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Another source of recording material for Bing Crosby were western
songs. He recorded a good many of them in his career. About the time
Rhythm on the Range was being made the singing cowboy was just getting
started as a movie staple. When Bing's 78s were being compiled into
vinyl albums in the 1950s he had recorded enough for several albums.
Lots of the songs of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers are in the Crosby
catalog in fact a young Roy Rogers can be spotted in the I'm An Old
Runaway heiresses were another movie staple especially in the 1930s and that's Frances Farmer's part. She's running away from a marriage she's not terribly thrilled about and stowing away on a freight boxcar she finds Bing Crosby who unbeknownst to her works as a ranchhand on her aunt's Frying Pan Ranch out in Arizona. Bing is nursemaiding a bull named Cuddles and Bing, Frances and Cuddles make their way west with several adventures. Trailing them are a trio of hoboes played very well by James Burke, Warren Hymer, and George E. Stone who have found out who Frances is and are looking to make a quick buck. Their machinations go for naught of course.
In Frances Farmer's book, Will There Ever Be A Morning, she describes a not very happy life in Hollywood. However she liked this film, as it had no pretensions and similarly her leading man. She described Bing Crosby as a pleasant unassuming fellow who she liked, but didn't get to know real well. Frances had a best friend, a matron of honor to be, for the wedding that didn't come off. She was played by Martha Sleeper and I think a lot of her part was edited out. Sleeper gave some hints of a really juicy Eve Arden type character that could have been used more.
The second leads were played by Bob Burns and Martha Raye. Burns, the Arkansas Traveler and regular on Crosby's Kraft Music Hall, played his usual rustic type and in this film introduced his patented musical instrument, the bazooka. Made out of two gas pipes and a funnel, the bazooka was a kind of countrified bassoon. The army's anti-tank device in World War II looked something like it and it was named as such.
Martha Raye made her debut in this film and would go on to do two other films with Crosby. She sings her famous Mr. Paganini number here and her bumptious character complement Burns quite nicely.
Crosby sings A Cowboy's Lullaby to Cuddles trying to calm him down during the train ride and the famous Empty Saddles during a scene at the Madison Square Garden Rodeo. He gets a ballad entitled I Can't Escape From You to sing while on the road with Farmer. But the most famous song to come out of this film is I'm An Old Cowhand which was a big seller for him. It's an ensemble number with just about everyone in the cast participating including as I said before, Roy Rogers and also a young Louis Prima. Now there's an interesting combination. I'm An Old Cowhand was written with words and music by Crosby's good friend and sometime singing partner Johnny Mercer.
IT's a good film and I'm surprised Paramount didn't come up with any more Western type material for Bing considering he did a lot of recording of that material. The only other western type ballads he ever sung on the screen were The Funny Old Hills from Paris Honeymoon and When The Moon Comes Over Madison Square from Rhythm on the River.
Crosby would have to wait until he essayed Thomas Mitchell's part in the remake of Stagecoach during the 1960s to be in another western. And there he sang no songs at all.
One song that was cut out from the film was a duet by Crosby and Farmer called The House Jack Built for Jill. Crosby did record it for Decca as a solo and it is heard towards the end of the film in background. I was lucky to get a bootleg recording from the cut soundtrack. Frances talk/sings a la Rex Harrison and Bing sings it in his inimitable style. I think this was supposed to be a finale and it was cut at the last minute. The film does end somewhat abruptly and you can tell there was more shot. Maybe one day it will be restored.
Rhythm on the Range was remade by Paramount with Martin and Lewis as Pardners. Dean and Jerry are good, but it ain't a patch to the original.
Pleasant musical with several great spots. Rhythm on the Range stars Bing Crosby as a rodeo star and Frances Farmer as a debutante. Yes, that's right. They share a box car heading to Arizona and fall in love. Along for the ride are Martha Raye and Bob Burns. Bizarro plot, but it all works. Crosby and Raye are just terrific. Crosby debuts "I'm an Old Cow Hand" with help from Raye, Burns, Louis Prima, Leonid Kinsky, and Roy Rogers! And Raye sings her signature tune, "Mr. Paganini"--the show stopper. Farmer is gorgeous, Crosby is smooth, and Raye is hilarious. You gotta see this film. Also in it are Martha Sleeper as the catty bride's maid, Lucille Gleason as Penny, Samuel S. Hinds, and a trio of hapless thugs: James Burke, Warren Hymer, and George E. Stone. Lots of fun. And Martha Raye should have been a much bigger movie star!
Several of the preceding comments have gone into great detail about the
film and its pleasures. "Rhythm on the Range" is, to our modern jaded
eyes and ears, obviously dated, but it has a charm and sly humor that
are abundant enough that even 21st century sophisticates can enjoy it.
