Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

THE BIG SHOW-OFF

Dale Evans and Arthur Lake
THE BIG SHOW-OFF (1945). Director: Howard Bretherton.

Sandy Elliott (Arthur Lake) is a piano accompanist for the nightclub singer June Mayfield (Dale Evans). Their boss, Joe Bagley (Lionel Stander of Tahiti Honey), knows that Sandy is secretly carrying a torch for June. While Joe likes Sandy, he can't stand his obnoxious emcee, Wally (George Meeker of Tarzan's Revenge), who is practically affianced to June. Joe tries to encourage Sandy to tell June how he feels, and to become the kind of man that June might fall for. Somehow it develops that June is convinced that Sandy is the real identity of the masked wrestler known as "the Devil." June is amazed that the mouse is really a lion, but now she's afraid that he might be too brutal for her taste. Sandy wants to give up his alleged career as the Devil, but the real Devil might have something to say about that. What's a boy to do?

Lionel Stander with Lake
The Big Show-Off might sound like a cute picture, and it is, but it's still distinctly minor although it gets lots of help from the likable Lake, best-known as Dagwood Bumstead of the Blondie film series. Lionel Stander is less off-putting than usual, and Dale Evans gets to warble the memorable ditty "There's Only One You." The film throws in some bizarre characters like the Devil (Paul Hurst of Borrowed Wives) and his wrestling cousin and chief opponent, Boris the Bulgar (Sammy Stein). Marjorie Manners plays Mitzi, one of the show girls and June's gal pal. I could swear I spotted a young Nestor Paiva but he's not in the cast list. Anyway, The Big Show-Off is an amiable comedy with a pleasant lead performance. 

Verdict: Lake takes some time off from the Blondie series. **1/2. 

THE BOY FROM INDIANA

Lon McCallister
THE BOY FROM INDIANA (1950). Director: John Rawlins.

Lon Decker (Lon McCallister) is a young man without a family who runs into an old reprobate named MacDougal (George Cleveland of Haunted House). The old scoundrel convinces Lon to become a jockey and ride MacDougal's horse, Jo Jo, in a race. Lon has no idea that MacDougal drugs horses and the like, nor that Jo Jo is actually a famous horse named Texas Dandy; eventually the two men develop a father-son relationship. Lon meets Betty (Lois Richards) who argues that quarter horses can become winning race horses just as much as thoroughbreds -- maybe Jo Jo can compete against the big boys?  Trouble ensues when Jo Jo is gored by a berserk bull (in an exciting and cinematic sequence) and also when Lon realizes how utterly larcenous his "Pa" can be. Nevertheless, Lon is determined to race Jo Jo, providing the horse's injuries can heal in time.

Lon McCallister and Lois Riuchards
The Boy from Indiana benefits from good performances from the charming, boyish McCallister and  a peppery Cleveland, with sweet Lois Richards and an equally peppery Billie Burke [Dinner at Eight] -- as MacDougal's nemesis Zelda Bagley -- thrown in for good measure. McCallister was a handsome and likable performer who appeared in a lot of "outdoors" movies and family films. Lois Butler had only a few credits, and appeared in just three films. On the other hand, Cleveland had nearly 200 credits over a very, very long career. The Boy from Indiana has some limited charm and several likable players. John Rawlins also directed Young Fugitives as well as a number of serials.

Verdict: Amiable movie for horse lovers and racing enthusiasts. **1/2. 

FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN

Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange
FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN (8- part 2017 mini-series).

"I can't go into rehab -- I've got the Dean Martin roast!" -- Bette Davis. 

Movie legend Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange of American Horror Story: Asylum) goes to see another movie legend, Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon of The Other Side of Midnight), and offers her the title role in a film version of the novel "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" During filming with director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina of Prick Up Your Ears), long-simmering resentments and rivalries resurface, and while the two women resolve to have a united front against the twin demons of ageism and sexism, jealousies and insecurities only drive them farther apart. It all culminates when Davis gets an Oscar nod and Crawford doesn't ...

