We’re back for our third Bing Crosby film as we celebrate him as the Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1936 film Rhythm On The Range, also starring Frances Farmer, Bob Burns and Martha Raye!
Coming Up Shorts! with… The Loose Nut (1945)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)
(Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
Woody Woodpecker is out playing golf, but his ball goes into a wet patch of cement. He quickly gets into a fight with the city worker who was trying to smooth it out, and they keep fighting as the worker tries to get Woody to fix it. This one was quite entertaining, with Woody being pushed into helping out (until the city worker makes fun of him, and then it’s every man and bird for himself). I enjoyed the gags, which came fast and furious (and certainly kept me laughing). While the story itself might be getting old for Woody Woodpecker, this one was still entertaining enough that I look forward to coming back around to it again in the future!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Heiress Doris Halloway (Frances Farmer) is currently getting ready to get married to a man she doesn’t love. However, her visiting aunt, Penelope “Penny” Ryland (Lucile Gleason), advises her against the idea. Upon listening to her aunt’s speech at Madison Square Garden (where a rodeo is being held), Doris agrees with her, and makes plans to join her aunt on her return trip out west. Meanwhile, at the rodeo, two of Penny’s ranch hands, Jeff Larabee (Bing Crosby) and Buck Eaton (Bob Burns), attempt to win enough money to buy a bull that Jeff wants (and they win just enough). Jeff and the bull get in Penny’s boxcar, where Doris is hiding out. Penny and Buck are delayed, which causes them to miss the train. When Jeff finally discovers Doris, she pretends to be a cook named Lois. He’s more concerned with his bull (much to her annoyance) and tries to get her to leave when the train stops. She sticks it out with him, and gives Shorty (George E. Stone) (one of a group of three hoboes traveling on the train) a telegram to send to her father. Upon returning to the boxcar, she accidentally agitates the bull with her red scarf, and he chases her off the train. Jeff comes to save her from the bull, but the train pulls away in the process. Shorty’s two hobo buddies, Big Brain (Warren Hymer) and Wabash (James Burke) realize (from reading her telegram) that she is an heiress that had run away, and hightail it after her in the hopes of getting a reward. Jeff and Doris have a few adventures together as they continue to make their way towards Penny’s ranch (including briefly being locked up in a barn by the three hoboes before the bull helps them escape). Meanwhile, Penny gets Buck on a passenger train while opting to stay behind and help find the missing Doris. On the train ride, Buck keeps running into Emma Mazda (Martha Raye), and finds out (when the train reaches his destination) that Emma is also bound for Penny’s ranch, as she is going to see her brother who works there. Jeff, Doris, Buck and Emma all meet up at Jeff and Buck’s cabin, before they finish the trek to Penny’s ranch. With Doris falling hard for Jeff, will she be able to tell him the truth about herself (and if she does, will he stay with her or leave)?
Rhythm On The Range is one of those movies that I’ve seen many a time over the last nearly two decades (so you can tell that I like it). Bing Crosby has long been one of the reasons that I’ve enjoyed the film so much. “I’m An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande),” one of the film’s biggest hit songs, has long been the most fun to see over and over again (and is more enjoyable considering the Sons Of The Pioneers appear during it, with Roy Rogers making an early appearance here). I would also say that I enjoy some of Bing’s solo songs, like “I Can’t Escape From You,” “Empty Saddles” and “Roundup Lullaby.” I’ll admit, as time has gone on, I can also in some respects see that he is also some of the movie’s problems as well. He does seem miscast here as a cowboy, and that seems to have been the general opinion, as, outside of a few cameo appearances, he didn’t really do any more Westerns, outside of his final theatrical film, Stagecoach (1966) (and even then, he wasn’t a cowboy). But that’s not enough to take away my enjoyment of his performance in this movie.
As for the rest of the cast, it’s a somewhat mixed bag. Bing’s leading lady, Frances Farmer, is the biggest strike against the film, as I find her performance as a whole very unbelievable, particularly where her line readings are concerned (but she’s not so terrible as to stop me from ever watching the movie again). VERY much in this film’s favor are Bob Burns as Buck Eaton and Martha Raye (who made her film debut here) as Emma Mazda. Their characters’ relationship provides much of the humor here, especially when the two are eating together in the train’s dining car (complete with jolts that add to the humor), and when they are explaining their relationship to Emma’s brother “Gopher” Mazda (as played by Charles Williams). Those two moments alone keep me laughing, and wanting to come back! As a whole, the movie feels like Paramount’s answer to the then-recent It Happened One Night (1934). Personally, I think that Rhythm pales in comparison to that or the similar also Western-ized version Can’t Help Singing (1944). Still, for me, it’s good comfort cinema that I like to come back to periodically, and therefore, I have no problems in recommending it!
This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either individually, as part of a double-feature with Rhythm On The River (1940) or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.
Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes
My Rating: 7/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Martha Raye – Waikiki Wedding (1937)
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