Monday, September 7, 2009

In Old Cheyenne

How old is Old? In the fantasy West of Republic Pictures, you never really know. In this one, released in 1941, everyone rides horses, carries six-shooters and wears Old West attire - everyone, that is except Roy Rogers, who sports a double-breasted suit and a little double-barreled necktie no real cowboy would be caught dead in. There are no automobiles, no telephones, no radios.

But as the film opens, on an Old West train, an attendant with a ballpark-style concessions tray is selling King Cigarettes. Each pack comes with a collector card featuring an actress, and a customer remarks that he wants the one with Lillian Russell in tights.

When we arrive in Cheyenne, everything is suitably Old Westy until the camera pans onto the theater, where the name of an actress is up in blinking lights. Two guys on the street offer the explanation. “Cheyenne’s the first city in the country to use electricity,” says one. “No flies on us,” is the reply.

Any truth to that? According to the official Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power website…
It was in Wyoming where Edison, whose many inventions led to the creation of modern electricity, first came up with the idea for his “light in a bottle.” He was in Wyoming with a party of other scientists who had traveled across the rugged mountains and plains to see an eclipse. After returning home to his laboratory, Edison perfected the forerunner of today’s incandescent electric lamp. The city’s first electric streetlamps were erected in 1884. First in the country? Doubtful. But lighting up a theater marquee?

From there on, we’re back in the Old West. Roy abandons his suit for cowboy attire, and his shirt is remarkably free of flowers or rhinestones. He goes after (and gets) the town’s richest and baddest man, who is trying to drive the settlers out and blame it on harmless old Gabby Hayes. It ends with a good long Republic shootout, complete with the old roll-the-
burning-wagon-down-the-hill-into-the-house trick. Roy warbles only one song, and though it ain’t a cowboy tune, it’s a good one.

1 comment:

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

The same year Custer died for America's sins the telephone was invented. Deadwood was the second city in the US to have a phone system. I'm not sure it was even a state yet.