7 December 2015 | duke1029
Mesquiteeers and Monkeyshines
"Come on, Cowboys" comes close to being the most enjoyable of the Mesquiteer series starring the Bob Livingstone / Ray Corrigan / Max Terhune version of the trio. It combines almost all the elements that fans of the series loved, but like many of these B-plus B movies, it is filled with gaffes that its loyal followers happily ignore.
Although Ray 'Crash' Corrigan was most closely identified with his Tucson Smith characterization in the "Three Mesquiteers" series, he made a even greater impression, albeit semi-anonymously, as various gorillas and large apes in a score of films including the title roles in "Zamba," "White Pongo," and the Orangopoid in the original "Flash Gordon" serial. Corrigan was very skilled in imitating simian mannerisms a la Rick Baker and made a very effective ape, often frightening the more juvenile members of the audience. but for career reasons played most of these roles without billing. "Come On, Cowboys" marks the only time he played both his ape character and Tucson in the same film. As the audience is fully aware that 'Crash' is in the suit, the scene is played for laughs as he tries to frighten one of the henchmen into betraying his boss and is one of the film's highlights as well as a great in-joke for film buffs.
Corrigan, who plays a body builder in "Come On, Cowboys," started his career as a fitness trainer to the stars of Hollywood, where he made contacts who got him small parts in movies beginning with a role as a gorilla in "Tarzan and His Mate." Why did Corrigan get so many ape parts? The simple answer is that he owned the suit. His main competition for simian roles came from Charles Gemora and Emil Van Horn, both of whom also owned their own gorilla suit too, suits in Gemora's case,but neither was quite as fearsome as Corrigan's. Van Horn lost his when his landlady confiscated all his belongings for non-payment of rent.
In 1947 Corrigan sold his suit to Steve Calvert, who continued to play gorillas until 1960 in Poverty Row productions like "The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters," "Panther Girl of the Kongo," and "Bride of the Gorilla." Corrigan made a brief comeback in "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklym Gorilla," in which both actors donned the costume.
The many gaffes in "Come On, Cowboy" are typical of Republic's general one-take policy, but one wonders why director Joe Kane didn't do a quick retake of these short scenes. Tuscon mistakenly refers to Alibi as "Stony" in a brief shot and Stony refers to the Treasury Men as G-Men, not T-Men. A two minute reshoot could have corrected either of these dialogue flubs which were the fault of the actors, but Kane either never noticed or didn't care.
Chinese-American actor Willie Fung's 1930s screen persona was somewhat akin to an offensive comedic Asian version of Stepin Fetchit. In a comic scene, the actor plays a 1930s country and western song, "Don't Ever Get Married, My Son" on his 78 rpm Victrola. He is not happy with it, but the next side he plays is Chopin's depressing funeral march dirge, and he smashes the record. Surely director Joe Kane should have realized that the logic of these two polar opposite, completely different musical pieces being flip sides of the sane record was totally incongruous, and Kane should have instructed Fung to choose a different 78, but shooting the scene quickly obviously was the director's greatest priority.
The sloppiness was not just Kane's or the actor's. An even more obvious continuity error occurred in the cutting room. The scene in which Max Terhune is tied up on a dangerously careening buckboard alternates between locations that have a precipitous cliff on his left and others that have obviously flat terrain.
The film opens with the Mesquiteers performing at a circus owned by the trio's stand-up friend and his corrupt partner. Alibi does his ventriloquist act and card tricks, Tucson does a weightlifting strongman act, and Stony shows off his marksmanship. One wonders who's running their ranch while they're on tour. When their friend is jailed, the Mesquiteers again become Polyannas and agree to make their friend's year-old daughter their ward, even agreeing in court that one of them will get married to the child's pretty guardian as per the judge's order. Although neither Tuscon or Stony, a notorious skirt-chaser in earlier episodes, wants to get spliced, it doesn't seem to dawn on anyone involved to grant custody to the current guardian.
Although logic never seems to deter the Mesquiteer plots, they are filled with the type of action that kept the fans of 1930s Republic Westerns and serials coming through the turnstiles. This is the seventh appearance of the legendary Yakina Canutt in this seventh Mesquiteer entry as both stuntman and henchie. In "Come On, Cowboys" Canutt doubles for Corrigan and does his signature jump from a galloping stallion to a horse team on a runaway buckboard. Canutt would later expand on that 'gag' in the classic "Stagecoach" in 1939. The film also includes a rather uncharacteristically brutal scene in which the actor shoots two of his fellow gang members in the chest through the jailhouse window at close range to prevent their talking to the sheriff, a level of violence not common to the series.
The film ends with a reprise of the earlier wedding ceremony. How the trio get out of it is unexplained and becomes a real cliffhanger guaranteed to to bring the audience in when Mesquiteer feature #8 premiered in two months.
A brief caveat... most of the versions of "Come On, Cowboys" currently available on DVD are the 52 minute version edited for TV in the early 50s from its original 56 minute running time.