Cattle Town (1952)
Dennis Morgan sings his way through gunfights and barroom brawls in this grade B western from his home studio Warner Brothers with more than a few familiar faces tagging along for the cattle drive mixed with plenty of stock footage padding out it’s running time.
Western stalwart Ray Teal plays a man of means who journeys to Texas with his daughter Amanda Blake in tow. He’s come to claim the lands he purchased and see to it that the squatters are removed. Through a little skulduggery he’ll also see that they lose the right to their cattle herds. There by claiming them for his own. To enforce his “rights” he relies heavily on his two lead gun hands. Robert J. Wilke (billed as Bob Wilke) and Sheb Wooley.
The Governor of Texas calls upon our singing cowboy to move in and ensure that no shots are fired and the herds stay with their rightful owners as they depart Teal’s lands. Tagging along with Morgan is his sidekick played by George O’Hanlon. O’Hanlon is perhaps best known for his 63 comical shorts playing the character Joe McDoakes.
Morgan prefers to sing his way through confrontations treating us to And The Band Played On, Dixie and Underneath the Western Skies. The third number he performs around the campfire to the lovely Rita Moreno. The background music is often a lighthearted jaunty tune unless our baddies led by Teal and Wilke make an appearance usually leading to Morgan outwitting them and rarely using a firearm.
Leading the group of squatters is Philip Carey. He’s trying to get his people and the herds safely off Teal’s lands and welcomes Morgan’s help in doing so. Character players Paul Picerni and Jay Novello are among the wagon train passengers.
In true “B” fashion, Teal’s daughter Blake will see the wrong in her fathers ways and call him out on it. Not getting anywhere she’ll be sure to rush to Morgan leading to the film’s climax where the evil doers will receive their just rewards.
Aside from a couple more film appearances, Morgan’s career as a film star was essentially coming to an end in 1952. This was the final year that saw him in releases from his home studio of Warner Brothers where he made a succession of light comedies opposite Jack Carson that are generally fun to revisit or catch for the first time.
Number one henchman Bob Wilke is one of those faces that turned up in an incredible amount of films and television appearances.
Usually as one of the outlaws or on screen bullies. In The Magnificent Seven he tried to outdraw “the knife man” James Coburn only to lose. His character this time out had many more lines in the script than I am used to seeing and I was glad to see him getting a bit more screen time than usual.
Sheb Wooley playing our other baddie out to backshoot Morgan dabbled in both westerns and music. He scored a hit song in the novelty category with the tune Purple People Eater. I haven’t heard that one since the days of K-Tel advertising crazy themed albums to order by way of TV.
If the name Amanda Blake sounds the least bit familiar it’s because she was featured for twenty years as Miss Kitty, owner of The Long Branch Saloon opposite James Arness in Gunsmoke.
This minor entry in the careers of all the players involved was directed by Noel Smith and is available as part of the Warner Archive collection if you find yourself in need of a few saddle songs from the smooth tones of Dennis Morgan.