|Index||3 reviews in total|
Smith Ballew certainly had the right credentials to be a singing
cowboy, having been born in Texas. But he got his first break singing
with the Leo Reisman Orchestra. For those of you who saw the Eddy
Duchin Story, Leo Reisman was the society orchestra that also gave Eddy
Duchin his start and featured him as well as Ballew.
But Hollywood grabbed him when the singing cowboy vogue started and he was cast as the tall gallant hero. It helped that he looked a lot like Randolph Scott in my humble opinion.
In Roll Along, Cowboy he and sidekick Stanley Fields have to collect a debt from a widow rancher with her two children owed to their boss in order for their salaries to be paid. Of course arriving at the ranch they get all involved in the problems the widow has. One of those other entanglements is daughter Cecelia Parker who Ballew takes a fancy to.
Ballew had a light tenor voice and in the 57 minutes of the film must have sang about 10 songs including standards like Take Me Back to My Boots and Saddles and The Old Chisholm Trail plus a whole lot of forgettable cowboy ditties. Even westerns from Roy Rogers and Gene Autry didn't have as many numbers. Even a whole lot of musicals from the thirties didn't have as many.
Stanley Fields does all right as the roughhewn sidekick, but he's best known for urban roles like gang leader Sam Vettori in Little Caesar. Looks a bit lost at home on the range.
But for those who miss the singing cowboy, here's a chance to catch one whose name ain't Autry or Rogers.
It's another B western from a Zane Grey novel; Grey's THE DUDE RANGER
for singing cowboy Smith Bellew. Stanley Fields (in Wallace Beery mode)
and he collect their pay in the form of a mortgage on Ruth Robinson's
ranch. When they get there, they discover her pretty daughter, Cecillia
Parker, her crippled son, Wally Albright, and a severe lack of cash,
thanks to shenanigans by crooked lawyer Bill Elliott and equally
crooked banker, Lloyd Ingraham.
Quicker than you can say "Aw!" they are working to fix the situation, amidst musical interludes. Bellew started as a singer; his first appearance in the movies was as a singer in a Vitaphone short in Leo Reisman's band.His rangy looks, Texas accent and decent delivery got him a gig as a singing cowboy, but while adequate to the role, he doesn't add much to this movie, directed by Gus Meins (who was better known for directing lesser Hal Roach shorts). The songs are OK, and Miss Parker looks at him adoringly while he warbles. She would do better at MGM as Andy Hardy's older sister.
This one seems to have had all the interesting complications that Grey usually put into his books cut out.
Because this was directed by Gus Meins and featured Wally Albright-former director of Our Gang and former leading character of the series-I decided to watch this on Internet Archive in the chronological order parallel to the series' films since I'm now at 1937. This musical western stars a now-forgotten singer named Smith Ballew. He's okay doing the warbling but it's easy to see why he didn't stay long in the movies: He wasn't much of a heroic figure. Stanley Fields-who I just watched again as the sheriff in Laurel & Hardy's Way Out West-fares better as his sidekick and has some nice scenes with Albright whether singing with him or just talking with him. Wally's character can't walk so that ups the sympathy factor for him. Anyway, this was a nice filler for the double feature bill and at under an hour, just enough time for the story and music. So on that note, Roll Along, Cowboy is worth a look.
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