Whatever happened to Johnny Mack Brown
And Alan "Rocky" Lane
Whatever happened to Lash LaRue
I'd love to see them again
Whatever happened to Smiley Burnett
Tim Holt and Gene Autry
Whatever happened to all of these
Has happened to the best of me.
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
Has happened to the Industry
The Statler Brothers - "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott."
Stocking Stuffer Bonus Review!!!!
Film: The Cowboy and Indians. (1949)
Directed by John English
Written by Dwight Cummins, Dorothy Yost.
Columbia Pictures, Gene Autry Productions.
Suggested by: odessasteps
Reviewed by: execproducer
Now this? This is exactly why I enjoy doing these things. I've seen a lot of oaters in my time but Gene Autry has always been a blindspot, both in film and music.Sure, I know all about Frosty and Rudolph but that has been the extent of my Gene Autry experience. Having watched the Ken Burns Country Music doc a couple of months ago, I had it in my mind to change that so when odessasteps brought this film up, I was ready. It opens up with a prologue about the plight of the American Indian. Yeah, I know...Native American or Indiginous Peoples...but this is a 1949 film and I'll stick with referring to them as they are in the film. Anyway, bearing in mind this is 1949, the prologue is extremely sympathetic even going so far as to postulate that Indian uprisings against white settlers were the natural course of action of a people fighting displacement. Nevertheless, displaced they are and as the narrator says, 80 years on from the War of the States, after which westward expansion boomed, the plight of the Indian has very little improved.
80 years on? Yes because you see, most Gene Autry films, as well as Roy Rogers oaters, take place in the present. Sure it's all ranches and deserts and mountains and small towns and six-guns and horses (Hey Champion!!) are still in effect but at some point you're likely to see a car show up or outsiders wearing contemporary clothing. And Gene Autry basically plays an idealized version of himself. It even says 'Gene Autry' on his mailbox! So when the movie proper starts Gene is grabbed by his ranch foreman Tom and taken to a part of his land where some off the reservation Indians are grazing their livestock and maybe helping themselves to some of his. "Fuck all that!!" thinks Gene Autry. "Why don't these Indians stay on their reservation?" he says to his foreman Tom. Oh, and it takes me about 30 seconds of hearing Tom speak before I realize " THAT'S FRED ZIFFEL!!!!" If a little pig comes scampering up the hill I'm going to lose it.
Anyway Gene heads over to see the tribal Chief, Long Arrow (Chief Yowlachie) to give him what for but finds out that one of the elder women of the tribe is very sick and he instantly forgets about his deal (because he is a good dude and apparently these were issues that the real life Mr. Autry was very concerned about) and he arranges taking the elder to the local trading post and summoning a doctor. The trading post is run by a piece of shit named Smiley who loves nothing more than to cheat every local Indian he can, including Broken Arm ( Charles Stevens) and his wife Lucy (Claudia Drake), whose ancestral blanket he wants to buy and sell to Bradley (Alex Frazer) who covets Indian artifacts, including the Chiefs tribal necklace. Gene uses the trading post phone to summon a doctor. While he is on the phone, Lakohna(the Great Jay Silverheels) enters to buy silver to smith. When the elder woman arrives, Smiley objects to Gene putting her in his bed. He tries to follow Gene outside only to get the front door slammed in his face. Embarrassed in front of some Indians, Smiley decides he needs to give a receipt and they commence ta fightin'. Obviously that isn't going to go well for Smiley. Gene Autry isn't the toughest looking dude in the world but he has some sweet movie fighting skills. A piston of a right hand that leads you to believe if you started some mess with Gene Autry, you might end up picking up your teeth.
