Set in 1861 Missouri at the outset of the Civil War, it's a toss up as to how the state will side during the great conflict. Officially a Union state, sympathies lie with the Southern cause, and when news of the attack on Fort Sumter breaks, cheers break out for the Confederacy at the garden party of Dr. Jason Bradford. Roy Rogers and Gabby Whittaker (Gabby Hayes) are sympathizers who become scouts for the Confederate Army, and their mission is to bring a guerrilla outlaw to justice. Val McBride wears a Confederate uniform, but his band of mercenaries would rather loot Federal supply trains and civilian ranchers, taking advantage of the conflict to enrich themselves.
It wasn't unusual for Charlie Chan films of the same era to make racial references, taking jabs at blacks as well as Orientals. This is the first time I've encountered it in a 'B' Western. There's a scene where Roy enters the Radford home and is greeted by the black maid Mammy Lou. When he comments that she's looking well, Mammy Lou replies - "Maybe I am, but I'm feelin' kind of pale."
For a good part of the film, Roy tries to convince his friend Dave (David Allen) to sever his allegiance with the outlaw McBride, but the easy money is too great a temptation. Dave and Roy share an affection for Dr. Bradford's daughter Laura (Sally March), though the romantic angle doesn't get resolved by the end of the film. In a rarity for these early oaters, the villain also has a female accomplice. Bess Warren (Dorothy Sebastian) is McBride's girlfriend, though the relationship is more casual than close.
I managed to pick up this film cheaply on DVD along with another Roy Rogers flick on the flip side, "Apache Rose". Both copies suffered from poor voice and lip synchronization, and this film was a bit blurry besides. Along with that, the story seemed to drag along with drawn out chases and repetitious dialog. Still, if you're a Roy and Gabby fan, there's enough here to tune in. So far it's the only film in which I've seen Roy sing a spiritual as part of his repertoire.
For Roy Rogers fans, another film with a Confederate backdrop to consider is "Robin Hood of the Pecos"; Gabby's along for that ride too. If you take in this film, have some fun and count up how many times Gabby says 'ya durn tootin'".
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