Cinematic comedian Joe E. Brown chews the scenery with relish in director Ray Enright's Hollywood Pre-Code comedy "The Tenderfoot" as a Texan with a wide stride who arrives in New York City to make a mint in show business. This lightweight romp about a fish-out-of-water is amusing primarily because Brown plays the part with such gusto. Initially, our unwitting hero manages to avoid several hucksters at Grand Central Station where he lassos his luggage, catches a ride with a Hebrew fellow driving a horse-drawn wagon, and then hilariously mistakes a group of gay chorus boys decked out in Stetsons and chaps for his own native cowpunchers. This brief scene is probably the most risqué bit in this farce. Afterward, he plays into the hands of a pair of four-flushing Broadway producers who don't have a scruple between them. Producers Joe Lehman (Lew Cody of "Three Rogues") and Mack McLure (Robert Greig of "Animal Crackers") persuade cattleman Calvin Jones (Joe E. Brown) from Beeseville, Texas, to part with his life savings, approximately $25,000, to produce a dud called "Her Golden Sin" that is destined to fail. The two impecunious producers pursue Jones after they learn that he is looking for a bank to stash his cash. They overwhelm him with dreams of millions and sell him on a western show that they need him for since he can provide technical savvy. Foolishly enough, Calvin falls for their line and shells out his loot, while Lehman's receptionist Ruth Weston (Ginger Rogers of "Flying Down to Rio") stands by and watches her bosses fleece this poor lamb. Of course, "Her Golden Sin" opens in Syracuse, and Calvin doesn't realize that it has flopped. Behind his back, one woman who saw it says "if they take it to New York, they'll have to embalm it."
Meantime, Calvin has fallen hopelessly in love with Ruth who thinks it's a dirty shame what Lehman and McLure have pulled on him. After Ruth reveals to Calvin how badly that he has been duped, he behaves like an idiot and agrees to buy out Joe and Mack, but he doesn't have enough cash to complete the deal until another unsuspecting rube, Oscar (Spencer Charters), who knows nothing about Broadway decides to ante up $5000 and become an associate producer. No sooner do things look propitious for Calvin and Oscar than they discover that they have no costumes. Ruth stumbles onto a wardrobe horde of Shakespearean costumes, and Calvin decides to use them anyway because he is desperate. "People will think you're crazy," Ruth tells him. "Well, I'd rather open with costumes and let them think I'm crazy than open without them and have them know it." When Calvin's leading lady (Vivien Oakland) bails at the last minute because she abhors the travesty that she is about to be a part of, Calvin replaces her with Ruth who knows the part perfectly. In a complete reversal, "Her Sin" opens, and Variety reports that "a hard-boiled Broadway audience" rollicked "in the aisles with its brilliant satire and delightful burlesque." Another critic rhapsodizes that "Mr. Jones proves himself a craftsman of satire—satire that will rock the theatrical world."
Afterward, Calvin refuses to pay racketeer Lefty Duran the outrageous price of $500 for tickets for a benefit, so he abducts Ruth for ransom. Calvin puts on his Stetson, packs his Colt .45 six-guns, and heads off to rescue Ruth. Duran and his henchmen think that they have the advantage over Calvin. Calvin gets the drop on Duran and company. "I just want to warn you when you stack cards with me you are messing with the best shot in Rawhide County, Texas." When Calvin makes his exit, he backs into a closet and the racketeers knock him unconscious and lock him up in the kitchen. Calvin rides the dumbwaiter. An interesting subplot has a jealous blue-collar wage earner Joe (Nat Pendleton) mistaking Calvin as his wife's illicit lover. Joe blasts away at Calvin with two revolvers and the bullets penetrate the door and stop Duran's thugs in their tracks. Calvin recovers his guns and pursues the hoodlums on horseback. Calvin catches each of them with his sharp-shooting shenanigans. Later, back in Beeseville, he stages the same play, but he is married to Ruth with triplets. In a clever ending, the triplets are each Joe E. Brown.
Joe E. Brown was the 1930s version of Jim Carrey with his elastic face, cherubic smile, and a personality. Ostensibly, "The Tenderfoot" was adapted from George S. Kaufman's play "The Butter and Egg Man." Although it isn't insanely funny, "The Tenderfoot" has enough laughs to sustain it throughout its 75 minutes.