After the fight is done a woman named Nan (Sheila Ryan) pulls up in a jeep and asks Gene where the elder woman is. As they are talking Lakohna pops into the shot and says "Good morning Doctor!" This completely flummoxes Gene. Inside Doc Nan diagnoses malnutrition which clearly affects Gene. When foreman Tom later complains that the Indians are still grazing his land, Gene isn't interested in stopping them. Gene and Tom spot a young Indian boy named Rona trailing them and spook him into running off when Gene calls his name. Rona leaves his pony behind which Tom assumes he stole. When Tom asks Gene how are they going to catch him, Gene has a better idea in mind. His idea is to sit outside his ranch and sing One Little Indian Boy with some other cowboys accompanying on guitars and Tom rockin' a squeeze box. Hey it works! Turns out Rona wants to board his horse with Gene because he is afraid Grandpa the Chief will sell him to piece of shit Smiley. They bring him inside to feed him and Gene pretends to be distracted and allows Rona to steal every apple off of the table. Rona runs off and takes his haul of fruit to the Indian school and passes them out to the other kids.
Having followed Rona to the school, Gene runs into Doc Nan, who is having jeep problems. Gene offers her a ride on Champion. First, she needs to inoculate the kids for whooping cough and enlists Gene's aid. Gene gives Doc Nan a ride to her next stop and she asks him to deliver some medicine to Broken Arm's place. When he gets there he finds two of Smiley's henchmen, Luke (Clayton Moore) and Joe (Lee Roberts) trying to steal Broken Arm's sheep under the guise of being government agents thinning out the herd because their grazing is destructive. Gene calls bullshit on that and him and Luke start fighting. THATS RIGHT MUTHA FUCKAS!!! GENE AUTRY IS THROWING HANDS WITH THE LONE RANGER!!!!! In all of the fuss, the sheep get driven over an embankment to their doom wiping out Broken Arm and family's livelihood. Gene takes the two bad guys to the sheriff and the government official in charge of managing the Indians (actually his assistant) but they're like "well what can we do?" Smiley shows up and claims his men were there to buy wool which everyone in the room knows is a lie but hey, their hands are tied because Smiley has a government contract. The agent in charge is on vacation and anyway, Washington and red tape and all that.
Gene tries to interest a newspaper reporter in blowing the lid off this bullshit but the plight of the Indians don't sell papers so PASS!! Now Gene is really pissed!! He does what any red-blooded cowboy hero would do! He calls his congressman!!!! Rep. Who-the-fuck-ever is all "Hey Gene, I'm a fan and all but we need hard evidence before we can move. Can you get that?". SO GENE FUCKIN' AUTRY GOES ON A FACT-FINDING MISSION!!!!!!! He's talking to this rancher there and that farmer here and this guy and that guy and he's building his case and I'm pretty sure this is THE GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIMES!!!!
Back at the trading post When Chief and Rona attempt to buy food on credit Smiley tells them he'll gladly take Rona's pony but Chief refuses and leaves empty handed. Bradley is practically salivating over the necklace but Smiley sees Lucy Broken Arm, who is always wrapped in her blanket, coming towards the trading post with her son. Smiley tells Bradley he'll get that blanket now. Smiley goes outside to meet them and, in front of other starving Indians, starts stuffing his fat fucking face with two handfuls of food talking about how warm eating makes you and all I want to do is pull a reverse Purple Rose of Cairo and go into the movie and choke this bitch out myself! Lucy Broken Arm crumbles and proffers the blanket. Of course, now the blanket isn't worth what he offered before and she ends up walking away with two dollars worth of groceries. Bradley is watching from the inside and making weird faces like he climaxed in his trousers.
Gene and Doc Nan are on the road in a buckboard where she is reading his report that he is preparing for Washington. She approves to his obvious delight. They encounter Lucy and son on the road where Nan notices her blanket is gone. Nan converses with Lucy in her native tongue and then informs Gene what happened and you can see it in his eyes ...someone is going to get got! At the trading post Bradley is still pushing for the necklace and plants an idea in Smileys greasy head.