I concur that the major reason to watch the film is for the wonderful
performance of Frances Farmer, here somewhat eschewing her early
haughty characterizations for an almost subversive comedic performance.
This was Frances' first "A" production, after receiving top billing in
two very well received Paramount "B"'s, "Too Many Parents" and "Border
Flight." Frances went straight from this film to her legendary role(s)
in Goldwyn's "Come and Get It," so from late summer, when "Rhythm" was
released, through the end of 1936, when "Come and Get It" premiered,
she was arguably the hottest, and certainly one of the most talked
about, new stars of that era.
The duet one of the previous commenters mentioned, "The House Jack Built for Jill," was in fact filmed but was not, as that commenter stated, slated for the end of the film, but rather for the scene where Bing and Frances escape the rainstorm and find shelter in the farmhouse. I have Norman Taurog's original shooting script and the scene is still extant in the script, including Taurog's blue line through the pages indicating it was filmed.
One of the previous commenters repeated some unfortunately commonly believed misinformation about Frances. Though Frances' institutionalization was certainly no picnic (to say the least), the most horrifyingly sensationalized allegations about her treatment (found in both her ghost-written autobiography and the largely fictionalized "Shadowland") never happened, including the spurious claim that she was lobotomized. My article detailing the truth about these allegations, "Shedding Light on Shadowland," is linked under the Miscellaneous section on the IMDb listing for Frances Farmer. Or you can find it by using a search engine and searching for "Shedding Light on Shadowland."
This is one of my absolute favorites of Bing Crosby movies. It not only
an amusing and romantic story line, it features some great songs, like
an Old Cowhand", which went on to be a huge hit. The movie also
a very young Roy Rogers (with a spot in the song segment of "I'm an Old
Cowhand"), as well as Martha Raye and Bill Burns.
By today's standards, it may be considered outdated or corny. But for those who like decent movies with no violence, language, sexual or suggestive content, it is a great movie and I know they will enjoy it.
The movie keeps shifting plots every 15 minutes. It seems probable that
lots of material was cut out, as very little makes much sense.
However, the movie contains so many delightful elements that one hardly cares. Bing Crosby is quite pleasant. He is wonderfully laid back and relaxed, just saying his lines between songs. This allows us to focus mainly on Francis Farmer, who is captivatingly beautiful as a runaway heiress-bride. Bob Burns with an instrument he invented called "the Bazooka" and Leonid Kinskey as the Russian immigrant cowboy "Mischa" provide a few laughs. Cuddles the Bull is also a surprisingly effective animal co-star.
This is 20 year old Martha Raye's screen debut and it is quite unusual. She is doing vaudeville without toning it down one iota for the screen. This makes a sharp contrast to Crosby and Farmer's gentle reserved acting styles. She is frenetic, shouting and jumping all other the sets. There is something disturbing about her man-hungry character, Emma. It is a sex-role reversal with the woman as the obsessed predator who can't control herself and offers herself to any stray man. With so many other out-of-synch elements in the film, she just fits right in.
It is a little ironic that Raye would get top billing two years later in "Give Me A Sailor" which was Bob Hope's first real starring film. So Raye worked with both Crosby and Hope before they worked together on the road pictures.
For about 15 minutes towards the end of the film, there's a nice jamboree which includes the introduction of the classic Johnny Mercer song "I'm an Old Cow Hand". The three or four plot lines are kept in limbo while this is going on. If we had cared about the plot lines, we would have been upset, but since they are so light and flimsy anyway, we can see them as just excuses for this nice vaudeville segment.
It is a shame that the duet between Farmer and Crosby was cut. I hope someone finds it somewhere and releases it on Youtube.
Ultimately, this is an amusing and reasonably clever concoction of fluff and music. It is too slow-paced for today's ADD generation, but for lovers of Old Hollywood, it is fine.
Hollywood in the classic era occasionally made some very, very bizarre
casting decisions. Since actors were generally contracted to studios,
often they'd stick some of these folks in the darnedest pictures and
there wasn't much the actors could do about it. Some great examples of
bizarro casting was seeing Katharine Hepburn as a Chinese woman in
"Dragon Seed" as well as John Wayne as Genghis Khan in "The Conqueror".
Not QUITE this strange, but close, is seeing Bing Crosby playing a
cowboy in "Rhythm on the Range". Bing Crosy as a cowboy?! Believe it or
When the film begins, Doris (Frances Farmer) is rehearsing for her wedding. She's a spoiled woman and freely admits she's marrying more out of boredom than anything else! Fortunately, when she goes to a rodeo and sees the buff he-man, Jeff Larabee (Crosby) she is smitten...though he seems more smitten with a cow! Strange as it is, this is the film in a nutshell!
