Bull is after the money in the express office. Posing as a notorious outlaw, Ken joins Bull's gang. With the big raid planned, Ken tries to get a note to the Sheriff. But the note is ... See full summary »
Bull is after the money in the express office. Posing as a notorious outlaw, Ken joins Bull's gang. With the big raid planned, Ken tries to get a note to the Sheriff. But the note is intercepted, the money taken from the safe, and Ken now known to be on the side of the law left for dead. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
Who was the first singing cowboy? Gene Autry? Ken Maynard? John Wayne!? Though debatable Ken Maynard was certainly one of the first cowboys to sing on the big screen. Rather than a guitar, he sang while playing the fiddle! Gene and Roy sang in the manner popular in the 30's; Gene was mainly a crooner and Roy more of a ballad singer who was also one of the best yodelers around. Ken, on the other hand, sang in a more traditional style, similar to say Grayson & Whitter, a hillbilly duo popular in the 1920's, whereas Gene and Roy were influenced by the hillbilly blues legend Jimmie Rodgers. Roy could out sing Gene. Gene had no problem out singing Ken. (Truthfully, even Mr. Spock could have out sung Ken.) And to my way of thinking, Tex Ritter could out sing the whole bunch. As a footnote to all this, Gene felt so indebted to Ken for helping him get started that he helped Ken by sending him money when Ken was down and out in his final years.
In "Heroes of the Range," Ken sings "Our Old 45's" while playing a fiddle given to him by one of the outlaws so he could prove that he was Lightning Smith, noted for his fiddle playing. He also demonstrates he is the outlaw whose identity he has taken by punctuating his name written on his bunk with bullets. The outlaw leader, Bull (Harry Woods), insists that he could do the same thing with his name if he practiced a few years.
The story about a US marshal who infiltrates an outlaw gang to get the goods on them is as old as the prairie. There is not much that is new in "Heroes of the Range," but there is plenty of action from start to finish. Near the beginning of the film is a wild runaway wagon chase. The outlaws have Johnny Peters who is blackmailed into telling them about the next express money shipment. Before he can tell them, he is wounded. Outlaw leader Bull and his henchmen are taking Johnny to their hideout to nurse him back to health so he can talk when his pretty sister, Joan, pursues them in her buckboard. Ken has stopped by a wrangler camp to get some vittles when he sees the runaway. He rescues the damsel just before her buggy plunges over a cliff and splinters into a thousand pieces. With Joan's help, Ken joins the outlaws but is put in jeopardy when, you guessed it, the real Lightning Smith shows up. There are more chases, fisticuffs, and thrills before the resolution.
Not as good as his early shoot-em-ups, "Heroes of the Range" was made just as Ken's film career began slip sliding away as a result of personal problems, especially temperament and drinking. This outing is still exciting to watch and is better than most of his later films. It is always good to see Ken at the height of his popularity as a cowboy hero riding his beautiful steed Tarzan, wearing his shirt with arrow pockets, his big hat, and looking the way a Saturday matinée star should look. That is the way he will always be remembered by his legion of fans.
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