Harlem Rides the Range (1939)

 |  Western  |  1 February 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 93 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 1 critic

A cowboy and his sidekick try to help a homesteader from being cheated out of his property.



(story) (as Spencer Williams Jr.) , (screenplay) (as Spencer Williams Jr.) , 1 more credit »
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A cowboy is wrongfully accused of murder. He winds up in Harlem, where he assumes the identity of a preacher-turned-gangster who looks like him. He infiltrates the gang to catch the men who... See full summary »

Director: Richard C. Kahn
Stars: Herb Jeffries, Marguerite Whitten, Clarence Brooks


Complete credited cast:
Bob Blake (as Herbert Jeffrey)
Lucius Brooks ...
F.E. Miller ...
Artie Young ...
Miss Dennison
Clarence Brooks ...
Spencer Williams ...
Watson (as Spencer Williams Jr.)
Tom Southern ...
Leonard Christmas ...
Wade Dumas ...
John Thomas ...
The Four Tones ...
Singing Group
The Four Blackbirds ...
Singing Quartet


Bradley is after Dennison's radium mine and it appears that his henchman Conners has killed him. When Blake arrives at Dennison's, Bradley and Conners arrive at the same time. When Blake leaves he drops a glove. Bradley kills Conners and uses the glove to frame Blake. Learning of Bradley's plan to kill Dennison's daughter, Blake escapes jail and sets out to reach her first. Written by Maurice VanAuken <mvanauken@a1access.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Men Of Action Blaze A Trail Of Love And Lead As Law And Order Comes To The Old West!







Release Date:

1 February 1939 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Featured in That's Black Entertainment: Westerns (2002) See more »


I'm a Happy Cowboy
Sung over the credits and by Herb Jeffries and The Four Tones
See more »

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User Reviews

Sure, it's pretty bad--what more could you expect?!
24 December 2008 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

In the 1920s, 30s and 40s, Black movie goers were usually not allowed in White movie theaters here in the United States. In addition, theaters catering to Black audiences had difficulties getting first-run film and Black audiences really didn't feel much connection to the all-White films Hollywood was producing. As a result, small Black-owned movie companies sprang up and tried to fill this void. The problem was that these companies were operated on shoestring budgets and they simply couldn't afford to make polished and high quality films. Some of them turned out pretty good, but in general these films were pretty dreadful--and what more could you expect considering that 99% of all the money went to make Hollywood films.

Because of this context, you need to understand that with so many strikes against this film, it's a wonder it even achieves a score of 3 (and perhaps my 3 is being a tad generous). The film is a Black version of a typical Gene Autry film but starring a cast of less experienced actors, lacking incidental music and a good Foley artist (a lot of the action has no sound effects or they are severely muffled) and experienced writers and directors. This was purely a 3rd string group of film makers and I am sure they were trying their best, but the lack of professionalism shows. All too often, actors just stand around or utter their lines with no emotion or conviction--because they almost universally lacked experience and training. As for the film's star, Herb Jeffries, he wasn't too bad. His singing wasn't bad but he certainly lacked charisma. It's no surprise, then, that this marked the last of Jeffries cowboy films--being the fifth in a series of very inconsequential low-budget Westerns.

The plot, if anyone really cares, is about a hidden radium mine and some baddies attempt to steal it from its rightful owner. The problem I saw with that is that radium occurs only in trace amounts in uranium and must be processed and refined to collect radium. So why didn't they call it a 'uranium mine' instead?! After all, you don't mine pure radium. But this is also not particularly important--nor is the film unless you are watching it for historical purposes or if you are curious to see the most famous Black singing cowboy.

Also, one final note. This is packaged on a DVD along with MURDER IN HARLEM by Alpha Video--one of the worst DVD producers on the planet. Most of their videos are fuzzy and tough to watch and this film was certainly no exception. However, Alpha also specializes in some public domain and hard to find films where there simply aren't better copies available and it doesn't make financial sense to properly restore the films. Like 'em or not, if you want to see this film, Alpha is probably your only source.

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