Other Cowboy Stars — Rex Allen in “The Arizona Cowboy”

February 7, 2011

Rex Allen looks like a lot of people — former Daily Show host Craig Kilborn, movie icon Alan Ladd and even Inception‘s Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

He was a rodeo star who entered the game late, making his feature debut in 1950.  He would make 19 films for Republic in the next five years.  The final film would be 1954 “Phantom Stallion” which is arguably the last Singing Cowboy western film.  This makes him the Last of the Singing Cowboys.

Though Allen disavowed his first film as a “turkey”, he was stuck with the moniker “The Arizona Cowboy” for the rest of his (short) career.  And it’s not a bad picture.  Rex plays a rodeo rider just back stateside from a three year tour of South America and Australia.  His dad has been framed for robbery and sabotage so he heads down to Dusty Acres (Iverson Ranch) to investigate.

An early shot of Allen is a cool echo of the Ringo Kid’s introduction in “Stagecoach” — a tracking shot through a truck’s windshield up on Allen standing in the middle of the road holding his suitcase and waving over his head just like Wayne did it.

Rex Allen appears to be a natural actor.  He would have hardly spent any time on set before this film, and yet he’s already sure-footed and easy.  He’s also real natural handling horses and the producers wisely use this in crafting the story.  There is a small bit of business where Allen calms a wild horse by rubbing him with a stick.  That’s production value that you can’t buy with money.

Allen also famously provided his own horse and wardrobe.  Republic apparently paid him $500 a picture for the rental of said.

Rex sings three songs in his agile baritone and does some yodeling as well.

Starrett fans will recognize Edmund Cobb in the role of Sheriff Fuller.  He shared the screen with Charles on 47 occasions, from his first western, 1935’s “Gallant Defender” to one of his last, 1951’s “Cyclone Fury.”

There is a lame Haunted House ending with a eerie organ accompaniment that seems out of a different film all together.

But all in all “The Arizona Cowboy” is not a bad debut for this movie cowboy.

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