Friday, February 1, 2019

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR FEBRUARY ON TCM


It is time for the annual TCM 31 Days of Oscar lineup which always includes an eclectic mix of the renowned films in Hollywood history and some unexpected titles to pique our curiosity. This month we look at one of those unexpected titles.

Prior to the movie season which saw Columbia Studios and director Frank Capra send a young idealist to the capitol in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Republic Studios and director Joseph Kane released a similarly plotted picture called Under Western Stars.

The star of this picture had been mostly uncredited as a cowboy or singer in 11 previous pictures. Occasionally, he was billed under his real name of Len Slye while a musician appearing with the Sons of the Pioneers, and most recently had been trying out the screen name of Dick Weston. In this picture as Roy Rogers (actor and character), the 27-year-old became a star!


Under Western Stars had been slated for Gene Autry, but along with being a screen personality, composer/singer Gene was a businessman who knew he wasn't getting his share of the profits from Herbert Yates and Republic. Gene walked out on the picture in a contract dispute and "Roy" was promoted. Roy was supported in the film by Autry regulars Smiley Burnett and popular radio singing stars the Maple City Four. Joseph Kane, a musician turned prolific low-budget western director was in charge.


Under Western Stars is set in an unnamed western state suffering the effects of the dust bowl conditions during the 1930s. Guy Usher, another of those familiar yet often uncredited faces, plays John Fairbanks, the owner of the Western Water and Power Company. A dam under the company's control denies local ranchers access to much-needed water by charging usurious rates. After a spirited campaign, Roy Rogers, the son of a late Congressman is sent to Washington on the promise to get Federal control of the water.

Fairbanks' daughter Eleanor played by Carol Hughes (Three Men on a Horse, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe) takes a liking to the handsome, singing Rogers and assists the sometimes naive and often unorthodox Congressman. The real-life Mrs. Frank Faylen would be appear in four pictures with Gene and three with Roy.


The movie packs six songs into the politics, romance, riding and shooting and one of those songs, Dust by Johnny Marvin was nominated for Best Music, Original Song. It is the emotional core of the movie as Roy sings an impassioned plea to lawmakers to assist the ranchers.

The award that year was given to Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin for Thanks for the Memory from The Big Broadcast of 1938. Roy would reprise Dust with the Sons of the Pioneers ten years later in the movie Under California Stars. It is that clip that is available on YouTube and which is provided here.


Oscar nominee Johnny Marvin (1896-1944) was an entertainer and recording artist (singer, ukulele) of the 1920s who later collaborated on Autry soundtracks. He passed of dengue fever contracted while entertaining with the USO during World War 2. 

Gene Autry returned to the Republic fold and no one could ever accuse the producer/star and future owner of the California Angels of not knowing how to handle his money. Within five years Roy Rogers success was assured when he was crowned King of the Cowboys.


Under Western Stars airs on TCM during this year's 31 Days of Oscar salute during the wee hours (3 AM Eastern) of February 13th after an evening of David Lean epics. The fast-paced and entertaining programmer from 1938 runs just around an hour. There is a reason PBS NewsHour devoted nearly a half an hour of its programming to Roy Rogers upon his passing in 1998. Get to see the beginnings of the movie legend in Under Western Stars.


Bonus:


You may be interested in my article on Roy Rogers and Dale Evans for the 2013 Dynamic Duos in Classic Movies blogathon.












20 comments:

  1. To me, I think of Roy Rogers' fast food franchise before I think of his movies - I used to eat at them all the time in high school - but I'm pretty sure I knew who he was even as a kid.

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    1. I liked the roast beef sandwich. There was one on the corner of Bloor and Yonge (a big deal in Toronto). When we went downtown to a movie it was fun to stop there on our way home. Now it's a super tall condo development. 21st Century stuff.

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  2. It's too bad TCM isn't showing this at a better time, but thank goodness for Watch TCM and TCM on demand. I think too many people dismiss the many "B" Westerns made in the 1930-50s, but there are some interesting ones and this one certainly fits that category.

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    1. Your seconded the recommendation is a nice pat on the back for, as you say, an interesting movie.

      There were a lot of "A" titles I could have chose, but I didn't want Roy to go overlooked.

