|Index||4 reviews in total|
In my book, it's superior Autryfine Lone Pine photography, an unusual
plot with a major twist, and a rare dramatic role for the usually
buffoonish Pat Buttram. Plus, there's the big hit song of that year,
Mule Train, which may not be tuneful but is a lot of fun for a song.
Meanwhile, Gene has to hide his marshal's badge in order to help entrepreneur Buttram make a success in selling cement, of all things. Seems, however, some guys in suits want to keep the business for themselves, so the good guys have a problem. Then again, maybe the sheriff will help, except she's a girl (Ryan) even if she is a deadly shot.
Those wagon trains add hard-riding color, plus the exploding canyon is mostly well done. Still, I wonder about the same mountaintop that blows up 4-times over! (I think). And certainly Sheila Ryan makes for the kind of sheriff you'd like to get arrested by. Here, she may be fixing dinner for Autry, but it's really Buttram she ends up with after their meeting on the set (IMDB)married in 1952.
All in all, there's enough good cowboy action and moody mountain scenery to keep this old Front Row kid happy.
Songs blend pretty well. Buttram bumbles amusingly. Marshall Gene helps old friend Smokey establish worthiness of natural-cement-deposit on inheirited land. This doesn't sit well with Sam Brady, who's freight company transports crushed stone to earthen dam being built by local cattlemen. Also in mix is lady Sheriff Carol, who's in cahoots with Brady; and banker Clayton Hodges, who's loan to Brady is too big. An average effort of it's kind.
Mule Train which must have been rushed into production and distribution
to take advantage of Frankie Laine's mega-hit has Gene Autry singing
the song and working undercover as a US Marshal. Only sidekick Pat
Buttram knows Gene is a marshal.
This film marks a first as the famous Hitchcockian McGuffin is natural cement of which Pat Buttram and his cantankerous old partner John Miljan have on their otherwise pretty worthless property. As water is pretty scarce this stuff is going to come in mighty handy to build a new and solid dam.
I have to say that Miljan was a surprise to me. He usually plays polished and sophisticated villains, seeing him in this part that Gabby Hayes would be perfect casting was a revelation.
Freight Line owner Robert Livingston has a vested interest in trying to get the property. But female sheriff Sheila Ryan seems to be playing an interesting role here. She's a trick shot carnival act who got left behind by her show and is now sheriff. Could things be brewing for Gene and her.
Mule Train with a little better writing could have been a first class western with some major stars. As it is, it's pretty good, far superior to the usual Saturday matinée stuff. Gene was no longer with Republic, I'm guessing Harry Cohn at Columbia was giving him some better and more adult material to work with.
Besides the title song Gene also sings country hit Room Full Of Roses which had a lot of cross over appeal. Dick Haymes and later Dean Martin did successful records of it. Gene warbles it real pretty.
One of Autry's better westerns from Columbia.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It seems Gene recycled themes in his movies quite often, this is his
third dam story I've seen following 1936's "Red River Valley" and
1940's "Rancho Grande". The idea this time involves the discovery of
'natural cement' on property formerly owned by Smokey Argyle (Pat
Buttram) and now in the possession of the cantankerous Judd Holbrook
(John Miljan). Because freight line owner Sam Brady (Robert Livingston)
stands to lose out on supplying cheaper and less effective materials
for an upcoming large dam project, his band of thugs begin hassling
Gene to stay out of their way.
One of the more interesting elements here is the presence of a female town sheriff (Sheila Ryan) who's a crack shot and doesn't mind throwing her weight around once Gene arrives at the town of Trails End. One gets the idea that she might not be on the up and up herself as the story progresses, and when she releases Brady and his men from jail following a dust up with Gene, it's pretty much a given that the jewelry Gene has in mind for her at the end of the picture will involve a set of bracelets, but not the glittery kind. I was surprised to learn after checking her stats on the IMDb that Ms. Ryan was married to Pat Buttram for over twenty years! So Smokey's several comments to Gene about hooking up with the pretty sheriff was just a smokescreen for his own intentions after the picture wrapped!
I've seen quite a few Autry flicks but I don't recall ever seeing him ride Champion bareback before. That was another neat little element thrown in about midway into the story. Gene was in a rush to investigate a gunshot and had just time enough to throw on a quick rope bridle and hoist himself over Champ's back to make a quick take off.
Now I don't want to say Gene did anything illegal here but it sure made me think when he sent a phony telegram off using Judd Holbrook's name after the guy was dead already. Since Gene was a federal marshal I guess no one was going to call him on it if they knew, but there's probably something wrong with that whole idea. I'm kind of curious about that.
Well the title song was done three times during the picture and was quite snappy with it's lyrics, whip cracks and clippety clop sounds. I don't recall ever hearing the Frankie Laine version, and personally, I'm rather more partial to the Fendermen's rendition of the Mule Skinner Blues. I would like to have heard Gene try singing that one.
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