“Cowboy Canteen”

June 5, 2008

Courtesy of Les Adams

This 1944 film is a song and comedy revue, featuring talents of the day. Nominal plot involves theatrical troupe taking their vacation on the Lazy B Ranch run by Steve Bradley (guess who?). Steve’s about to enter the army and what drama there is involves him and Tex Ritter competing for the love of Connie Grey, played by real life vaudeville star Jane Frazee.

Charley does a little acting here, playing a man of age to serve in World War Two (he was over 40 at the time.) He also plays a humorless fella, “a might serious” as his mom says, or “ain’t no fun in him” as Tex puts it. However, being the sweetheart that he was, Charley couldn’t help but break into an easy grin or bust up appreciatively at another actor’s antics.

Perhaps of most interest to us is this fact: This is the only Western film I know of in which Charley plays a contemporary role. It’s 1944 and he plays a guy enlisting to serve in World War Two.

Revue wise: Vera Vague is the ditzy blonde comic “I even herd sheep” “oh yeah, what do they say?” “BAAAA!” and Max Terhune plays the ventriloquist Professor Merlin. Music is by the Mills Brothers and Jimmy Wakely and his Saddle Pals.

The ending is the BIG SHOW at the Canteen that Connie puts together for the soldiers in Steve’s barn. We get to see the above acts perform, plus an act called Buck, Chickie and Buck which involves a guy whipping all kinds of shit out of a woman’s hands.

This is the first I’ve seen of Tex Ritter. He’s cool. He rides a horse and plays guitar and sings at the same time.

Dub Taylor’s in it, and he’s funny. Makes one hate Smiley even more.

The big find of this film is Guinn “Big Boy” Williams playing Steve’s foreman, Spud Harrigan. Despite being saddled with an uneasy resemblance to our 43rd President, Mr. Williams has a great presence and physical comic style. He’s worth checking out.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures