Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Overlooked Films: Roy Rogers as YOUNG BUFFALO BILL (1940)

Young Buffalo Bill is one the relatively few Roy Rogers oaters that takes place in the Old West rather than the New. In my book, that automatically gives it a leg up. But that's not all it has going for it.

The premise is not unique, but it’s at least unusual. It’s the 1860s, and the U.S. Government wants accurate surveys of the old Spanish land grants in the New Mexico Territory. The surveyor, an Eastern dude, is the son of the calvarly colonel for the area. Expecting trouble from the Spanish landowners - and the Indians - the colonel summons his old pal Gabby Hayes for help, and Gabby brings along his new pal, young Buffalo Bill Cody. Along with his buffalo hunting, Bill is already known for his pony express riding, and scouting for the army.

Gabby and Roy/Bill admire the local scenery.

You can tell Roy is playing Bill Cody instead of himself because he wears a fringed buckskin jacket and fringed buckskin pants. (Ever wonder what that would have been like when it rained?)  Gabby, playing Gabby, wears his trademark goofy hat and spouts his trademark phrase, “Yer durn tootin’.”

Chief T is led astray by his evil half-brother.

The Spanish landowner (who naturally has a beautiful daughter for Roy/Bill to sing to) is perturbed by the survey, but the real problem is that somewhere on his land is a lost gold mine - known only to the Comanches. The Comanche leader, played by ex-Tonto Chief Thundercloud, ain’t really a bad guy, but he’s dragged into trouble by his half-brother, a half-Mexican scoundrel who works for the testy Spanish landowner. Naturally, the half-breed wants to steal the gold mine, and tries to rig the survey accordingly. Roy/Bill objects, and derring-do ensues. Along the way, Roy sings a couple of songs to the beautiful daughter, but Gabby makes them palatable with sour looks.

Roy kicks a little Comanche butt.

P.S. Roy, as you may recall, also made a film (released that same year) called Young Bill Hickock. Would have been interesting if, years later, he'd made one about Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He could have reprised both roles.

Look over the rest of this week’s Overlooked Films at Sweet Freedom.


James Reasoner said...

I've always thought this was a cut above most of Roy's movies directed by Joseph Kane. I like the historical setting and it has a considerable amount of action. Too many of the Kane-helmed films get overwhelmed by the musical numbers.

Anonymous said...

Roy also played Jesse James ("Jesse James at Bay") and Billy Bonney ("Billy the Kid Returns"). A lot of the Kane-directed films were more like musicals than Westerns, especially after Gene Autry went into the Air Corps and Republic built Roy up into the "King of the Cowboys." Later, when the Rogers films were being made in Trucolor, the musical numbers almost disappeared and the action scenes became more graphic and violent.

Barry Traylor said...

As difficult as it may be to believe, but Gabby Hayes was just about my favorite in western movies when I was a kid in the late 1940's.

Evan Lewis said...

I was surprised that use of songs was somewhat restrained in this one.

Lots of folks must have liked Gabby, Barry. He had his own comic and his own TV show.

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Cap'n Bob said...

You must have had gunsmoke in your eyes when you tried to type cavalry. This sounds like a good RR flick, though.

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