One of Hoppy's old sidekicks, Russell "Lucky" Hayden, rode tall in the saddle...and he could really ride, one of the best in the west. Following his success playing Lucky Jenkins in 27 Hopalong Cassidy oaters, Lucky was lucky enough to land his own series at Columbia during the war years, 1942-1944. These proved to be action-packed horse-opera fodder that entertained young and old alike.
Dub "Cannonball" Taylor as the comic relief was, as always, a hoot and in "The Lone Prairie" is given some clever lines. When the stagecoach carrying money for rancher Jeff Halliday is attacked by outlaws at the beginning of the film, Cannonball holds a shaky gun on two of the robbers. His warning to them, "The way I'm aiming, I kin kill both of you at once." And when Lucky, who with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, capture the robbers, killing one of them, calls Cannonball "stranger," he retorts, "Don't call me stranger. My name is Cannonball." Too bad Cannonball doesn't get to play his xylophone in this picture. Today, Dub is perhaps best remembered as the backstabbing, abusive father in "Bonnie and Clyde," Ivan Moss.
A special treat are the film's musicians, also playing important roles along side Lucky, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Bob shares some good-natured banter with Lucky in several scenes, especially when Bob tries to "make time" with Lucky's romantic interest, Rancher Halliday's feisty daughter, Joan. Bob and the boys also aid Lucky in rounding up the bad guys. If the paint Bob rides in the show looks familiar to western fans, it's because it was Diablo, later ridden in many a TV-show by Duncan Renaldo as the Cisco Kid. The only let-down for Bob Wills fans is his choice of songs for the film. The opening/closing song is mediocre at best as is the love song in the middle of the movie. The only selection that should please Bob Wills' legion of admirers is the fiddle breakdown done at the dance during the jailbreak. Bob also throws in a follow-up called "Fiddle Man" that's almost up to par. The breakdown is the old standard "Liberty," done with a particular western swing flair by Bob, as only he could do it.
The plot has a few unusual twists to it for a budget western. The bad guys, the inimical John Merton being one of them, want to grab the Halliday ranch because of a railroad coming through - a traditional ploy - but what makes this one different is the bad guys are robbing the stagecoaches carrying mortgage money for Halliday so he can't pay off the lien holder. Even Cannonball, the stranger, plays a role in the land grab. A revenge motive is added when Lucky kills Merton's brother at the first of the story. Determining just who is the boss of the heavies is another interesting sidelight for there is a power struggle going on involving at least two of the henchmen.
It's too bad that Lucky was eventually released by Columbia to make way for Charles Starrett, for his series including "The Lone Prairie" was a winner all the way. As usual for budget westerns, the title has nothing to do with the plot.
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