When Gene's boss is murdered, the boss's daughter is seriously injured. To raise money for her operation, Gene and the ranch hands enter the new medium of television as singers. When they do well, the bank agrees to lend them the needed money. Martin, who is the murderer, is after the ranch. Now he has to make sure the daughter doesn't get the operation so he sends his henchmen out to wreck Gene's equipment. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
"The Singing Cowboy" is one of Gene Autry's early films. Republic was promoting Gene, already a popular radio entertainer and recording artist, as the singing cowboy, hence the title of this picture. True to the title, there are eleven songs included in 54 minutes; yet still plenty of action for which the studio was famous, with some of the best stunt work around.
Frog gets to show off his talents as a consummate musician and singer, much better than his rather sophomoric humor. He plays a musical instrument of his own invention, the Jassackaphone (bawderized version of Jackassaphone). The jackass is the one with the musical contraption strapped to its back; Frog is the one standing by the jackass, or is it the other way around? Judge for yourself.
This is a typical, rather routine, Gene Autry outing that should still prove worthwhile for his many fans. Gene and his ranch hands use a new invention called television (this is 1936) to raise money for a little girl's, Lou Ann Stevens (Ann Gillis, aka Ann Gilles), operation who was trampled by horses when the barn burned following the murder of her father, Gene's boss. The meanie behind it all is the ranch foreman, Martin, played by the gifted actor Lon Chaney, Jr., who was forever in the shadow of his legendary father. Martin is determined to thwart Gene's efforts to get the money, knowing that the ranch has gold on it. In the process of putting together "The Covered Wagon Coffee Caravan," Gene falls for Helen Blake (Lois Wilde), determined to break into show business by hiding her true identity as the daughter of the sponsor, Henry Blake (Harvey Clark). There is a different type ending than in other Gene Autry westerns which makes "The Singing Cowboy" a must-see for fans.
Besides the typical humorous interplay between Gene and Frog, improving with each picture, Earle Hodgins (portraying Prof. Pandow), who made a small fortune playing a carnival barker-type con artist, is in top form, given more lines than usual. A real hoot comes near the end when Hodgins has to finish a song started by Gene. Lois Wilde as Helen Blake, a tenderfoot posing as a cowgirl, shares some amusing moments with Gene. When Gene asks what breed cows she has, she replies, "Why, contented cows." An African American trio headed by Fred 'Snowflake' Toones performs a funny routine using cow horns as musical instruments, receiving less stereotyping than one would expect from a 1930's Hollywood film.
Gene's featured song for "The Singing Cowboy" is "Rainbow Trail," not as memorable as many of his movie tunes, but still pleasant fluff. By this time, Gene was concentrating more on crooning than on his earlier Jimmie Rodgers blues influenced singing, which at times even included yodeling.
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