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This Autry film is one of a hand full of his films that for years has been available to the public only in the 53 or 57 minute cut versions. Recently I had the opportunity to see the restored and uncut version on the Starz Westerns channel a few weeks back and what a difference the added 6 or 7 minutes make. The restored version includes a scene of Gene saddling up and singing a nice trail song as he leaves his ranch following his banishment by his father for warning the rival group. Along the way he meets Millie Branum ( Betty Bronson), a young starving girl he befriended earlier by giving her a calf. Millie gives him his rope back and asks him if he will ever return. Gene replies that he doesn't know and Millie blurts out that she will be waiting for him. As Gene rides away continuing his song you see Millie watching him leave as tears stream from her eyes. Also restored are scenes of newspaper headlines superimposed over rodeo footage of Autry's success on the rodeo circuit. Finally an announcement that he is coming back to Pine Ridge with a traveling show. There is more nice restored footage of the show's parade into town with Champion prancing and marching to the music. (The Champion shown in these scenes is not the original screen Champ since he had only three white stockings . The horse used in these scenes has four white stockings.)However, Gene spots his Dad from the parade route and rides over to him, sticks out his had and says " hello Dad". His father turns and walks away. This movie also contains some of Autry's best riding of all his movies. Many closeup chase scenes and running stirrup mounts that clearly show that it is in deed Gene performing these feats. In all a much more enjoyable movie in the restored version.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For an early Gene Autry Western, this one has a few interesting hooks
to keep you entertained, chief among them the location in that far off
western state of Georgia. I imagine it was necessary to pull off the
premise of the title, since the story dealt with a community of
'turpentiners' who made their living off the by-products of the local
pine forests. It set up a type of range feud between encroaching
ranchers who needed more grazing space for their cattle, pitting them
against the turpentiners, who relied on the forest for their
livelihood. Autry gets caught in the middle trying to do the right
thing by both sides, and winds up becoming alienated from both. It's
the only picture I can remember where any Western hero of note (Autry,
Rogers, Hoppy, etc.) actually had a father in the story.
I don't think I've ever seen Smiley Burnette looking as young before in a movie, to the point of being almost unrecognizable behind the mustache and meager girth. However when he lets out with the frog voice, there's no mistaking him. Ever the con man, Colonel Millhouse (Burnette) does some quick thinking on his feet when he declares a runaway team of horses a publicity stunt to help promote his Wild West Show.
There's a nominal love interest for Gene's character in the person of young Milly (Betty Bronson), who has an earnest crush on Gene and pines for him when he goes away to establish his career as a world champion cowboy (sorry, couldn't resist the pun). That sets up the ensuing action when Gene returns to Pine Ridge as the star of the Millhouse extravaganza.
The story moves along at a pretty rapid gallop, and you'll see some exciting horseback footage featuring Gene and the bad guys. I didn't see it as all that necessary to speed up some of the action footage the way director Joseph Kane did, for me it was a little distracting. Say, you know, I was curious about one thing - when Gene was late for his act in the Millhouse show, the Colonel threw in a ringer to impersonate him, but where did the Autry impersonator find a Champion impersonator?
Beats me why The Western Channel only rated this entry a 1 out of 4.
It's easily one of Gene's best. Great mix of hard riding, fast
shooting, big cast, and scenic location, plus Gene's way with a song.
And get a load of that jug band. They could make music with a bathtub.
Gene's trying to bring peace between cattlemen and turpentiners, all
the while baddie LeRoy Mason is rustling and blaming it on the
turpentiners. Got to admit this is first time I've seen turpentine
trees involved in a plot, but it is a change from the standard formula.
Look for some good stunt work, plus the grinning aside that the cowboys
are just shooting blanksa joke that I guess stayed in. Looks like one
trip-wire episode with a horse going suddenly head over heels-- I hope
I'm wrong. Anyhow, Frog gets to cut-up, this time as an impresario of a
big time pageant show! And with a moustache, no less. All in all, a
fine Autry mix, thanks to Republic. Next time The Western Channel ought
to watch a movie before rating it.
