29 August 2020 | MartinHafer
Why would you do a radio broadcast and highlight a tap dancer?! I'm really confused about this portion of the film!
The old Roy Rogers and Gene Autry movies were very odd in that many times they played fictionalized versions of their real life selves. What I mean is that in some of their films instead of living in the west, they are successful actors or singers or radio stars...and often these 'stars' decide to head back west for some special event.
In the case of "Melody Ranch", the film begins with Gene a radio star who is convinced to return to his old home town of Torpedo where he'll be made an honorary sheriff. He thinks it's a great opportunity to re-establish ties with his old friends...and his producer thinks it'll be great publicity. However, this reunion turns out to be a bit of a dud, as the nasty Wildhack Boys (Barton MacLane and Joe Sawyer) boss everyone around...and they plan on doing the same to Autry! The depth of the problem is obvious after Autry intervenes when these guys and their jerk friends are shooting up the bar. He takes one of the WIldhacks to court...where the crooked judge immediately dismisses the case!
The problem, however, doesn't blow over and it all comes to a head during one of Gene's broadcasts from Torpedo. The same Wildhack and his friend disrupt the broadcast and force Gene to fight them both...and he does fine until one of them smacks Gene over the head! Gene feels shamed...and determines to get himself in shape for another showdown....something which doesn't come for some time in the film.
In the meantime, Gene's occasional nemesis back East, Julie (Ann Miller), begins acting strangely. She seems to becoming enamored with Gene...and she's already the producer's girlfriend!
Seeing Joe Sawyer, Horace McMahon, and Barton MacLane playing big, mean bullies certainly is no surprise. They OFTEN played physical jerks like this and so it's no surprise they are in these roles. What WAS a surprise was seeing Gene with two sidekicks...Gabby Hayes and, believe it or not, Jimmy Durante!! Durante was a strange addition to an Autry film, that's for sure....though less weird than when Durante was paired with Buster Keaton a few years earlier! Plus, oddly, it worked very well...which shocked me! Overall, a fun little film with a rousing finale...as well as a funny parody of Gene's most famous cowboy tune, "I'm Back in the Saddle Again".