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  3. I love knowing that Carol Hughes was married to Frank Faylen! Thanks so much for highlighting this film.

    I really enjoyed seeing this film at the Lone Pine Film Fest last fall and hope people will check it out. :)

    Best wishes,
    Laura

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    1. The Festival would truly be the place to see Under Western Stars!

      I hope people become curious about this duck out of water title in the lineup and have some fun.

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  4. Goodness, but Roy Rogers was a good-lookin' son of a gun when he was young! Add the singing, and he has my vote!

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    1. Yep! And like John McClane said in Die Hard, "I always did go for those fancy shirts."

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  5. Hello Caftan Woman. I just found your website and enjoy it. Do you respond to every post, even ones added to the older ones? I wrote a comment on one from Oct. 2018 and one from July 2009 but no comment was added.

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    1. I sometimes check older posts and respond if something new has come along. I went back to those dates and appreciate your correction on one (amendment made) and sharing my admiration for Ms. Nolan on the other.

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  6. Thank you. Jeanette Nolan was, as you stated ,married to John McIntire. I wonder how many times they worked together. They played the aunt and uncle of Kris Munroe(Cheryl Ladd) on an episode of Charlies Angels. They did an episode of BONANZA where the bad guy was played by their son Tim McIntire. On the show Tim was not related to them.

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    1. Such wonderful memories. Their daughter Holly guested on an episode of Wagon Train with her dad.

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  7. Also John McIntire did one episode of DALLAS as Sam Culver, the husband of Donna(Susan Howard) who would become DONNA CULVER KREBBS after marrying Ray(Steve Kanaly). I thought it was good that they mentioned Sam a lot after his passing. Also Mr. McIntire was the onscreen father of ELVIS PRESLEY in FLAMING STAR which also starred Steve Forrest and Barbara Eden who both were also on DALLAS.

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    1. I haven't seen Flaming Star in quite a while. I remember enjoying watching that cast.

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  8. I have never seen a Roy Rogers film – or a Gene Autry film for that matter. That will be my homework assignment. ;)

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    1. There are those of my acquaintance who say that I have seen too many Roy Rogers movies! It will be relatively painless. A short movie with a handsome young leading man. You'll be an expert in no time.

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  9. Paddy Lee, I think I may get back on your blog finally. I've been blocked out, as you know.


    Roy Rogers is one of my favorites from way back in the day. ABC Affiliate Channel 8 KAIT-TV, Jonesboro, Arkansas would show Roy rogers and Gene Autry movies every Saturday Morning during the early and mid 1960's. They were cut down to 54 minutes, so they could be aired in the hour time slots, but I didn't know that at the time. Now, with DVD's we can see the entire movies of 70-75 minutes.


    I met Roy Rogers when I was an 8-year-old. I was attending the Arkansas State Fair, Livestock Exposition, and Rodeo in Little Rock, Arkansas. The rodeo was held in the Barton Coliseum and this is where the guest headliner would perform. In 1967 Roy Rogers was the star celebrity performer. At the end of his performance he rode a horse around the edge of the arena where the kids would be standing to meet him. Roy would lean down from horseback and touch the top of each youngster's hand. He would say something to each of us. "Hello, pardner," which was a thrill. I have fond memories of those years.

    In 1939 the Arkansas state fair promoters brought in their first celebrity, a young movie star named Roy Rogers. Roy would return several times, over the years, sometimes with wife Dale Evans.

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    1. Walter, so glad to see you here. What a thrill to see Roy in person! I get that little kid feeling all over again whenever I see him in a movie, and I appreciate feisty Dale more and more.

      The studio sure knew a thing or two about promotion. Under Western Stars would have just played and there was Roy working the State Fair circuit. That would certainly go a nice way toward cementing him with the fans.

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    2. Paddy Lee, I'm glad to be back and able to comment on your wonderful blog. I will always read it, whether I can comment, or not.

      I hope you are doing okay. Have a wonderful day.

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    3. I can't complain. A winter storm blew in yesterday and is making travel miserable for everybody in the city. If we accept it as an adventure and remember that spring is coming we'll be fine.

      I hope things are going nicely in your neck of the woods.

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