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This Gene Autry entry was sold to the exhibitors as a "Special" (a term used about once a production season when Republic wanted to charge the exhibitors a higher fee than usual for an Autry film) and finds "Rancho Grande foreman Gene Autry more than a little distressed when he learns that the heirs of the ranch, siblings Kay, Patsy and Tom Dodge, are on their way. The young Dodges have a nation-wide reputation as wild irresponsibles, and Gene already has his hands full trying to save the ranch from foreclosure. Before his death, the late John Dodge had mortgaged the ranch in order to secure funds for a vast irrigation system which must be completed by a certain date or face foreclosure from the Citrus Valley Association. Kay and Tom Dodge show up with intentions of turning the property into a pleasure resort for their eastern society friends, and they are encouraged in this by Dodge family attorney Emory Benson, who also happens to be a heavy stockholder in the Citrus Valley ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There is a lot of music in "Rancho Grande" including the title song which is performed perhaps too often, although it's good to hear Gene sing it one time in Spanish. Frog gets to perform, which is always a treat. He was a wonderful songwriter and musician who could play over a hundred instruments, including a few concoctions of his own. Even his rather sophomoric humor is not bad this time. The writers give him a sparing partner in the guise of Effie Tinker (Ellen Lowe) and their scenes together are funny. The famous band leader Pee Wee King (co-author of "Tennessee Waltz") is a bonus in the music department, shown leading the Pals of the Golden West. One weakness is the lack of action except for a casino fracas during the first part of the movie. It's all music and melodrama until the final chase and shootout, Gene's cowboys and ranch hands versus Emory Benson and his gang of saboteurs who are attempting to keep a dam from being constructed. Gene's early films usually surreptitiously supported the President's New Deal which promised to end the Great Depression and help the working people get started once more.
The story is similar to other Gene Autry oaters where easterners go west because of a ranch inheritance which usually involves Gene being the foreman with Frog his helper who have to westernize the dude or dudes. This time there are three youngsters, the youngest, Patsy Dodge (Mary Lee), wants to be a cowgirl, the older boy and girl, Kay and Tom Dodge (June Storey and Dick Hogan respectively) want fun and games instead. Kay and Tom fly a private airplane to claim their share of Rancho Grande. Both decide it would be entertaining to stampede horses that Gene and his cowboys have just rounded up, by buzzing the equines. Ultimately, the three Dodge's are rounded up to hear a reading of their grandfather's will. Gene is put in charge, but the main instructions involve the completion of a dam being built to provide water and electricity for those who live on the Rancho Grande. The executioner of the will Emory Benson (Ferris Taylor) turns out to be a snake in the grass who wants to poison the minds of the Dodge kids so they will go back east and he can get control of the land. Part of his ploy is to prevent the dam from being finished. How Gene and Frog westernize the kids and foil Benson's scheme takes up the rest of the film.
Without much action, those who enjoy Gene's crooning and Frog's funning will like "Rancho Grande." Others may get bored before the final chase sequence which has plenty of excitement and marvelous stunt work. Also look for a few familiar faces in the cast, many having only cameos. Hank Worden (later Mose of "The Searchers") appears briefly as a cowhand. Look too for Roscoe Ates who would go on to play comical sidekick Soapy Jones; former cowboy star Rex Lease; Slim Whitaker, Bud Osborne, Cactus Mack, Jack Ingram, and even Roy Barcroft. The viewer may not know the names but will certainly recognize the mugs.
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