21 May 2006 | watrician
Pleasing '50's Hollywood Western
"Silver Canyon" is a dandy example of the Saturday matinée features Hollywood cranked out after World War II. Autry, as himself, takes on the bad guys with cool courtesy and a ready song. There's the plucky girl, the comical sidekick, the climactic shoot-out, and the Lee Van Cleef of his time, Bob Steele, lurking evilly behind the rocks. The cowboy hero archetype, taken from 19th century dime novels, played well to post-war America, and has become the equivalent of the Japanese samurai or the European knight for us. There's no confusion here... right is right and wrong is wrong.
This type of 70 minute second feature translated easily to the small TV screen so the '50's and '60's saw a profusion of derivative hour and half-hour westerns, such as "Rawhide", "Have Gun Will Travel", and "Gunsmoke". One of those featured "Silver Canyon"'s Gail Davis in 80 episodes of "Annie Oakley". Many boomers will also recognize the cast's Jim Davis from "Rescue 8" or "Dallas", and the inimitable Pat Buttram from "Green Acres".
The formula westerns of the era, and "Silver Canyon" in particular may not be the stuff of critic's dreams, (and Gene Autry singing jailhouse blues may not be the most evocative) but they constitute an unpretentious view of the world as we wanted it to be after decades of Depression and war.