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

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sheriff of Tombstone (Republic, 1941)

Rootin', tootin'
This is a cracking little movie, well worth its three revolvers. Republic churned out standard horse operas all through the 30s and 40s but at their best they were tightly directed, well-written pictures that galloped along at a terrific pace. This one is a classic 53-minute black & white B-picture starring Roy Rogers, before he got all duded up and soppy. He’s still quite soppy but he’s somehow more believable as a tough sheriff. Well, almost.
A classic
Roy leaves Dodge and rides to Tombstone (cue for a song, obviously). There, in a standard plot development, he is mistaken for deadly gunman Shotgun Cassidy and made sheriff by crooked Mayor Keeler (Addison Richards). He hardly has time to fall in love with Elyse Knox before he is plunged into skullduggery and derring-do. Luckily, he has Gabby Hayes as his sidekick. Gabby plays a gamblin', rootin', tootin', shootin' judge of about 100 years old (he was in fact only 56).
It was quite a partnership
Despite the Dodge/Tombstone sheriffing story, the picture is an Earp- and Clanton-free zone. Roy is 'Brett Star' and does it all single-handed, with no brothers or docs. It sure becomes difficult when the real Shotgun Cassidy turns up (Harry Woods) and an ornery critter he is too. This plot was borrowed later by Support Your Local Gunfighter.
Trigger doesn’t have a part to play, there are no tricks and apart from Roy’s two short songs, it’s a straight Western. Even Roy’s costume is standard issue without frills or spangles. These early Rogers Westerns were far better than later ones.
Jay Novello is rather good as a caricature Mexican whose accent falls away when he wants, to reveal a straight American hoodlum. He is also the crooked Wells, Fargo agent in disguise. And I like Zeffie Tilbury, white-haired gun-totin’ granny. “Your bonnet’s crooked,” her granddaughter says. “Me shootin’ is straight,” Granny retorts.
Me shootin' is straight
Sally Payne is a singer in the Bonanza Saloon who gets a couple of songs. The aria ‘Two-Gun Pete’ isn’t half bad. It’s a very 'proper' Western, though, because when she’s finished she asks a saloon heavy, “How about buying me a sasparilla, Mister?”
There’s a splendid shoot-em-up finale and Roy gets the gal in the last 30 seconds of the final reel and it’s all over. It is written by Olive Cooper and Olive sure did a mighty fine job. Photographed satisfactorily by William Nobles, with typical melodramatic music by Cy Feuer, this is a straight down the line B-oater with a lot going for it. Expect no subtlety, just a classic Western yarn. You won’t be disappointed.

No Earp in sight


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