While casting Crosby as a cowboy was stupid and udderly ridiculous, this film manages to be a lot of fun. Even with the inclusion of Martha Raye (who is usually too brash and obnoxious), it's still filled with neat songs and characters. Brilliant or sophisticated? No way...but still somehow fun and worth seeing.
By the way, during a song and dance number late in the film, it's Louis Prima singing and playing trumpet. He wasn't yet famous and later would gain eternal fame as King Louie in the cartoon "The Jungle Book".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was later remade as "Pardners" with Dean Martin and Jerry
Lewis. While I'm an avid Martin fan, I'm no fan of Jerry Lewis, and I
very much like Bing Crosby and like Martha Raye. My suggestion is to
watch "Pardners" instead; it doesn't drag as this film seems to. And,
while aspects of both films are different, there are other parts that
are surprisingly similar.
The problem with this film is that, as much as I like Crosby in both musicals and dramas, I have a difficult time imagining him as a bronco riding steer wrestler. It just doesn't work.
What does work are the songs, particularly an outstanding rendition of "Empty Saddles" (its debut). In terms of plot...pretty light.
Aside from not being very believable as a rough and tumble cowboy, Crosby is still his pleasant self on screen, and this film was right at the beginning of what I think were Bing's best early years on film.
I was not impressed with Frances Farmer here as the love interest. I know she had an "interesting" and tragic life, but I have yet to be impressed with any of her film roles.
Bob Burns is sort of humorous as the side kick, as is Martha Raye as the Easterner who goes after the hick Westerner. Samuel S. Hinds, a great character actor is along for a few scenes, and Lucile Gleason in a rather truncated role that just seems to hang out there with little real connection to the rest of the film.
Even as somewhat of a Crosby fan, this film had trouble holding my attention. It's not bad, nor great.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Considering the folks involved making this movie, I expected a much
better movie. Maybe it is because it is 1936, this film is a big let
down. There are several older Crosby films I want to see, but after
seeing this one I understand why late night comedians used to make
jokes about it.
Martha Raye does a lot of singing in this one, but the songs are very forgettable. Even Crosby's songs are lacking in this one. The story is the predictable romance and this movie looks like a "relic" gotten from the cutting room floor.
I am not sure why Roy Rogers pops in on a short cameo and they do not ask him to sing, but considering the songs in this one, maybe he got lucky. Frances Farmer is the main female lead here, and the story really gets little traction and often the music is just put in to break up the songs.
Norman Taurog does some much better direction in later films, do not judge him on this one. Der Binger does ride a horse and look like a cowboy, though he sure does not talk like one. I was glad when this ended as even the ending left something to be desired.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
She's café society, He's the class act of "Hee Haw". When they meet,
it's happening one night all over again as the cowboy and the lady end
up finding romance in spite of each other. Actually, she's deceiving
him all along, pretending to be a cook hopping a freight cross country
and ending up sharing spaces with him and his prized bull. Bing Crosby
and Frances Farmer don't necessarily have the greatest chemistry, but
his easy going charm does bring out a twinkle in her eye.
In second comic relief leads (besides the bull) are Bob Burns and a big mouthed clown named Martha Raye. She's made up to look rather dowdy but there is a striking woman under all the facial grimaces and self deprecating humor. Smaller roles are filled by Samuel S. Hinds as Farmer's wealthy dad and Lucille Gleason as her masculine aunt who came from the hills herself. Gleason is outrageous and steals every moment that she's in the film.
Musically, this only features several songs, but the way Crosby sings them makes them stand out even more. I prefer Crosby's 1930 style which was much more intense and thus more sultry. It's easy to see why he was such a box office draw considering that he wasn't exactly great to look at. Raye jumps in with a bouncy Mr. Paganini" which became her signature. There's very little dancing, so this isn't up there with the big musicals that Warner Brothers was putting out at the time, but filled with romance and comedy, it ultimately ends up being a total crowd pleaser.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As I've said before and will no doubt say again moviegoers were were easily satisfied in the thirties as this hotch potch illustrates to a fare-thee-well. Bing Crosby as a seasoned rodeo competitor is about as convincing as Fred Astaire playing a coal miner and with that as a premise all that is lacking is a pair of red shoes, a yellow brick road and a talking scarecrow. The runaway heiress plot makes an early appearance and is pursued half-heartedly for three or four reels. Martha Raye makes her debut and blends in to the story the way Tarzan blends into Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. In between there are songs, all placed perfectly - like Empty Saddles at Madison Square Garden or the sophisticated 'Eastern' references of I'm An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande at an Arizona camp fire. Apart from reservations like these this is a pleasant enough curio.
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