The real Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
Well, this incredibly entertaining and absorbing mini-series could have been a campy and horrible mess, but with intelligent writing and some excellent acting it emerges as a very memorable mini-series. (Feud was not available for viewing while Olivia de Havilland sued the production -- she lost -- but it is now back on Amazon Prime: $11.99 to own all eight Standard Definition episodes.) Let's get one thing out of the way. Feud is highly exaggerated and fictionalized, the actual "feud" between the two ladies being very over-stated to say the least. For much of their lives, Davis and Crawford were busy with careers, children and several bad marriages, and probably didn't think about each other all that much. It was the whole Oscar business -- Davis lost while Crawford accepted the coveted statuette on winner Anne Bancroft's behalf -- that undoubtedly started the "feud," and led to unpleasantness on the set of Baby Jane follow-up Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Now, as to the mini-series itself, once you get past the fabrications and dramatic licenses taken, it manages to go beyond its initial premise and explore the struggles of aging women played out against an industry where an old woman is simply considered a 'hag." The feminist angle is explored but never overwhelms the production, nor does it necessarily excuse the ladies' bad behavior, which could often be chalked up to extreme sensitivity on any number of issues. Of the two lead actresses, Lange comes off the best -- the real Crawford was much better-looking than Lange in her nearly grotesque make up, and had much more authority -- but otherwise Lange proves herself a fine actress and gives a commendable performance. Of the two icons, Davis was imitated much more than Crawford, so Sarandon had a dilemma: how to play a real person without coming off like a drag impersonator. Sarandon succeeds in making Davis seem real, but her performance is also a little dull -- for lack of a better word -- in comparison to Lange's. However, both women are good, although neither of them have the kind of intense power, personality or sheer charisma of the real Crawford and Davis. And when they recreate scenes from Baby Jane? neither are as good as the original stars.

Feud benefits from some superb supporting performances: Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich; Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner; Alison Wright as Aldrich's assistant Pauline Jameson; Molly Price as Aldrich's wife, Harriet; John Rubinstein as George Cukor; and especially Jackie Hoffman as Crawford's maid and companion, "Mamacita," and a scene-stealing Judy Davis [Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows] as Hedda Hopper. On the other hand, Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn't remind me of Olivia de Havilland at all (although you would think de Havilland would have been flattered that she was played by a much younger and beautiful actress.) And Kathy Bates makes a rather mediocre Joan Blondell. The sections showing them being interviewed about the feud could easily have been jettisoned.

Dominic Burgess seems to think that because his character, actor Victor Buono, was gay that he should play him more as a stereotype than he was in real life. While Buono is a colorful character, it's strange that Feud completely omits Maidie Norman, the black actress who played the murdered maid Elvira in Baby Jane? and who had a very interesting life -- was it because she was a lifelong Republican? Feud is perhaps more sympathetic to Joan than it is to Bette, and suggests that her daughter Christina's hateful memoirs were not entirely accurate, if at all.

It's interesting that the writers for this series must have done research by poring over bios of the two screen idols -- books such as Fasten Your Seat Belts: The Passionate Life of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography -- but none are given credit, and that even includes an exaggerated tome entitled Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud!

Verdict: Fascinating, amusing, dramatic, even poignant look at old Hollywood and how stars desperately cling to every inch they've gained while at times losing their humanity in the struggle. ***1/2. 

"BABY JANE" REVISITED


Bette Davis and Joan Crawford
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962). Director: Robert Aldrich.

"I hope you can be kinder to Jane and your father then they are to you."

Former child star Baby Jane Hudson (Bette Davis, pictured) shares a mansion in Hollywood with her crippled sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford), who was a big movie star in her day. When they begin showing her old movies on television, Jane gets the idea of reviving her own act -- but first she has to keep Blanche from selling the house out from under her, leading to grim events and tragedy.

Joan Crawford and Maidie Norman
While the subject matter with its mental illness and physical abuse is distasteful, Baby Jane is still a mesmerizing film, adroitly directed by Aldrich, well-made, and well-acted by the entire cast. Davis is simply superb as Jane (especially good when she collapses into horrified tears in front of her mirror); Crawford is solid but has the less flamboyant role. Victor Buono and Marjorie Bennett are great as Edwin Flagg and his mother. Maidie Norman and Anna Lee are also fine as, respectively, the Hudson's maid, Elvira, and pleasant neighbor, Mrs. Bates. (Davis' witchy religious nut daughter, B.D. Hyman, is barely acceptable as Lee's teen aged daughter; she had no subsequent career as an actress.) Ernest Anderson, who had an important role in In This Our Life, has a brief scene with Davis near the end of the film when he plays a food vendor at the beach. Baby Jane? is beautifully photographed by Ernest Haller. Write-ups of this film always refer to the "decaying" mansion the Hudson sisters live in, but it doesn't seem to be "decaying" -- like Jane's mind -- at all.

