Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Overlooked Films: Gene Autry in "Man from Music Mountain" (1938)

If you’re looking for the quintessential Gene Autry movie, you might as well look at Man from Music Mountain. It’s absolutely everything an Autry movie should be, and nothing more.

Here’s the lowdown. The film takes place in the Old West of 1936, just after Boulder Dam (now known, due to strange and devious circumstances, as Hoover Dam) went into operation. While normal folks are riding around in automobiles and talking on telephones and using new-fangled conveniences like refrigerators, Gene and his posse still pack six-guns, ride horses and dress like B-movie cowpunchers.

When we first see Gene and the gang, they’re just riding along singing a song in their typical carefree cowboy way. In this benign and relatively non-violent West, there are no bloodthirsty outlaws or hardbitten gunslingers. The bad guys are unscrupulous businessmen out to defraud good honest men and women (and even children), out of their life savings. This time, the villains are selling real estate in a ghost town, promising buyers that power will soon be coming from the dam. That, of course, is a lie - until Gene jumps on Champion, rides to the rescue and (SPOILER ALERT) makes it a reality.

Gene does a lot of singing, of course, and applies his overaged Boy Scout charm to catching the eye of a pretty young land fraud victim. Smiley Burnette does a lot of singing, too, and engaging in good-natured tomfoolery, and flirting with a blonde who wouldn’t look at him twice if he wasn’t a movie star.

It’s all good clean fun, it goes down painlessly, and is quickly over, with everyone getting their just deserts - except maybe that pretty young fraud victim. Apparently she didn’t go the movies much, or she’d have known Gene would soon be riding off into the next sunset to sing sweet songs to other wholesome gals and rescue other god-fearing folk from other dirty scoundrels.

But hey, it wasn’t Gene’s fault. He had a movie contract to fulfill, and a lot more quintessential Autry movies to make.

ODD NOTE: Five years later, in 1943, the same director (Joseph Kane) made another film for the same studio (Republic) with the same title (see above), but starring Roy Rogers instead of Gene. A remake? So you’d think. But this one had an entirely different plot (though it did have a dam in it).

More Overlooked Films at SWEET FREEDOM.


James Reasoner said...

I think most of Gene's movies are watchable, but he's no Roy Rogers, who could actually ride and handle some of the stunt work. Yakima Canutt's autobiography has some great stories about the pranks (admittedly sort of cruel) the stuntmen played on Gene. But he's likable, no doubt about that.

Evan Lewis said...

It's true, James. Everything Gene could do, Roy could do better. Except maybe fight the remnants of a lost civilization and their robot with a cowboy hat, as in The Phantom Empire.

evenspotspeaks said...

When I was a kid I had this 78rpm of Gene Autry "Old Chisholm Trail" and "The Big Coral" on a red vinyl. I got into Gene Autry movies about 10 or 15 yrs ago. My first DVD I purchased was Gene Autry TV Classic Western Volume 1 & 2. Then I purchased the Gene Autry Show seasons. Also picked up a few of his movies. He's still my favorite cowboy and my favorite Autry song is his version of "Ghost Riders In The Sky".