The only Gene Autry film where the leading lady, Barbara Britton, is equally billed above the title as the co-star, thereby knocking his horse Champion out of the honors, if one chooses to overlook the 1941 novelty from 20th Century-Fox that had Jane Withers and Gene Autry above the title in that order. This Autry entry has Larry Evans, whose gun had been used to kill rancher Ed Norton in a poker game, escaping a lynching party headed by ranchers Dave Randall and Bill Otis. Norton's friend Gene Autry, investigating on his own, discovers that Larry's gun had been put in the poker pot with the chips, after Larry had lost all of his money, and anyone could have used it when the lights went out. He finds Larry and his sister Mary Evans in a hideaway, and sends Mary back to town and hides Larry in the cabin of miner Jim Hedge. Finding out that Randall and Don Mason have tried to buy the Evans ranch, Gene decides to take a look at it. Hedge shows up and says he can't figure out what could ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Not one of Autry's better entries from the post-war period. With Columbia Pictures' backing, the result should have been better than it is. Gene is chasing after fugitive Russell Arms to clear him of murder charges before a vengeful posse can catch up. It's a novel idea for an Autry Western since almost all the screen time is taken up with the three parties playing tag with one another. However, the script has trouble integrating the mystery part into the chase. So we get passages like Gene and Arms watering their horses with Gene saying to Larry (Arms) something like "By the way, Larry, where were you standing when the shots were fired?", and then riding off. Ten minutes later, we get a similarly disconnected question with a similarly fleeting answer. It's like trying to follow a bread-crumb trail where the crumbs are a mile apart. With a different, better integrated, approach the two plot angles could have really gelled into a single current of suspense and excitement. I know, some will say this is, after all, only a matinée Western, so why expect more. But it's also a time when Autry was trying to break the matinée formula. With a better script, this entry could have equaled the superiority of contemporaries like Sioux City Sue or Trail to San Antone.
What Loaded Pistols does have is the sparkling and gorgeous Barbara Britton, whose smile could light up a city block. Too bad her career never equaled her talent. Also, the comic relief is down-played and comes from the nimble Chill Wills instead of the annoying Sterling Holloway. Then too, I like the way the songs are integrated into menial tasks, such as fixing breakfast, instead of the usual, more elaborate production numbers. I know many Autry fans object to anything negative about his movies. Nonetheless, I don't think Columbia Studios served him as well here as they did in other productions.
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