19 March 2014 | bkoganbing
MIght have worked for Roy Rogers
Richard Arlen joined the ranks of Republic's cowboy heroes in a story set in Civil War times. The Big Bonanza opens with Arlen still in handcuffs having escaped the custody of the Union Army which was going to court martial him for cowardice. He and Gabby Hayes go west to be with his little brother Bobby Driscoll who has gone for a dryer climate. It's what was done back in the day with consumption patients.
With that charge over his head Arlen and Hayes go to Nevada City where Driscoll is in the care of saloon owner Robert Livingston and saloon songstress Jane Frazee. Even though he and Livingston are old pals, Arlen isn't crazy about the moral influence on the kid being raised in a saloon.
He takes Driscoll over to Sunday School teacher Lynne Roberts and her dad Russell Simpson who owns the Big Bonanza mine. It's there that Arlen learns his old pal Livingston is the organizer of a gang threatening mine owners and ranchers.
Arlen's not quite the Republic cowboy hero image and having him and Driscoll as brothers is ridiculous, there's more than 40 years between them. What might have worked for Roy Rogers in the same part looks dumb with Arlen.
As for Livingston we're led to believe that he cares for young Bobby. But when Bobby witnesses a murder by two of Livingston's henchmen all of a sudden Livingston's for killing a child that he's supposed to care about. Made no sense at all.
I'm sure this was something that might have been meant for Roy Rogers, but he was now doing modern westerns and this was passed to a visiting Arlen at Republic Studios. Maybe Roy was right to pass.