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Heart of the Rio Grande (1942)

Gene and Smiley help an all-too-proper girl Connie in her attempt to run a cattle ranch.



(story), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Singing radio cowboy Gene helps out a former employer now in trouble with his failing rodeo.

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Stars: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Fay McKenzie


Complete credited cast:
Connie Lane
Randolph Lane (as Pierre Watkins)
Tadpole Millhouse
Hap Callahan
Skipper Forbes
Jimmy Wakely Trio ...
Singing Ranch Hands


As foreman of a dude ranch, Gene has two problems. One is a guest, the spoiled daughter of a millioniare, and the other is the disgruntled ex-foreman that Gene replaced, now just a ranch hand. Gene eventually gets the daughter straightened out but has to fire the ex-foreman and this leads to trouble when he returns intent on revenge. Written by Maurice VanAuken <mvanauken@a1access.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Hear Gene sing ..."In the Heart of Texas" (Title lobby card). See more »


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

11 March 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Deep in the Heart of Texas  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


(edited) | (original)

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Featured in Gene Autry: White Hat, Silver Screen (2007) See more »


Rainbow In the Night
Lyrics by Sol Meyer
Music by Jule Styne
Arranged by Lou Halmy (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Alas, One of Autry's Least Interesting Republics!
17 May 2008 | by See all my reviews

"Heart of the Rio Grande" must be one of the least entertaining pictures Gene Autry ever made. Never have I seen such obvious substitutions of doubles for the principal players, nor such an inept use of the process screen. The direction throughout could not justly be described as merely routine, for this level of mediocrity represents the peak of Mr Morgan's achievement. At its nadir, the handling is embarrassingly inept — for example in the way Morgan has heroine Fay McKenzie grin inanely at the camera in a reaction shot to Mr Autry's serenade.

Alas, the defects of the direction are not the picture's only handicap. Probably its chief blot on the average fan's barometer is its fatuous script. As the synopsis makes plain, the story winds around an old, tiresomely familiar theme. Worse, it's encrusted with reach-me-down dialogue and patronizing platitudes, such as Gene Autry's "Don't forget what I said about bein' pardners with your horse when you go ridin' the trail!" and "Maybe other parents don't put their business ahead of their children!"

But even worse still, "Heart of the Rio Grande" rates just about zero on the action scale. Admittedly, near the start, Gene's stuntman gallops after a train and then rescues Miss Fellows from a runaway truck. But that's the end of any action spots until five minutes before the end when the script suddenly stages a revenge shooting practically out of nowhere. The gun-shot activates a wild horse stampede, but it turns into a very mild affair with a couple of stuntmen playing leapfrog a fair distance away from the not-too-wildly onrushing herd.

Oddly enough, despite the dearth of action, there's also little comedy relief. Smiley Burnette's foolery is mercifully constrained. But sandwiched in between all the sermonizing twinkle are eight or nine songs. Autry handles most of them, Burnette has one, Miss Fellows one, The Jimmy Wakely Trio one, and even Miss McKenzie joins Gene in a duet.

Needless to say, Miss Fellows lays it on as the spoiled brat. Jean Porter hovers around in the forefront of the background. Haade emerges as a quite likable villain — which makes his sudden and unexplained action at the finish all the more incredible. Rounding out the cast are Sarah Padden in a tiny role, Eddie Cobb in a one-line bit, and Smiley's horse, "Ring-Eye", in a brief scene.

"Heart of the Rio Grande" is billed as a so-called "modern" western. Realistic! Yet the cowboys all wear Victorian six-shooters and a full orchestra suddenly sprouts up, audible but invisible, in the middle of the desert to accompany a chance song.

Sadly, production values rate as exceptionally mediocre. The photography is so flat as to make even the picture's actual locations look uninteresting. Sound recording comes over as tinny, art direction drab, costumes unattractive, and film editing heavy-handed.

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