With a longer-than-usual running time on original release and booked and sold to the exhibitors as a "Gene Autry Special", which Republic would do once a year from 1939-1943 in order to get higher rates than on the regular series entries from the theatre owners. Hey, Jimmy Durante and Ann Miler cost more than Smiley Burnette and June Storey. This "special",(which alternates between tongue-in-cheek and for-real and hard to distinguish which is which since there was very little for-real in most of the fantasy-land settings Autry's Republic films were laid in), finds Gene returning to his hometown of Torpedo as guest of honor at the Frontier Days Celebraion, Once there, he encounters his childhood enemies, the Wildhack brothers (Barton MacLane, Joe Sawyer and Horace MacMahon in pecking order), now the local gangsters (and playing it with relish.) The Wildhacks own a saloon next door to the school, and when their shooting and brawling endangers the safety of the children, Gene protests ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The 'Melody Ranch' set built for this film consisted of a long, one story house and a much larger gambrel-roof barn with a practical interior. The house portion's exterior was revamped after filming, and the set was a fixture on Republic's back lot for several years. It was featured in the show My Three Sons (1960). See more »
"Melody Ranch" (1940) is one of Gene Autry's best-known and most popular Oaters. It really doesn't deserve to be.
This is because the screenplay by Jack Moffitt, F. Hugh Herbet (no relation to the comic character actor), Bradford Ropes and Betty Burbridge is overloaded with comic corn that mostly falls groaningly flat.
Unfortunately, because of this, an unusually strong cast is wasted. These include Gabby Hayes, Gene's love interest Ann Miller (who never ever looked more stunning - she's a total knockout here), bad guy Barton MacLane, Jerome Cowan (a year before appearing as Bogie's Sam Spade partner Miles Archer in "The Maltese Falcon"), and serving as Gene's back-up band...Bob Willes & His Texas Playboys! But the poor guy who comes off worst because the lion's share of the corny jokes fall to him is that wonderful legend, Jimmy Durante. His lines play the single major role in sinking the film.
I absolutely love the two-reel B film "Oater" westerns of the '30 & '40s and the western TV series of the '50s. This one should have been one of them, but falls several notches below the best because of that gosh-darned cornball script. But Ann Miller is really nice to look at here.
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