A Fine World War Two Musical--Just What Was Needed in 1944
Sure this was lacking on plot but during World War Two and especially in 1944 at the height of the conflict people needed an escape from the war news for an hour. This is filled with 1940's music, more so than other Rogers films. This reviewer saw the MCA-TV edited version and a lousy quality copy at that so missed some of the cut musical numbers removed so stations could run their several minutes of commercials back in the 1950's and 1960's. The location photography at the Alabama Hills in Lone Pine California even looked good on the lousy quality copy I saw and I'm sure looks great in a newly restored version. The story was the race for the Army horse contract seen in numerous other westerns and sort of a "how Roy got Trigger" plot also--but a lot of loose ends were never explained; Guinn Big Boy Williams could have been used more in this; but who cared back in 1944--They wanted to hear the music and I'm sure were pleased.
As one who never saw many of the episodes of the series back in the 60's when it first aired, I had to see the series from the beginning on THIS-TV. I have to disagree with a poster earlier who said this was made for kids; the books may have that the series was based on but if you watch it today you see much of the humor and dialog is aimed at adults. The interaction between Wilbur and Ed was made even better by the fact that Allan 'Rocky' Lane voiced his Mr. Ed lines right there on set, not recorded later in a voice-over studio. The palomino used as Mr. Ed was very well trained as you notice when viewing the series and the still secret method of making his mouth move was just an extra added attraction. Those disguises on Ed like the large glasses just added to the reality of the show. You have to think what was going through the mind of that horse when filming the series. The supporting players were great on this series from the original couple next door to the last couple next door. Larry Keating having been the neighbor to Burns and Allen for year on their show fit right in as a neighbor and Leon Ames, a veteran TV actor, perfect as Wilbur's former Commander. And what can one say about the beautiful Connie Hines as his bewildered wife? Guest stars were numerous on the series and must have loved the exposure, even Mae West and Zsa Zsa wanted to guest. Until you view this series today, to say that it was totally for kids is a big mistake.
"The Virginian" TV series airs currently on Retro Television Network on Sunday mornings at 8A.M. EST and 9:30 A.M. EST. Check your cable or satellite guides for the RTN channel or the digital sub-channel of your local affiliate. Retro television network is a service for local channels to use on one of their digital sub-channels; as soon as a local channel adds the service then it can be added to a satellite or cable service lineup. This is a great series, each episode almost equal in quality to a 90 minute movie (minus commercial time of course.) If you're interested in seeing this series contact your local channels about adding the Retro television network as a digital sub-channel. if you've never seen this series you're in for a great treat, sure it's long, being 90 minutes, there were only 3 90 minute westerns on TV over the years and this is by far the best. Wagon Train is a close second, and that also air son RTN, Sundays at Noon EST.
Sidekick had not been decided at this point in time.
A couple of comments about this film and the lack of a sidekick. Smiley Burnette, although with Columbia at this time could not be used because of still being under contract for the Charles Starrett Durango Kid series as HIS sidekick. Pat Buttram had done an introductory appearance in the Autry film "The Strawberry Roan." He did not start as Autry's sidekick until the film "Riders in the Sky" in 1950. There were several films between Roan and Riders where Autry had no sidekick. Of course, WWII was the reason Burnette signed a long contract for the Durango Kid films with Starrett, Autry having reported for duty in the war. Buttram started on Aurtry's radio show "Melody Ranch" right after the war but apparently was reluctant about appearing in films right away. I think we're all glad he did decide to do so finally and happy that Autry's last 6 films were with original sidekick Smiley Burnette in 1953.
One of the most air-headed comments over the years has been "This series does not in anyway depict the average depression era family." I heard this comment just recently by a talk show host talking about 70's TV shows. Well, duh!, it depicts the depression era family of Earl Hamner the show's creator and has nothing to do with "the average depression era American family." How even some supposed TV critics came up with that for a reason to be negative against the show has always puzzled me. The show was as I understand it true to life for the area around Schuyler, VA., the home of Earl Hamner. A couple of the characters on the show were composites of his actual siblings (he had one more sibling than the Waltons). A special that aired in the late 1970's united his real brothers and sisters with their TV counterparts. The program is hugely successful worldwide and I'm glad that most comments are by and large supportive of the show and always have been save for that few who can't get their facts straight.
What a fine Autry outing, just what the country needed trying to come out of the depression in 1940 right prior to WWII. Mary Lee, a very underrated singer from the era was only about 16 in this film and what a fine voice, as another user said a western Judy Garland. The young boy, played by Clifford Severn sort of reminded me of Freddie Bartholemew in his acting style. June Storey fine as usual in these B westerns; Duncan Renaldo later the Cisco Kid played Guacho Don Jose. Smiley Burnette, well what can we say?; the guy was fantastic. The on location shooting was wonderful, maybe Big Bear Lake area of California. The songs were fine in this film and was one of Autry's finest endeavours; not seen as often some others and deserves more airplay. The restored print aired on Encore Westerns is perfect.
This is a great Autry outing with a very young 24? year old Leonard Slye with the newly formed Sons of the Pioneers. One of the most beautiful of the Pioneers recordings is here "Silent Trails" to this fan a better song than "Tumbling Tubleweeds" or "Cool Water." The exterior scenes were the oft-used Iverson Ranch, very recognizable by the chase roads and rock formations. The town scenes were the Republic Studios western set which i think was new at this 1936 time frame. It became in the 1960's CBS Studio Center, back lot location for Gunsmoke, Big Valley, Cimmaron Strip and other westerns of the time. As far as Old Corral is concerned its a fine movie, some say hokey but not this fan. I'd rather see these than some newer westerns. Autry and the pioneers, Smiley and the rest are fine in the film. Only bad stuff to this fan were Oscar and Elmer, who I guess were maybe a radio duo or something similar at the time. Could have done without those two. They were in a couple of Autry films.
Probably the Best Views of the Iverson Movie Ranch
This well done b-western, entertaining and with just the right musical touches, has probably the best views of the oft used Iverson Movie Ranch. Tru-color images of this area add to the beauty of this filming location with its famous rock formations, flat stage coach chase roads, just right for the herd of horses to run across; the Iverson ranch, sadly mostly covered today by condos, apartments, and houses at least retains a lot of the rock formations to remind what a great location this once was for filming. Plus Roy, Dale, Estelita, and Pat Brady and the wonderful Foy Willing and the Riders of the Purple Sage are great as expected. In my view, the Iverson Ranch and the horses are the real stars of this film.
Comic Dub Taylor, one of the best and most underrated of sidekicks and real-life father of Buck Taylor (Newly O'Brien) of Gunsmoke fame, and known to 70's movie goers from Bonnie and Clyde, really added to any film he was in back in the B western days. And add the fine western swing of Bob wills and his Texas Playboys and I say, also, the heck with the story; this was a B Western and not a John Wayne epic. you can only have so many plots in westerns anyway. I'd never seen any of these Bob Wills westerns until starting to watch Encore Westerns. Seems a lot of these weren't released to early television like the Bob Steele, Ken Maynard and Three Mesquiteers westerns and this viewer is thoroughly enjoying these great B westerns.