Cattle Town (1952)
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The story's about the governor of Texas who sends Cowboy Morgan to keep the peace between ranchers and a land baron. After many film roles from heavy dramas to light comedies, Dennis still looks good and plays his hero role with substantial conviction.
Morgan gets to sing more songs and in more varied situations than you could shake a stick at, and even his adversaries seem to have their savage beasts tamed by this cowboy's melodious strains.
The film isn't ever going to win any prizes; it's just interesting and enjoyable to see and hear one who was born to be a star go through these western paces before riding off to the sunset. Also of special interest is a young (and most attractive) Rita Moreno in an early--and of course Mexican--role.
It's a strange film that doesn't seem to know whether to be a serious Western, a Romance or a Musical. In the end it decides to amalgamate all three so we are just left with a confusing and messy hybrid. The lead actor Dennis Morgan who comes across as plain smug, and his sidekick, just don't convince at all. They are way too jovial, randomly and annoyingly bursting into some plain awful songs. It is therefore hard to take this effort at all seriously which is a shame as there was a germ of a decent film here.
I wasn't expecting much but I was expecting more than I got. Even with it's short running time I was left praying for the end well before it finished. It's not often you are rooting for the hero to be shot and killed but this is one time when it would have been a blessed relief. This is a very poor western and certainly among the worst I have seen. Avoid.
SYNOPSIS: A carpetbagger attempts to evict squatters and illegally seize their cattle in post-Civil War Texas.
COMMENT: Thanks to the copious use of easily recognizable stock footage from Dodge City, San Antonio and other "A"-grade Warner westerns of the past, this "B"-grade effort from budget-conscious producer, Bryan Foy, looks very good indeed.
It's also helped by a fairly sizable (for a "B") budget of its own, with lots of location lensing, hard riding (with running inserts yet), good matching sets and photography, and a solid cast headed by singing hero, Dennis Morgan. Behind the 8 Ball's O'Hanlon makes a great comic offsider, whilst Ray Teal and Bob Wilke make as fine a pair of villains as you could wish for.
On the distaff side, Miss Blake is a winning heroine. Miss Moreno though has little to do!
And why Phil Carey receives second billing for his small role is a real mystery.
The script has been cleverly and ingeniously plotted to slot in as much action and spectacular footage as possible without sacrificing continuity or consistency.
Dennis Morgan's vocal talents have not been neglected either. These also are deftly integrated into the script, including even a waltz war which actually starts off the Dodge City saloon brawl.
Technical credits, including Noel Smith's pacey direction and Ted McCord's moody photography, are excellent. Art director Stanley Fleischer also deserves a special pat on the back for sets that match the stock footage decors so perfectly, audiences won't know where Fleischer ends and Ted Smith starts.