6 October 2013 | MartinHafer
The film that helped destroy Ken Maynard's career.
In the history of B-westerns, no other cowboy star had a worse reputation among those who worked with him. Although Maynard was a top star, he reportedly treated the crew of his films like dirt and frequently argued with his bosses about money. According to IMDb, he was so disagreeable that 'to never have met Maynard was reportedly a blessing'!! But the studio was stuck--he was a top star. However, in the film "In Old Santa Fe", the studio accidentally found an answer to their problems--in the form of Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette. Both were only in the film a few minutes to provide some musical numbers but they did such a nice job--and the executives decided to feature Autry instead of Maynard in an upcoming film. From here on, Maynard's career was in a tailspin--working for smaller and smaller studios for less and less pay until he was pushed out of pictures just a decade or so later. So, "In Old Santa Fe" marks the beginning of the end for Maynard. And, to make things worse, years later some bozos pasted Autry's name at the beginning of the film--even though he's barely in this movie!
The sad truth is that "In Old Santa Fe" is a terrific film--one of the best of its kind. If Maynard had only been a nicer person, he could have remained a first tier star--and he is wonderful in this movie. It's far better than his later films and showed that he could appear to be a heck of a guy.
The movie begins with Kentucky (Maynard) and Cactus (Gabby Hayes) heading to the Miller (H.B. Warner) ranch. On the way, Miller's daughter is driving pretty recklessly but it gives her a nice chance to meet handsome Maynard. Maynard is smitten and Cactus is wonderfully grouchy both here and throughout the film! However, in the meantime, a nasty piece of work, Chandler (Kenneth Thomson) shows up and begins trying to blackmail Miller and vows to force Miller to give him his beautiful daughter! Naturally, Kentucky is in the way and Chandler and his evil sidekick vow to destroy Kentucky. But, being a cowboy hero, you just know that he'll somehow save himself, sweet Lila Miller and her father!
This is a terrific film--probably better than any Roy Rogers or Gene Autry film I've seen (and I've seen a lot). The plot is surprisingly good, the acting very good (I loved Gabby in this one), the musical numbers by Autry and Burnette were excellent and the film SHOULD have been just one more nice film in Maynard's long career! Too bad but I guess this is indeed a case of what goes around, comes around. A must-see for fans of the genre as well as Autry fans.