7 user 3 critic

Riders in the Sky (1949)

Passed | | Western | 17 August 1950 (Mexico)
When asked about the Ghost Riders song he sings, Gene Autry (Gene Autry) tells this legend: Gene is about to resign as an investigator for the county attorney and go into the cattle ... See full summary »



(story), (screenplay)




Cast overview, first billed only:
... Gene Autry
... Champ - Gene's Horse
... Anne Lawson
... Julie Stewart
... Rock McCleary
... Ralph Lawson
... Marshal Riggs
... Old Man Roberts
... Chuckwalla
... Luke - Stagecoach Driver
... Dave - Bartender
... Bud Dwyer - Henchman
Joseph Forte ... Agnew - Engineer (as Joe Forte)
... Travis - Henchman
... Coroner


When asked about the Ghost Riders song he sings, Gene Autry (Gene Autry) tells this legend: Gene is about to resign as an investigator for the county attorney and go into the cattle business with his pal Chuckawalla Jones (Pat Buttram) but decides instead to help Anne Lawson (Gloria Henry) clear her father, rancher Ralph Lawson (Steve Darrell'), of a false murder charge. He looks for the three witnesses who can testify that Lawson shot only in self defense in killing a gambler, but the witnesses are terrorized by another gambler, town boss Rock McCleary (Robert Livingston), who shoots witness Pop Roberts (Tom London)Morgan. Fatally wounded, Pop gives Gene the information needed to clear Lawson, then dies crying the "Ghost Riders" are coming for him. Gene then heads for a showdown with McCleary. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Gene and Champion Ride To Glory!... as the range echoes to the stirring strains of the great cowboy ballad! See more »




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

17 August 1950 (Mexico)  »

Also Known As:

Beyond the Purple Hills  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Former Forest Ranger Stan Jones wrote "(Ghost) Riders in the Sky," a hit big enough that it crossed over from country-western charts to standard pop music. A chance meeting with Jones led Gene Autry to buy the rights to the song, and he gave Jones a part in the film. A nearly-complete Autry movie, Beyond the Purple Hills (1950), was quickly retooled to include the song. Jones himself appears as a cowboy riding herd with Autry in the opening and closing scenes, singing along with Gene's rendition of the spooky song. That same year Vaughn Monroe had topped the charts with his version (#1 US Pop for 22 weeks). Over the years many others have recorded it, including Peggy Lee, Willie Nelson, Frankie Laine, Johnny Cash, The Marshall Tucker Band and The Doors. Jones would later compose the title song to the classic TV western series Cheyenne (1955). See more »


When Gene puts McCleary in the stage at the end of their fight, it appears that McCleary still has a gun in his holster. See more »


J.B. Galloway, District Attorney: Say, you and Chuckwalla meant that about quitting and buying a ranch?
Gene Autry: Yeah, we're leavin' today. Thought we'd just start ridin' until we run onto something we liked.
J.B. Galloway, District Attorney: Well, if it doesn't work out, don't come back to me for a job... just reach into that top drawer and pin your own badge on.
See more »


Edited into Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch (1976) See more »


Cowboy's Lament
(Streets of Laredo)
Sung by Gene Autry
See more »

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User Reviews

Dull programmer, redeemed by the title song and 1 powerful sequence
26 September 2000 | by See all my reviews

For the most part this is a movie only of interest to Autry enthusiasts and those who like the superb title song (around which the script was presumably cobbled together). Sure enough, the song pops up twice and is easily the film's highlight on each occasion. The way that it is sung here, with emotion and zeal, and the mythic quality of its lyrics means that it transcends the B-material in which it is embedded.

The exception to boredom is the sequence in the film where the song plays out over the stark mono images of the old timer's grizzled face (as a character he dies shortly afterwards.) For an all too brief few minutes the power of the music asserts itself and the cinematography comes alive in high contrast black and white photography. The old timers' face becomes epic, stark, and deeply moving. In fact, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, I was reminded of Eisenstein's framing of facial 'types' in his Alexander Nevsky or October. So poetically powerful is this scene that it seems to have wondered in from another, more prestigious, movie (a good Western candidate being perhaps Anthony Mann's The Furies, where such stylisation abounds).

Then like a pan handler's lucky strike, the moment of glory fades and we are back to cinematic mediocrity, and a negligible, undramatic oater of most interest to hard core fans and completists.

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