Gene Autry attempts to arrange that both the Indians and ranchers, scheduled to be driven from their land by Mesa City's mew aqueduct, benefit from the deal, which is opposed by town banker Mason. Mason stirs up the Indians against Gene but, with help from school teacher Carol, Gene is able to expose Mason's schemes. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Look, Mr. Smith, you can't even built this aquaduct unless all the ranchers sell their water rights. They may not be willing to sell unless they think the Indians are going to get a square deal.
I see. And, ah, you're one of the ranchers, aren't you?
You sure you're not part Indian, too?
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Mesa City's plans for a new aqua duct set the stage for conflict between the local ranchers and the Native Indian Tribe. Rancher Gene Autry becomes involved when he uncovers a scheme by land baron Charlie Mason (Ralph Morgan) to cheat the local ranchers out of their land by pitting the Indians and ranchers against each other. Mason, with the help of his equally criminally inclined son (Mark Daniels) try to undermine peacemaker Gene's credibility with both sides as he attempts to help resolve the dispute,
This was Gene's maiden voyage for Columbia Pictures. He had just wrapped up a five picture deal with Republic to settle a contract dispute. The move to Columbia gave him a chance to produce a more expansive, higher budget western, which this one is. At a running time of 77 minutes this is one of his longer films. "The Last Round-up" also marked a turning point in the focus and content of Gene's westerns. His previous five post-war Republic pictures were an uneven bunch, playing out more like 1930's screwball comedies or contemporary dramas. "The Last Round-up" was a welcome relief. Directed by John English, it definitely has a more somber feel than his prior movies, though Gene does get in four or five tunes to retain some of the feel of his earlier works.
Beginning with this movie through 1951's "Hills of Utah", Gene's westerns, directed by English are arguably the best he ever did, before eventually succumbing to higher production costs. After watching this movie it's clear Gene got the message change was in the air. His films, for the larger part, adopted a more earthy, socially themed format that reflected the progressive thinking of post-war America. Under English's direction the comic sidekick role was toned down or in some cases eliminated and the Fairytale Automobile-age set was transitioned to a more contemporary type western. Gene's ability to sense the change in public sentiment goes a long way to explain his success not only in movies but in his business ventures and other areas of life. As an indication of things soon to come, Gene uses the new medium of television in this movie to broadcast his message to the Indian Tribe. The same medium in which he would be a pioneer within a few short years.
Ranks up there with Gene's best. 8 of 10*
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