Gene Autry Collection, Vol. 1 [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Synopsis

In Old Santa Fe
Having recently left Universal Pictures in a huff, mercurial cowboy star Ken Maynard stopped briefly at Mascot Studios for a brace of films. The first was In Old Santa Fe, a modern story set at a dude ranch where Maynard (playing himself) is employed. The villain is dude sharpshooter Chandler (Kenneth Thomson), who makes a play for Maynard's sweetheart Lila Miller (Evelyn Knapp). Before our hero is permitted to triumph, the film makes a side trip to a western nightclub, wherein a couple of radio crooners named Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette make their joint film debuts. Less than a year later, Autry would replace a recalcitrant Ken Maynard in the Mascot serial Phantom Empire -- and the rest, as they say, is history. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Man of the Frontier
Singing cowboy Gene Autry stars in this formula western as Gene Autry (so far, so good), who teams up with his buddy Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) to investigate a series of accidents which have stopped construction of a dam being constructed by Sam Flint (George Baxter) and claimed the lives of much of the work crew. The progress of the damn is also thwarted when Bull Dural (George Cheseboro) and his gang attempt to steal the payroll; Gene and Frog suspect Bull may also be behind the deadly dirty tricks campaign before discovering he's just a pawn in a bigger game. Autry finds time to sing five tunes during the proceedings, inclusing the classic title song. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Rim of the Canyon
Gene Autry plays a dual role in the above-average Columbia oater Rim of the Canyon. Our hero plays "himself" and his own father, a famed sheriff. Twenty years ago, Autry Sr. threw a trio of outlaws (Walter Sande, Jock Mahoney and Francis McDonald) into jail for stealing a large sum of money. When the crooks escape and head for the hidden loot, it's up to Autry Jr. to track them down. Unlike previous Columbia Autrys, Rim of the Canyon downplays the musical element in favor of fast, sometimes violent action. Even Autry's faithful horse Champion gets in on the act by trampling one of the crooks. Autry's leading lady this time out is Nan Leslie, later a busy TV character actress; another future TV favorite, Alan Hale Jr., essays a supporting role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Riders of the Whistling Pines
Gene Autry's second 1949 release for Columbia was Riders of the Whistling Pines. As was customary for Autry, the title refers to one of the songs heard in the film, rather than the plotline at hand. The villains busy themselves destroying all the timber in a government forest preserve. When Autry steps in to stop the bad guys, they cook up a frame by accusing him of poisoning cattle. Jimmy Lloyd co-stars as an aviator who figures prominently in the action-packed finale. Autry's leading lady this time out is Patricia White, who later gained prominence on TV as Patricia Barry. At 72 minutes, Riders of the Whistling Pines was one of the longest of Autry's Columbia efforts. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Round-Up Time in Texas
Gene Autry leaves the West behind (at least temporarily) in Roundup Time in Texas. Hired to deliver a herd of horses to his diamond-mining brother, Autry and his sidekick Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) journey all the way to Africa. Hoping to get rid of the Autry boys and move in on the diamonds themselves, the villains frame Autry on a smuggling and murder charge. It's up to heroine Gwen (Maxine Doyle), the daughter of the murder victim, to clear Gene and place the blame where it belongs. Musical support is provided by the Five Cabin Kids, a quintet of talented black youngsters who previously appeared with Our Gang and W.C. Fields. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Public Cowboy No. 1
In this 20th-century western, hero Gene Autry uses his old-fashioned horse and six-shooter to foil the plans of cattle rustlers who ply their trade via airplanes, refrigerated trucks and shortwave radios. Songs include: "The West Ain't What It Used to Be?", "I Picked up the Trail When I Found You", "Heebie, Jeebie Blues" (sung by Smiley Burnette) and "Defective Detective from Brooklyn" (also by Burnette). ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Oh, Susanna!
Gene Autry is the star (but not the title character) of Oh, Susanna!, a Republic musical western. What plot there is consists of Autry running afoul of masked robbers. Thrown from a speeding train, Autry is rescued by comedy relief Smiley Burnette and grizzled Earle Hodgins. Autry takes a few more singing breaks, then brings the robbers to justice. A 1951 William Elliott western, also titled Oh, Susanna! is not a remake. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Man From Music Mountain
Gene Autry stars in this vintage musical Western that pits a group of poor but honest cattle ranchers against two-faced real estate speculators when it's learned that there may be a gold mine on the ranch. Gene sings four original songs, including "Love Burning Love," "I'm Beginning to Care," and "Goodbye, Pinto," while his sidekick Smiley Burnette gets to croon the deathless "She Works Third Tub at the Laundry." ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Springtime in the Rockies
Gene Autry and veteran Western director Jospeh Kane team up for this lightweight effort. Gene (Gene Autry) is the foreman of a ranch which has just been put under new ownership, though he soon has his doubts about his new boss -- Sandra Knight (Polly Rowles), a pretty young woman with a college degree in animal husbandry but little practical experience of life on the range. When Sandra decides to raise sheep instead of cattle, it doesn't settle with the neighboring ranchers, and Gene is forced to make peace with both factions. As usual, Springtime In The Rockies features a handful of songs from Autry, with Jimmy LeFuer and his Saddle Pals providing accompaniment. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Rootin' Tootin' Rhythm
Gene Autry and his sidekick, Smiley Burnette, are suspected of cattle rustling in this action-packed Republic Pictures Western directed by former actor Mack V. Wright. Actually, Gene and Frog (Burnette) had been chasing a couple of real cattle rustlers, Apache Kid (Max Hoffman Jr.) and Black Jim (Charles King), when they discovered the bodies of two lawmen. Realizing that the rustlers killed their pursuers, our heroes get the bright idea of masquerading in the apparel left by the outlaws. Heading for the border, things get even more complicated, but Gene and his pal manage to stay alive and catch the secret leader of the gang, Joe Stafford (Monte Blue), the supposed upstanding head of the cattlemen's association. When they're not chasing down rustlers, Autry, Burnette, and Al Clauser and his Oklahoma Outlaws perform "The Old Home Place," "Mexicali Rose," and the title tune, all by Sol Meyer, Jule Styne, and Raoul Kraushaar. Rootin' Tootin' Rhythm was partially filmed on-location in Lone Pine, CA, where the production took advantage of a terrific real-life storm. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

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