for Universal) in 1919, often working with Franklyn Farnum, who appears as the saloon keeper in Honor of the Range. He directed no fewer than sixteen Ken Maynard oaters so he and Ken must have got to know each other quite well. Mind, they all pretty well had the same plot.

No worse (though no better either) than all the other one-hour second feature Westerns of the time, Honor of the Range is now really only watchable for the Maynard interest, and even then it isn’t exactly a must-see. Still, I enjoyed it. Variety said, “This isn’t to be mistaken for the average shot-off-cuff western. Universal went to a lot of trouble.” Actually, it is indeed to be mistaken for the average shot-off-cuff Western, because it is one. But hey.


 

Monday, August 20, 2018

In Old Santa Fe (Mascot, 1934)


Ken hands over to Gene




 
 
We were talking about Gene Autry the other day, reviewing his 1949 picture Riders of the Whistling Pines. Let’s go back a bit and look at Gene’s first film and see how he took the baton passed to him (unwillingly) from the then king of the singing cowboys, Ken Maynard. In Old Santa Fe was in fact a screen test for Autry as Mascot boss Nat Levine was grooming a successor to Maynard, whose antics Levine couldn’t stand any more.

Ken Maynard (left), born in Indiana in 1895, grew up performing in rodeos as a trick rider. Some say he appeared in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. After war service he became a circus rider with the Ringling Brothers. Buck Jones saw him and urged him to try the movies. He started in 1923 as a stuntman and support actor and got a contract at Fox. His rugged good looks and daredevil riding made him a cowboy star, and in fact some of his stunts were so spectacular that they were often reused in later movies (John Wayne had sometimes to dress like Maynard so the old footage would match).

Ken made a successful transition to the talkies, for Universal Pictures, and became an early singing cowboy. In fact he recorded two country & western songs for Columbia Records. The trouble was that his screen personality spilled over into his private life, with his foul mouth, womanizing, alcoholism and resulting delays together with prima donna temper tantrums on the set, and Universal didn’t care for it one bit. When studio head Carl Laemmle asked Maynard why his latest production (Smoking Guns) was such a very bad picture, the frustrated Maynard retorted, "Mr. Laemmle, I have made you eight very bad pictures," and walked out on Laemmle and Universal.

Producer Nat Levine (right) stepped in and hired Maynard for a Mascot serial, Mystery Mountain, and planned to make a series of Western features with him, beginning with In Old Santa Fe. But Santa Fe was the end of the affair. Thenceforward Gene Autry would wear the singing cowboy crown (until the next war when Gene would join the Army and Roy Rogers would assume the throne).

Maynard kept working in Hollywood but in smaller parts and for lesser studios. In 1944 he turned his back on the movies and made appearances at state fairs and rodeos. He owned a small circus operation featuring rodeo riders but eventually lost it to creditors. His wealth had vanished, and he lived a desolate life as an alcoholic in a rundown trailer. During these years, Maynard was supported by an unknown benefactor, long thought to be Gene Autry. He died of stomach cancer in 1973.

In Old Santa Fe was directed by David Howard, the director of La Gran Jornada, the Spanish-language version of The Big Trail, who went on to direct many George O’Brien Westerns for RKO all through the 1930s. He was on loan to Levine and when his time was up he had to go and so Joseph Kane finished the picture, uncredited.

Later the picture was re-released with Gene Autry’s name headlined to cash in on Gene’s popularity, and was an early picture to be telecast, in 1946.

Uncredited on the first release, Gene has now got top billing

Ken’s sidekick Cactus is Gabby Hayes, then still billed more formally as George Hayes. Gabby was already used to being a cranky old-timer, sidekicking any cowboy star who needed a foil, though in fact he was still only in his forties. He makes the most of his part with various bits of actor’s ‘business’ and even dazzles us with a heel-kicking dance. The picture opens with Kentucky (Maynard) strumming a guitar and singing That’s What I Like About My Dog as the pair ride along, and Cactus has a similar view to mine about singing cowboys for he says, “I’ve heard tom cats wailin’ I’ve liked better’n that.” Actually, it wasn’t Ken singing (though he could sing) but Bob Nolan’s voice was used to dub him.

Gabby sidekicks Ken

A girl driving wildly (it’s one of those Westerns in which stagecoaches share the roads with cars) nearly runs down Ken and Gabby and their pack mule. Ken is smitten by the dame but Gabby is most curmudgeonly about her behavior. She is Lila Miller, blonde daughter of the owner of a local dude ranch – perhaps it was Miller’s 101 Ranch (though not if we are near Santa Fe). Lila is played by Evalyn Knapp (she was Evelyn but changed it to Evalyn). She was female lead in five 30s Westerns.

The glam Evalyn

On the stage also going to the ranch are two obvious crooks, besuited city slickers with caddish mustaches, Chandler (Kenneth Thomson, a founder of the Screen Actors Guild, often a gangster for Cecil B DeMille) and his minion Tracy (Wheeler Oakman, a regular as crook). They are clearly up to no good. The stage picks Lila up because her car is stuck in the ditch and Chandler immediately starts slimily making up to her.

Oily bad guy Thomson

The ranch is where Ken and Cactus are headed too, because Ken has entered Tarzan in a five-mile horse race there. There is mucho skullduggery as the crooks nobble Tarzan by cutting the saddle girth and stringing a trip-wire across a canyon. They have inveigled Cactus into betting Tarzan against a thousand dollars and now he has to explain to Ken that Tarzan has been lost. Naturally, Ken is frightfully decent about it and doesn’t shoot Cactus or anything. Of course he will prove the foul play and get Tarzan back.

Tarzan got second billing

Chandler blackmails Lila’s dad, the owner of the ranch (HB Warner, who had been Jesus Christ for Cecil B DeMille in 1927 and Whispering Smith in 1926) and muscles in on half the ranch – and Miller also has a gold mine. Chandler has an almost-derringer, a small automatic on a wrist spring, so you can tell he’s a baddy. And he quirts his horse, the rotter.

Whispering Smith and Jesus

There’s obviously a dance, to allow for more songs. This is where Gene comes in, with the title song Down in Old Santa Fe and then Wyoming Waltz. He also introduces Smiley Burnette because this was his first Western too, and we get a rather dashing version of Momma Don’t Allow.

Gene and Smiley perform

There’s a lot of action crammed in, with the villains Chandler and Tracy falling out, the stagecoach held up and robbed of gold, Cactus busting Ken out of jail by KO’ing the lawmen, a gunfight, a fistfight, and so on. Eventually the sheriff declares that Ken is “plumb innocent”, the villain is hauled off to the state pen and the girl says, “Ken, you’re wonderful.” It all ends with a reprise of That’s What I Like About My Dog sung by Gabby. I thought it was a whole lot of fun. Poor old Ken, though.