While it may be true that not as many American boys daydream of taking their relay horses to the big rodeo as in 1929, "King of the Rodeo" is too much fun to simply be dismissed as archaic entertainment of a bygone era. As a 1929 silent, it was definitely an endangered species and star Hoot Gibson would make the move to talking pictures before the year was out.
Gibson isn't going to distract you from the story with his looks, and this is a good thing. Gibson's portrayal of the Montana Kid is wholly authentic from the first frame, perhaps because of his real life cowboy skills. But the writers do a good job of mining humor from Gibson's stoic mannerisms while avoiding making him into a self-satiric figure. A reluctantly-given tour of the rodeo grounds by Gibson for a maybe- future sweetheart is a wonderfully simplistic yet witty scene that relies on the inter titles for the laughs, but just wouldn't work as well in a talking picture.
All the stock characters are there: the wacky sidekicks for comic relief, the playing-hard-to-get love interest, the disapproving father who thinks it's time for Hoot to give up rodeos and go to college (even if Hoot is clearly in his late 30's). But the film doesn't play as one long cliché because it never takes itself very seriously. There is even an early scene where Hoot finds himself on horseback at a gas station where the the film isn't afraid to poke fun at the anachronism of a horseman in a rapidly motorizing world. A good topic of debate would be how much of the humor in the last reel is intentional and how much plays unintentionally funnier today--no matter where you come down though, you will be amused.
If you're a Chicagoan or have any interest in the history of Soldier Field, you're going to see quite a lot of it in King of the Rodeo. From comic bits to actual rodeo footage, a good chunk of the film was made on location along the shore of Lake Michigan in the summer of 1928.
I'm unaware of any format of video release for this one, so chances of seeing it are probably limited to generous collectors, festivals or the odd revival house.
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