Springtime In The Sierras (1947)
With a whole lot of comic relief from Andy Devine and harmony singing from The Sons of the Pioneers, cowboy icon Roy Rogers tracks down a gang of poachers in this 74 minute programmer from director William Witney filmed in a format I’m not too familiar with known as Trucolor.
So when’s the last time you watched a movie with Gene or Roy or Tex or even Lash LaRue? Tim Holt maybe? It’s a part of the western genre that I rarely visit and I’ve been meaning to get a look at some of these “B’s” that made household names of the stars that also included Hopalong Cassidy, Sunset Carson and The Durango Kid. They must have been profitable for some. Gene Autry went on to own a Major League Baseball Team. Not bad. As for Roy Rogers, sure I’ve seen Son of Paleface and a few episodes of his TV show in reruns when I was a kid but aside from these and Dark Command opposite John Wayne, I’ve never actually seen one of Roy’s many westerns that he cranked out in the 1940’s.
Time to rectify that.
As the opening credits state it’s Roy Rogers King of the Cowboys and Trigger, the Smartest Horse In the Movies in Springtime In The Sierras. No Dale Evans this time out for the singing cowboy who opens this modern day western tale riding with his cowboy buddies singing a cowboy song. Roy and the boys come across an abandoned fawn and promptly deliver it to an animal sanctuary run by the kind hearted Harry Cheshire. It’s here that Harry will tell Roy the local game has been decimated due to a gang of poachers who it turns out have shot down the fawn’s mother. It struck me as sad that the message Roy is trying to deliver in this family oriented feature still plagues us today with animals being hunted to near extinction if not worse on both land and sea.
Back in town Roy will meet up with his sidekick Mr. Devine and a young cowgirl who is obviously more than a little infatuated with Rogers played by Jane Frazee. Roy might even have two ladies “gunning” for him when Stephanie Bachelor turns up. She operates one of the big ranch outfits in the area and maybe more. Frazee has a younger brother, Hal Landon, who idolizes Roy but has somehow gotten himself tangled up with the gang of poachers. When Cheshire catches the criminals red handed he’s in for a surprise when Miss Bachelor steps out behind him with a gun of her own. Young Landon is shocked when she murders the old timer in cold blood. His conscience will soon begin to prey upon him as Roy goes on a manhunt for the killer.
Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers will of course sing a hymn at the funeral before setting out to solve the killing of the beloved Cheshire. Fist fights, racing horses with Trigger leading the way and a spirited song and comedy skit with Roy and Andy in a five and dime shop are still to come before a rip roaring action packed finale that will see good conquer evil in the west as Roy Rogers knows it.
Is this as good as a Randolph Scott western from Budd Boetticher or a John Wayne/John Ford oater? Never said it was and I’m not about to. What I would like to emphasize is the likability of this matinee adventure that with a little editing could have played as one of Roy’s half hour TV episodes. It’s all rather pedestrian but it’s heart is in the right place and of course it’s geared at the youngsters of 1947. Roy had a winning formula and he worked it. No harm in that. Sylvester Stallone’s been doing the same thing since 1976.
This was released through Republic Studios and should you find a copy on DVD as I did, there’s a nice added bonus of a 1961 TV Special, Chevy commercials included that sees Roy being joined in skits and songs with his wife Dale Evans, country singer Eddie Arnold, George Maharis and Martin Milner of the hit show Route 66.
Easy to watch and nostalgic. Kind of had a Mayberry feel to it and I flat out love The Andy Griffith show so I guess I’ll have to give a few more of these Roy adventures a look.