Other Cowboy Stars – Roy Rogers in “Frontier Pony Express”

October 29, 2010

Although the Pony Express only operated for 18 months, it captured the imagination of the nation for many years.  It isn’t difficult to summon some pity, then, for the filmmakers who set out to portray the exciting gallantry of this high-paced life of nearly perpetual motion.  Especially when they are handicapped by the necessity of anchoring the story in the standard standing western city sets.

The task here falls to screenwriter Norman Hall, a long-time serial writer, who later penned a number of the last Durango Kid films – Blazing The Pecos Trail, Whirlwind Raiders, and Last Days of Boot Hill.  The plot he comes up with is heavy on intrigue and light on hard gallops and lightening fast horse changes.

Senator Lassiter is visiting St. Louis at the onset of the Civil War.  His plan is to disband the Union-friendly troops in Sacramento so that his men in California can take the state for the Confederacy.  How?  By sending forged orders through the pony express.

I understand this early film (1939) is atypical of a Roy Rogers vehicle cuz he doesn’t sing much.  It is however the first RR film I have seen.  Here are my observations on this soon-to-be legend.  Roy has a drawl, he’s good at the fast dismount, is invited to dinner but “don’t have clothes for that sort of thing”, doesn’t smoke, uses a lasso, has a sidekick in a battered hat (eerily familiar), wears his own hat tight on his head ALWAYS, and has a nice quirky smile.

About those songs.  Song #1:  sung to a gal on a couch, fireside.  “Old Kentucky Home.”  Song #2:  pressed into singing by the gal at the big ball.  “Rusty Spurs.”

An interesting note.  Roy’s sidekick, played by Raymond Hatton, sweetens a trade by throwing in one of Trigger’s horse shoes.  Apparently, Trigger is a star in the Old West.

Fittingly, it is Trigger who saves the day here, taking the important vouchers to St. Louis at high speed.  Really, Roy only gets an Assist on this one.

Unlike Charles Starrett, Roy is definitely a star in the singing cowboy mold of Gene Autry.  He does throw a good movie punch, however.


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