A "9" on the matinée scale.
This entry is on everyone's must-see list because it co-stars the
legendary Betty Bronson. Betty had actually retired from movie-making
in 1932, and after this "comeback", she didn't make another movie until
A Pocketful of Miracles in 1961. Betty is absolutely lovely here and
it's a thrill to see what a fine pair Gene and Betty make in this
really top-notch script that helps to make it (as far as I'm concerned)
one of Gene's top five pictures. Other assets include a fine support
cast led by Smiley Burnette (who excels in what amounts to a character
role), LeRoy Mason (a well-spoken heavy), Charles Middleton (Gene's
dull-witted dad), and Russell Simpson (a delight as a really nasty
piece of work). Good slots are also provided by Jack Dougherty (the
heavy's partner in crime), Henry Hall (the sheriff), Jack Ingram and
even Art Mix. Mr Toones, on the other hand, has thankfully! but one
Despite its somewhat off-putting title, this entry shapes up as one of Gene's most vibrant and exciting. Even Joseph Kane, normally a rather humdrum director, seems to have realized the movie's potential and pulled out all stops to make it as thrilling as possible. Production values are great. (If you're quick, you can plainly spot Kane in a rare on screen appearance as one of the turpentiners. As far as I know he actually faced the camera only five times in his lengthy directorial and editing career).
Please note that while the Platinum Disc print is of good quality, it's mastered from the TV cut-down that's missing six minutes of essential footage, including the opening scenes of the street parade, other bits and pieces here and there, and the entire episode where Gene rides away from his home ranch after being dismissed by his dad, encounters Betty who asks him when he's coming back. Gene tells her that he doesn't know. A tearful Betty promises to wait for his return.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This one moves along fairly quickly, mixing the dramatic story of the
feud between families of cattlemen versus 'turpentiners' (those drawing
turpentine from pine trees) over land use with the musical and Wild
West Show performances of Gene Autry and a large cast. One of the tight
little early Republic westerns.
Charles Middleton plays 'Gene Autry Sr.' head of the cattlemen who are seeking more grazing land for their cattle by burning down the pine trees. Betty Bronson plays Milly, the perky step daughter of the boss of the turpentiners, who wants to save them. Straight arrow Gene doesn't want any feud between the two families, but by trying to help both, quickly winds up their enemy, and is forced to leave Pine Ridge. Of course, Betty and Gene are in love with each other. All this within fifteen minutes! Unfortunately, I've only seen the edited version (Platinum disk) which then cuts to Gene triumphantly returning to the city of Pine Ridge as the star of Colonel Frog Millhouse's Wild West Show. Looked like something was cut, and sure enough, 7 minutes were taken out. As described by another reviewer here, the missing portion shows Milly's tearful goodbye, her pledge of love, and a montage of Gene's rise to popularity with the Show.
This is one of Joseph Kane's better pure action efforts. There are at least 5 running stirrup horse mounts -- were they Gene or (uncredited) Yakima Canutt? They looked too good to be Gene. We get the great evil villain Le Roy Mason, arch bad guy of over 170 films, who is also strongly featured in the outrageous 'Round Up Time in Texas' (1937), among countless others. Betty Bronson was the breakout star of 'Peter Pan' (1924), and was selected for the role by J.M. Barrie himself over the 30-year-old Mary Pickford. Betty's great mime and physical skills are briefly on display here. You can see her (in technicolor sequences no less!) as Mary the mother of Jesus in the 1925 silent version of 'Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.'
We get a good song written and sung by Gene, "A Song of the Saddle," and the deep voiced, hatchet faced Charles Middleton, killed off too early in the film. His immortal 'Ming the Merciless' ("Kill them! Kill them all!") is one for the ages, but we can see him as a singing prosecutor in 'Duck Soup' (1933), the evil Pa Stark in the serial 'Dick Tracy Returns' (1938) and as a pious clergyman befriending 'Doctor' Buster Crabbe in PRC's 'Jungle Man' (1941), among his many, many roles and cameos.
