9 June 2010 | FirstSoprano
"Just like in the Western Gun Stories!"
Don't be fooled by the slightly silly-sounding title - 'Romance On the Range' is one of the very best of Roy Rogers' films from the early '40s. There's nothing terribly unusual about the plot, but all of its elements - tight scripting, great cast, good direction, beautiful cinematography and excellent music - come together in just the right way to make it a solid and entertaining B-Western.
The villains in this instance are fur thieves looting the traps on the ranch where Roy, Gabby Hayes and the Sons of the Pioneers work as foreman, camp cook and cowhands, respectively. Roy & Co. take a personal interest when another cowhand (noted stuntman Henry Wills in an uncredited bit part) is murdered after stumbling onto the gang at work. Meanwhile, the ranch's absentee owner (Linda Hayes, in the best of her three roles opposite Roy) also takes an interest in the case and decides to come West incognito to do some investigating of her own, posing as a friend of her excitable maid Sally Payne, who coincidentally has been corresponding with ranch hand Pat Brady through a Lonely Hearts club.
The good guys take the requisite amount of time to realize who the bad guys are, leaving plenty of room for fun, mishaps and music along the way. George 'Gabby' Hayes is at his very best as the cantankerous ranch cook, especially in one absolutely hysterical sequence where he tries to scare the girls away from the ranch by playing on their fear of wild animals. There's also an exceptional line-up of villains in this one - besides brains heavy Edward Pawley we have Glenn Strange, Roy Barcoft, who provides a humorous running gag with a taste for sleight-of-hand and tricky 'gadgets,' and an especially nasty Harry Woods. As the icing on the cake, Roy and the Sons are in fine voice, performing five outstanding musical numbers, of which the highlight is the irresistibly toe-tapping showstopper 'Sing As You Work.' Altogether, a must-see for fans of Roy's, B-Western enthusiasts or just anyone who likes a fun and well-crafted little film.