Back at Gene's ranch, Gene, Doc Nan and Lakohna sit at the dining room table planning a petition to have Smiley removed from the reservation. As they rise from the table Gentleman Gene goes to put Doc Nans coat over her shoulders and....HOLYFUCKINSHIT JAY SILVERHEELS JUST COCKBLOCKED GENE AUTRY!!!!!!!....and he did it smooth like Cesar Romero and this is most definitely THE GREATEST FILM OF ALL TIMES!!!!!!. Before things get too awkward Rona shows up on his pony because Grandpa Chief is missing. The trio set out to search for him as Lakohna knows where he was headed. They find him unconscious with his necklace missing. Off-screen they get him to a hospital and Gene goes back to the scene of the crime to investigate. Next scene is Gene showing Lakohna some silver from a pair of moccasins that he found where they had discovered Chief. Nan rides up to tell them Smiley claimed Lakohna attacked Chief and a posse is on the way.. Lakohna is next in line to be Chief and doubt quickly crosses Gene's mind. Lakohna smiles at this and pulls out his moccasins to show they are intact. Doc frets that he wouldn't be in this mess if he had taken that engineering job after college and it is now more than clear that they are knocking boots. Gene sees Lakohna's Marine uniform and all doubt is erased. The sound of the approaching posse spurs them into action. Lakohna flies out on horseback with the posse in hot pursuit. Gene trails the posse and when Smiley stops to take a shot, Gene bumps him saving Lakohna's life.
Later that night Gene and Lakohna meet up at the trading post where Luke and Joe are snoring away in the back.They search for evidence of the frame-up which they find right before waking Luke and Joe up. They both light out towards the hills on Champion with the bad guys right behind. It is surreal seeing evil Clayton Moore doing that thing where he draws his shooting hand back towards his head and throws it forward like he is tossing bullets instead of shooting them, just like the Lone Ranger would. Doubly so since he is tossing them in the general direction of Tonto, albeit a much more erudite, sophisticated Tonto. The Lone Ranger series would debut the same day this film opened.
Gene and Lakohna end up boxed in on the hills with the bad guys electing to wait them out until daylight. Luke seeks to gain the high ground and we are denied the Tonto-Lone Ranger match up when Gene goes out to meet him. Gene and Kemosabe duke it out once again while Lakohna exchanges gunfire with Smiley and Joe. Gene punches Luke off of a boulder. Gene(s stunt double) launches himself off the boulder like Steamboat. It is a pretty impressive dismount though the cut to the landing is nothing special. While Smiley keeps shooting, Joe sneaks around to get the drop on Lakohna. Lakohna spots him and pins his gun hand to a tree with a sweet knife throw. Lakohna and Joe struggle out into the open and Smiley takes a shot that hits Joe by mistake. Just then thundering hoofbeats! Here comes the cal....WAIT!! NO!!!! I recognize that music cue!! HERE COMES THE INDIANS!!!! Smiley jumps on his horse and gets outta Dodge. The Indians chase Bradley around a corner as Gene punches Luke off of another boulder to end their fight. We hear Bradley cry "No! Don't kill me!" and then Blue Eagle walks out with a handful of scalp. No worries, it's only a toupee and we all laugh and laugh.
The White Dudes posse shows up, a day late and a dollar short and Bradley tries to convince the sheriff that he is just a victim of these murderous savages but no one is buying it including foreman Tom who has been anti Indian throughout the film. From the top of the hill Smiley appears and aims his rifle. Lakohna rushes forward and pushes Gene and Tom out of the path of the shot. The sheriff FINALLY does something and drops that bitch Smiley with one shot. Gene pulls the stolen tribal necklace from Bradley's pocket, ending his shenanigans. Sheriff tells Blue Eagle to get that to his chief. Blue Eagle puts it around Lakohna's neck as it seems Chief Long Arrow has succumbed to a combination of his injuries and malnutrition. Gene tells the reporter, who had tagged along with the posse, that he's got some stories to write! A montage of headlines later, Gene and Tom/Fred Ziffel, dressed as skinny Santa, lead a caravan of food supplies to the starving Indians as Gene sings 'Here Comes Santa Claus' . Yup, our Christmas tie-in with four minutes to go. At the Indian school Lakohna and Doc Nan are together and she reveals to Gene that she is actually half Indian, so no 1949 Jungle Fever here. We end with Gene and Indian kids singing Silent Night.
Great. Fucking. Movie. 69 minutes of my life well invested.