|Index||3 reviews in total|
This later film from the singing cowboy's career boasts good writing
and is further aided by the presence of the great Smiley Burnette. Gene
takes on a protection racket, murderers and a wayward kid brother.
Along the way, he croons a few tunes and Smiley gets to sing & clown
around as comic relief.
This film was not especially noteworthy, but the teaming of Autry, Smiley and Gail Davis was an enjoyable combination. Bob Livingston also appears in this pretty standard Autry film. The action was nicely done, but more action scenes would have been preferable.
This one is average, but Autry fans should enjoy it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In "Winning of the West" the plot calls for Gene Autry to have an
outlaw brother working for villains Raybold (Gregg Barton) and Selby
(Robert Livingston), but it might have been a better idea to have Gene
portray both characters. He did that before in 1936's "The Big Show"
where he played himself as well as a character named Tom Ford. As Jack
Austin/Autry, Richard Crane didn't seem to have much charisma, coming
across as just another B Western henchman, even when he decided to join
the good guys for the finish.
What bothered me in the early going was that street gunfight outside the Sycamora Gazette office, when Gene recognizes his brother and lays low so as not to have to shoot him. Trouble is, Jack takes aim at publisher Randolph, killing him in the process. Randolph's daughter Ann (Gail Davis) rightly blames Gene for her father's death, and in rather weak fashion, Gene defends himself against the charge. He has Western hero privilege of course, but this was a rather lame attempt to shift blame away from Gene, when he could have winged his brother or distracted him enough to avoid making Randolph a target. For his part, Randolph should have just stayed in the bank.
Another element that was mishandled occurred right before the finale, just as Gene shows up back in town with an arrest warrant on his head. It takes about a second and a quick scene change, and Gene winds up being deputized by Marshal Hackett (House Peters Jr.) to head the posse against the outlaws. I know a lot of thought didn't go into some of these oaters, but this was a bit too obvious.
Aside from the good brother/bad brother scenario, this is a rather standard Autry vehicle, complete with a handful of tunes sprinkled throughout. For many of Gene's films, the title of the picture is often supported by one of the musical entries, but not this time around. Smiley Burnette handles the first ditty, a rather awkward song called 'Five Minutes Late and a Dollar Short'. Gene handles 'Lonesome Cowboy' and 'Cowpoke Pokin' Along', while teaming up with Smiley to offer up 'Fetch Me Down My Trusty .45'.
This Autry western was released at the start of the last year Gene made
feature-length movies, 1953, and both he and the genre look tired.
We're at least 10 to 12 minutes into the film before the star makes his
initial appearance, and nearly all of the time prior to his arrival is
taken up by Smiley Burnette's hamming it up while he's the one center
stage. The director always needed to keep Burnette on a tight rein to
prevent his running off with Autry movies; apparently this one didn't
Gene Autry had a way of knowing when he had a good vehicle to work in, and when it was mediocre or a dud, and he doesn't seem to have his heart in this one. Not only does the actor playing his brother look nothing like Autry, but his performance is rather lifeless, too.
Add to that the fact that the musical interludes tend to slow down the action instead of advancing the plot, and that the stunting in the fight scenes is poorly done (it's imprecise and half-hearted), and you have a movie that it's just hard to get into -- even for a lifelong Gene Autry fan like myself. Not one of the better offerings from late in his career.
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