The last, and aptly-titled, of Gene Autry's starring westerns finds Pony Express rider Gene Autry (Gene Autry) deciding to start a stage line to carry the mail, since with the coming of the telegraph, the need for the Pony Express no longer exists. He is fired by his boss Tom McEwen (John Downey) for being disloyal. Scheming townsmen Clyde Vesey (Howard Wright), Jess Hogan (Arthur Space') and Dutch Murdoch (Gregg Barton), in order to get a government mail contract for themselves, try to discredit McEwen's Pony Express riders by holding up rider Johnny Blair Dickie Jones), who is in love with McEwen's daughter Katie (Kathlee Case'). Gene and his pal Smiley (Smiley Burnette') smash the renegades and finally establish their own stage line, and Gene and which every version of "Champion' (Champion(II)' he was riding at the moment exit after 18 years of genre-changing B-westerns. And leaving with the question of why was a name not seen before on a B-western, Ruth Woodman, credited with the ... Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Pony Express line rider Gene Autry realizing the changes that will soon come with the new invention of the telegraph, announces his plans to leave the company and start his own stage line to capture what will be a newly created freight and bulk mail business. When he offers his boss, Pony Express Agent owner Tom McEwen (John Downey) a full partnership in the new venture, he is abruptly fired because of his perceived disloyalty. Seizing upon the opportunity, corrupt local banker Clyde Vesey and his henchmen (Howard Wright, Arthur Space and Gregg Barton) try to hasten the demise of the Pony Express and capture the new mail contract for themselves by sabotaging the mail runs of Express Rider Johnny Blair (Dickie Jones).
Progress, change and advancing technology was a dominant theme in the later post-war Autry Westerns and never more so than in this movie . After watching Last of the Pony Riders it's evident it was a skillfully engineered allegorical tale and ride into the big screen sunset for Gene. Employing a screenplay by never before used writer Ruth Woodman, it's a crafted parable mirroring Gene's real life and a decision on whether to stick with the past, a very successful past, or embrace an imminent future. Gene had walked a fine line when he began filming his own television series between alienating his relationship with movie distributors and theater owners or accepting the changing entertainment landscape that the new medium of television would create. The same type relationship that Gene's character in this movie has with the Pony Express and a new economic future created by the telegraph.
Pony Riders was the end of the silver screen trail for Gene. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries who limped out under the strain of ever declining budgets, Gene owning his own production company was able to finish on a high note. Gene was in the third year of his television series and this picture employed a lot of Autry TV regulars. It also brings back sidekick Smiley Burnette who Autry began his starring film run with almost twenty years before. It was good to see Gene and Smiley get in one last duet before signing off.
Last of the Pony Riders is an entertaining movie in it's own right but also worth watching to see the the last B-Western made by one of the pioneers of the genre.
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