Tuesday 18 September 2018 photo 6/7
Cowboy Canteen Sub Download
During world-war-two, Arizona cattle-ranch owner Steve Bradley (Charles Starrett) and his pal Spud Harrigan (Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams) join the army and are assigned to a camp near his ranch. He makes his cousin Tex Coulter (Tex Ritter) the ranch foreman. On his first furlough he returns to the ranch and, much to his dismay, finds that due.to the wartime man-power shortage, that all of his cowboys have been replaced by cowgirls. He is assigned to help build the morale of the soldiers and decides to open a canteen where the soldiers can go for coffee-and-doughnuts, and be entertained by local talent. Local talent consists of the MIlls Brothers, Jimmy Wakely and his Saddle Pals, Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys and Girls and ventriloquist Professor Merlin (Max Terhune) ans his wooden dummy Elmer Sneezeweed (Elmer). He also has a fistfight with cousin Tex over the affections of Connie Gray (Jane Frazee.)
After "Hollywood Canteen" and "Stage Door Canteen" had been released as flag-wavers intended to raise money for the named USO operations, Columbia got into the act with this effort. As with the earlier two, it was an all-star operation, but in this case it was cowboy stars, with a strong emphasis on singing cowboys, an occasional ventriloquist (in the person of Max Terhune) and the ladies in the show drawn from the Columbia shorts department.
It's a lighthearted effort and a considerable pleasure to see so many of the leading cowboy actors of the era in one spot and an excellent chance to play spot the stars. It's also a fine survey of western music at the time -- at this point, western swing was biggest genre of music in terms of sales -- including swing, ballads, traditional (from Tex Ritter) as well as major talents such as Roy Acuff and the Mills Brothers. As a snapshot of the era, as a musical anthology and as a chance to see more vanished stars than there are in heaven, it's a must-see movie for the real movie fan.
This picture offers a nice opportunity to catch a few of the leading cowboy stars of the era in a musical revue that captures some of the charm of the Old West. It's too bad some of the bigger names of the era weren't involved like Gene or Roy, but even so, Charles Starrett and Tex Ritter were pretty well known names and had their following. Second Billed Jane Frazee appeared in her own fair share of Western films, and I've seen quite a few of them, but never once have I seen her sing before. I thought she had a pretty fine voice doing a couple of numbers, which makes me wonder why she didn't get to do so more often.
There's a background story going on as well as the Bradley Lazy B Ranch becomes the setting for the Cowboy Canteen of the title, while owner Steve Bradley (Starrett) and his buddy Spud Harrigan (Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams) prepare to enter the Army. Steve starts off on the wrong foot with Miss Connie (Frazee), but as things progress, he finds himself in a competition with ranch hand Tex (Ritter) over who gets to win her hand. I won't give it away but you can probably guess.
Most of the musical numbers have Jimmy Wakely's Saddle Pals or Ray Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys and Girls performing, either alone or as backup to other players. It didn't seem like that many to me but the soundtrack credits page on this site lists fourteen songs, which gives you an idea how breezily they came and went. One surprise for this viewer was seeing the Mills Brothers performing their renditions of 'Up a Lazy River' and 'Paper Doll'. I'd seen them in plenty of TV variety shows as a kid but the Western setting was something different for them. As expected, they sounded pretty good.
I guess it never occurred to the film makers, or if it was it was set aside for the story, but Starrett and Big Boy Williams were pretty well past military service age when they made the picture. Williams had a line about coming home with a 'yellow Jap' that might cause some squirm for modern viewers, but otherwise the story had a nicely patriotic flavor. Williams' gal pal Vera (Barbara Jo Allen) had a line that made me do a double take at one point - heading in from a trail ride with her friend Connie, she reacted to Steve Bradley's surprise that they could both ride a horse so well. Her response - "...I've been in the saddle every morning for years, but this is the first time I tried it on a horse". My reaction was a lot like Big Boy's!
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