We also get 30s clichés: the hero being falsely accused of murder and going to jail; a shoot out behind rocks by the heroes and villains; and the chasing the villain off a cliff and fighting him in the water below. Even though the film is fast paced, it would have been better if the tension and war between the feuding sides, with Gene and Betty thrown in the middle, had been more of the main focus and the tension continuing throughout the film. What, you say? This film doesn't have pretensions to be Romeo and Juliet on horse back? What it does have, though, pushes it up to a 5.
Although in the film Gene Autry is from the town of Pine Ridge and gets
to sing quite a few numbers, I don't believe I heard a single yodel
come from him in the Yodelin' Kid From Pine Ridge. He was not a
yodeler, unlike his main singing cowboy rival who would soon be making
his first starring western Roy Rogers. Now he yodeled in just about
every film he made.
In Yodelin' Kid From Pine Ridge, Gene is cast as Gene Autry Jr., a sensitive young man who is devoted to the cattle business, but does not like to see the violence developing between the cattlemen and a group of turpentiners who are from the hills. These transplanted hillbillies headed by Russell Simpson like the pine forests because they strip the bark off the pine trees and make turpentine to sell.
The cattlemen however want more grass acreage for the cattle to graze and want to burn down the forest. And they don't like the hillbillies just taking cattle whenever they need a meal. Cattlemen LeRoy Mason and Charles Middleton want to lead the effort to burn the forest. And Middleton is Gene Autry, Sr. Talk about exotic casting, Gene Autry as the son of Ming The Merciless.
Anyway Gene is banished from the councils of the cattlemen and joins a Wild West show and many years go by before he returns to Pine Ridge and only as part of the Wild West show. But he's back involved as soon as he returns. Part of the reason of his involvement is Russell Simpson's stepdaughter, former silent screen star Betty Bronson.
In the 54 minute running time a lot of singing and riding gets mixed in with a lot of gunplay as Gene finally gets to the bottom of the feud between the cattlemen and turpentiners. Not much suspense as it is revealed pretty early in the film, but I won't reveal it.
Smiley Burnette plays the head of the Wild West Show, not the usual sidekick part with Gene. He's still getting a lot of laughs, but you will not hear one frog croak which was part of his screen persona.
For fans of the great singing cowboy tycoon, Yodelin' Kid From Pine Ridge should please them.
The film begins around the Georgia/Florida border. Ranchers and the
'Turpentines' (local hill people) are at odds with each other. In the
middle is Gene Autrywho tries to get both sides to see reason and
avoid an all out war. Unfortunately, he ends up ticking off both sides
and Gene's father disowns him. As for Gene, he lands on his
feetbecoming a rodeo champ and singing sensation. When he returns home
after a few years, things have NOT improved but have become a lot
worse. So, it's up to our star to find out who's behind the fightwho
is stirring up BOTH sides as well as why.
The idea of setting a Gene Autry movie in the Georgia/Florida region was very gooda nice change of pace. After all, back in the 1930s (and even today) northern Florida is home to many ranches and horses are very common there. However, and this is a BIG however, the film looked exactly like any other Gene Autry filmwith cowboys, dusty trails and even a canyonyet there are no canyons in Florida or Georgia and they are also not dusty/desert locales. In fact, they have TONS of rain, foliage, palm trees and the likenone of which you see in "Yodelin' Kid from Pine Ridge"! It's obviously just another California back lot production and the filmmakers took no efforts to even try to make it look like the film was set in the East. To me, this was incredibly lazy and brings up a major problem with many B-westernsthey were produced so quickly that shabby mistakes are too common.
Another problem in the film is the singing. While Autry always had a very nice voice, one of the other singing groups (the ladies who sing at about 34 minutes into the film) are just terribleand I found myself speeding past their performance. Autry's yodeling, while unpleasant, was at least quite skilled.
All in all, a very disappointing film with little to recommend it. After all, who wants to see a 'western' set in the East Coast where none of this clearly took place?!
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