If you like music, and even if you don't, this is one of Tex Ritter's better 30s films. It might really be called a musical since it features seven songs. The upbeat opening song, "Heading for Town," showcases Tex's genial and sincere personality; he gives a short semi-comic version of one of his trade mark songs, "Blood on the Saddle"; he does "Hittin' the Trail," all good songs. Tex does a fine version of "I'm a Natural Born Cowboy," a sort of pre-cursor to Bing Crosby's "I'm an Old Cowhand." We get the clichéd group vocal riding song "The Vagabond Song," and even Tommy Bupp sings in his biggest movie scene doing a creditable job on "I'm a Rippin' Snortin' Sheriff." Unfortunately, since he's no off key singing, comic mugging Alfalfa, we'll pass on him.
As a super bonus, though, we get Ray Whitley's band singing and playing Ray's excellent "Texas Washboard Rag," which reflects the musical influences of ragtime music and scat singing. The performance reminds us that, for those unfamiliar with Spike Jones, the washboard, augmented here with bicycle horn and copper pots, was a staple of thirties Western movie bands. It was Spike Jones in the forties who elevated the augmented washboard to orchestral instrument status.
But what about the movie? It's one of the better Grand National efforts. After the upbeat opener, the Tombstone Kid, an 'outlaw', trades horse with Tex, and quotes the Bible -- bread cast on the water returns to you. Then we're off and running with the action including all the formulaic elements of these films, here all well done: Tex being wrongly accused; Earl Dwire nicely evil as Clarke, the rich saloon owner and horse rustler, who swindles Tex; a good fight with Charles King at the outlaws' hideout; Tombstone returning at the end to rescue and aid Tex; and a fine elaborate final chase sequence involving about a hundred horses and horsemen, as Tex and the sheriff chase Clark and his henchmen as they drive the stolen horses through 'the pass.'
Note: There is no dumb sidekick 'comic' relief in this one. That really helped it! Hank Warden, who was in over 200 movies and TV shows, (mostly westerns) was the no nonsense sidekick, but he only appeared briefly except for duetting with Tex in the opening song. You can see him do a hick country dance in Tex's 'Trouble in Texas' (1937), and as the parson in 'The Alamo' (1960) among his many, many appearances.
The development of the story, the editing and the many great songs set it apart from other formulaic oaters of the period. I'd give it a 5 just for the music.
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