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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 »
Looks like Republic was angling for a cross-over audience with this bigger-budget blend of comedy, romance, music, and shoot-'em-up. Comedy prevails since we get three comics ( Durante, Hayes, and Allen) instead of the usual one. In fact, in terms of screen time, Durante gets more than Gene. He also gets a number of extended routines, making him the real "center" of the show. For me at least, that's too bad because a little of his bombastic style goes a long way.The chuckles should have been left to Hayes who can help carry a story and not interrupt it. In fact, the screenplay appears an awkward cut-and-paste job, at best, which is not too surprising since not one or two, but six writers are credited! Whatever else, it's certainly not a formula Western.
Instead, it's basically tongue-in-cheek. Check out bad guys Sawyer and McMahon doing a duet that's really rather charming. Or the little spoof of shoot-outs when a heedless Allen chatters her way through a supposed hail of bullets. Or a Western town named, of all things, "Torpedo". At the same time, the movie does have its momentsthe great gabby Hayes and a charismatic little Mary Lee, or the trolley car rolling oddly through the desert, or an amazingly accomplished 17-year old Ann Miller. Still and all, I could have used a lot more Gene and a lot less Jimmy.
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