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Traveling with Doc Parker's medicine show, Gene finds his old friend Harry Brooks wounded and the Sheriff after him for murdering his father. Gene also sees that Craven and his gang are looking for Brooks. Finding clues that Craven was behind the murder, Gene has a plan utilizing the medicine show wagon that will trap the gang. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
Gene Autry, an early country and western singer, appeared as a guest in two Ken Maynard western movies. Then he starred in the surreal serial, "The Phantom Empire." His fourth movie and first starring role in a feature was "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," obviously with Republic Pictures (which had just begun operations as a merger of six smaller studios).
After the credits the opening crawl reads, "In the Old West there was no law." Those among the newcomers who became the strong divided their empires. Later arrivals, who wanted just a small piece of land and water, were the Nesters. Before long, bitter warfare ensued between the landlords and the Nesters. Thus we have the movie's setting. There are good actions scenes early on (possibly stock footage?). Gene's dad a landlord but handicapped incorrectly assuming that his son did not contribute to his cause, banishes him from his homestead. Five years later, as part of Dr. Parker's Medicine Show, Gene returns to the town of Gunstock. Dr. Parker is Gabby Hayes, toothed and beardless, but mustachioed. In Gene's absence, his unrelenting father was murdered and his friend, Harry Brooks, charged with the crime. Gene recognizes Harry to be innocent, so he and his sidekick, Smiley Burnette, set out to solve the crime. They soon discover that Barney Craven and his gang are also after Brooks. It seems that there is a conflict over water rights, even though the main problem with the landlords and the Nesters has ended. If Smiley can only find the mate to the spur that he found at a crime scene! And who smokes Red Top cigarettes? Gene will surely get to the truth.
Sometimes it is difficult to place the time-frame for Gene Autry westerns, which, as his movie aficionados know, range from 1829 to about 1950. Gene's movie settings of the late 19th and early 20th century are not his "mythical" westerns of the 1930s and 1940s, when the old West was long gone. These mythical westerns showed modern cars, radios, and even early televisions! And yet there were "sections" of towns that catered to men who still rode horses and carried six guns.
"Tumbling Tumbleweeds" shows a "modern-looking" portable phonograph (circa 1930, without the cylinder) and disc record, and women are seen in 1920s or 1930s hairstyles and clothing. The Indian tribes have been subdued; there are telephones, but still no automobiles. Despite the anachronisms of the hairstyles, clothing, and phonograph, we may surmise that we are in the historic West of the nineteenth century, but very late (1890s). The movie has nice action and some good close-up shots. See the fist-fight scene about 39 minutes into the film, which runs slightly under an hour in time. The western town of Gunstock obviously has black residents, a nice touch for the time. Eightball (Eugene Jackson), part of Dr. Parker's show, dances some cool moves with a split that obviously wowed 1935 audiences. The title tune is a treat. And the ending not only does Gene get the girl, but also he gets hitched!
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