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The Kid from Gower Gulch (1950)

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Spade Cooley is a singing western movie star that uses doubles as he can neither ride, sing, nor fight. When his car runs out of gas he arrives at the Bar W ranch just as the owner makes a ... See full summary »

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Title: The Kid from Gower Gulch (1950)

The Kid from Gower Gulch (1950) on IMDb 4/10

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Spade Cooley ...
Spade Cooley
Jack Baxley ...
Uncle Bill White
Joe Hiser ...
Shorty (as 'Little Joe' Hiser)
Bob Curtis ...
Tortilla, the Cook (as Robert Curtis)
Wanda Cantlon ...
Peggy Andrews
Stephen Keyes ...
Craig Morgan
Bob Gilbert ...
Walt Banning
Billy Dix ...
Henchman Frank Kramer
William Val ...
Henchman Bart Leeson
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Storyline

Spade Cooley is a singing western movie star that uses doubles as he can neither ride, sing, nor fight. When his car runs out of gas he arrives at the Bar W ranch just as the owner makes a large bet on the upcoming rodeo that will mean the loss of his ranch if he loses. Attracted to the owner's daughter, Spade stays on and finds himself riding for the Bar W in the big rodeo event that will determine the winner of the bet. Written by Maurice VanAuken <vanauken@comcast.net>

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Taglines:

THE KING OF WESTERN SWING (original ad - all caps) See more »

Genres:

Action | Music | Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

15 January 1950 (USA)  »

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(Naturalcolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Trivia

The title is an inside joke on Hollywood's Poverty Row, Gower Street (also known as the 'Gulch'), long-time home to the worst studios in town. See more »

Soundtracks

There Are Tears in My Heart, O My Darlin'
Sung by Spade Cooley
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User Reviews

Killer Cooley's film
7 September 2004 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Inconsequential but compulsive, singer-musician Spade Cooley's three starring Westerns (this one, Border Outlaws and The Silver Bandit, all 1950) were made at the end of his screen career, after he had spent his previous time in film appearing as the musical interest supporting various oaters. Inconsequential because none of the 3 rise above their low budget limitation, whilst Cooley himself is a incurably wooden performer. Compulsive, because Cooley infamously murdered his real spouse ten years after these films were made, was thereafter sentenced to life for his crime, and watching the now forgotten images on screen acquires a morbid fascination entirely of their own. (One of his biggest hits was titled Shame on You.) And because of their sad star, the films' half hearted attempts at satirising the more successful singing cowboys of the time, like Rogers and Autry, actually succeed in touching a nerve in a way their makers could never had imagined.

The Kid from Gower Gulch demonstrates this perfectly. As was the rule in his films, Cooley plays himself, but with a slight fictional variant on his screen persona. As 'Spade Cooley', ironically welcomed as the 'famous Western comedy music star', here he plays a key part in helping a rancher win a crucial rodeo competition. But 'Cooley' is a fake, for as he admits: 'I never wanted to be a Western actor …Everything I do in pictures is done by others' and he is 'ashamed to keep fooling the public'. These days, this is especially clear, knowing now what violent potential lurked underneath Cooley's bland exterior. The actor is all wrong. To put it another way: both as 'Cooley' in Gower Gulch and as Cooley the man, he was at the extreme from such fabricated moral codes as Hopalong Cassidy's 'Creed for American Boys and Girls', Roy Roger's 'Rider's Rules', or Gene Autry's more famous 'Ten Commandments of the Cowboy' (number 9 of which starts 'a cowboy respects womanhood..').

Starting as it does with a shot of two cowboys hanging upside down, (an apt symbol in itself) Gower Gulch has several moments of dialogue eerily prescient of Cooley's future transgressions. For the rodeo itself the star is given a dead man's choice between two 'killer' horses, including the one he chooses which has previously 'trod a man to death'. 'Why do I get a killer and you don't?' asks Cooley, Providence balefully staring over his shoulder. Spade's false screen reputation follows him throughout ('I've seen him on the screen and he's tough' opines one cowboy) haunting him as effectually as did his actual reputation later, while Cooley's chief song: 'I've got a girl with red hair … and I can't wait to see her each day', once one has read the description of his crime, when he apparently battered his wife's head against the floor in a fit of jealousy, acquires an awesome ominousness. Whenever Cooley flies into action it is never just the bad guy he slugs, free of any responsibility, as the film's baggage carries disturbing reverberations.

As a narrative itself Gulch is entirely forgettable. Whereas in Silver Bandit Cooley, playing another outsider pretending to be something he is not (an accountant, but actually a mine owner's stooge), just learns how to fit into a community, in Gulch he has to acquire specific skills in short order – specifically to ride, shoot and rodeo. One of the drawbacks of the film is that it is so unconvincing in any of this suspension of disbelief as, for instance, the star is seen riding forcefully in one scene only to have problems mounting his horse at all in the next.

Looking vaguely like Warren Oates' young brother Cooley comes off better in Silver Bandit, where his reticence works well in context, than he does here. Although he has the physique of an outdoors man (unlike the tubby, far more successful Autry for instance) and acquaints himself well in the saddle, none of this overcomes his dull delivery of lines and his lack of screen presence. Only when Cooley sings does something of his contemporary popularity make itself obvious, and more of this would have done his films a service.

One can buy Gulch and the slightly better directed Silver Bandit back to back on one cheap DVD these days (although the one common sense sense addition, that of the third film from his short-starring, ill-starred career, is absent). For anyone wishing a peculiar viewing experience, it can be recommended. Bland the films may be, but the blood on the future Cooley's hands gives his few starring vehicles an unusual atmosphere as well as a peculiar anticipation.


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