19 November 2006 | krorie
By the time "Rhythm of the Saddle" hit the big screen, Gene Autry was the number one cowboy in America. He was truly a singing cowboy, having success on the radio as well as being one of the leading recording artists of the day. Starting his career as a blue yodeler in the Jimmie Rodgers vein, by 1938 Gene had developed into a crooner of western-styled ballads. Gene was also a successful songwriter. He co-wrote the country music classic "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine" and several others. But Gene would have been the first to admit that he was not the best singer, actor, or rider in Hollywood. Yet he had a certain charisma that made him a star and enough talent to keep his star in the sky, a star that continues to shine even today.
"Rhythm of the Saddle" is a mix of action, romance, and music, with a little humor provided by the multi-talented Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette), whose least talent unfortunately was comedy.
The film ends with an exciting stagecoach race providing the usual amount of fine stunt work by Republic's gallery of stunt men. The stunt perfected by Yakima Canutt where the stuntman goes underneath the horses and then the stagecoach to reemerge fit enough to pull himself back onto the stage is done by Joe Yrigoyen standing in for Gene. It's amazing what Republic could do in an age void of computer graphics.
The music this time is one of the weakest elements in the movie. Most of the songs are lackluster and not up to Gene's usual standards. The best of the lot is Gene's rendition of the old pop standard "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." Of the others ("Merry-Go-Roundup," "Oh, Ladies,""When Mother Nature Sings Her Lullaby," and "Old Trail"), the humorous ditty, "Oh, Ladies," with Gene and Smiley yodeling--partly in Frog's frog voice, is the best and certainly the most entertaining.
The story is somewhat complex for the small fries. Gene is framed while trying to obtain a must-have contract for next year's rodeo in Overland, Nevada, for his boss, ranch owner Maureen McClune (Peggy Moran). Gene and Frog come up against the sinister machinations of Jack Pomeroy (Le Roy Mason), nightclub owner with a desire to have everything for himself. Gene is aided by Champion who brings Frog and Maureen to where Gene is hiding so Gene can save the day. This time rather than Gene chasing archfiend Pomeroy down for a final fisticuffs, the villain meets his end in a most appropriate way.
Though the music is a bit weak this time, there is enough action to please Gene's many fans; plus the story is above average for an oater. And what a stagecoach race!