2020 UPDATE: Aldrich could have built up more suspense in certain sequences. Crawford doesn't quite pull out all the stops in her final scene, but then we have to remember she's supposed to be at death's door. A bank teller is played by Maxine Cooper of Kiss Me DeadlyRemade as a TV movie with the Redgrave sisters in 1990.

Verdict: Grotesque -- but it works. ***1/2.

'CHARLOTTE" REVISITED

"Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte"
HUSH...HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE (1964). Director: Robert Aldrich.

NOTE: My original review read as follows: 

"She's not really crazy. She just acts that way because people expect it of her."

This film seems to get better with the passage of time. Originally this was meant to be a follow up to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? re-teaming Bette Davis with Joan Crawford (who would have been great in the picture and should have completed it) but Crawford quit the production and Olivia de Havilland stepped in -- with happy results. As others have noted, watching sweet "Miss Melanie" of Gone With the Wind doing the things that de Havilland does as Miriam gives it all an added kick.

Olivia De Havilland and Joseph Cotten
Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) lives alone in a forlorn mansion that is about to be torn down to make way for a bridge. She calls on the only family she has left -- cousin Miriam Deering (de Havilland) -- to come and help her, but Miriam has other things on her mind. For most of her life Charlotte has been the chief suspect in the mutilation murder of her lover, John Mayhew (Bruce Dern), a supposedly sensitive soul who wrote a love song to Charlotte (the title tune) and put it in a music box. Charlotte is haunted by her lost love and by her feeling that it was her father (Victor Buono in a bravura turn) who killed him.

Bette Davis as Charlotte
Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte takes a cast of golden age stars and character actors and places them in a classy production with a sop to the teen audience via the graphic, well-executed (pun intended) murder scene that almost opens the picture, and which is actually bloodier than the Psycho murder of 1960 (we never do learn what became of the poor man's head and hand, which were apparently carried off by the murderer). This alone predisposed many 1964 critics to dismiss the film out of hand, although the rest of the film is entirely tasteful. Not only tasteful, but extremely well done. Aldrich's direction and handling of the suspense scenes is far superior to his work on Baby Jane. Joseph Biroc's cinematography is consistently outstanding and the production values first-rate -- this is one good-looking movie. (Frank) DeVol's musical score is extremely effective. One could argue that Baby Jane had a kind of cheapjack feel to it, but that is definitely not true of Charlotte. The screenplay by Henry Farrell and Lukas Heller, while it may at one point borrow a plot gambit from Diabolique, is suspenseful and full of great dialogue. Most scenes, such as a murder on a staircase and the bitter arguments between the neurotic principals, are handled with great dramatic flair.

Olivia de Havilland
And then there's the acting. Davis gives one of her finest latter-day performances, getting across the pathos of the character as well as her mania. (Her pantomime at the end as she reads a letter with tremendously important information in it is marvelous.) As Miriam, Olivia de Havilland is on target from her entrance until the final moments. Witness her wonderful delivery of her rejoinder to Dr. Bayliss. "You were always free with your compliments. It was your ... intentions... that were a little vague." As the charming if reptilian Bayliss Joseph Cotten offers another dead-on characterization. Agnes Moorehead almost walks off with the picture as the unfortunate housekeeper Velma. Mary Astor, Cecil Kellaway, and others offer highly superior supporting performances.

Hush...Hush deserves to be recognized as a certified classic.

Verdict: Fascinating! ****.

2020 UPDATE: Oddly, although the plot line isn't as original as in Baby Jane, Hush ... Hush is, I believe, the better picture, even if I might take one half star away from my verdict. Although she is very good, there is no way Davis would ever have received an Oscar nomination for this film as she did for Baby Jane -- her scene on the staircase when she supposedly descends into gibbering madness is more comical than anything else. It doesn't make much sense that Charlotte would stay in town where everyone thought she was a cleaver-wielding lunatic just to cover up for her father (who she thinks is the real murderer) -- she could have gone anywhere and everyone would have still thought "she done it." Then we have the question of the murder itself. It takes a great deal of strength to cut off a man's hand with a meat cleaver with just one blow, not to mention a head with a few whacks. How could anyone think Charlotte could have done it, let alone the real killer, maniacal strength notwithstanding? (And why on earth did the killer walk off with the head and hand?) Also the two villains of the story had to count on an awful lot happening, on Charlotte falling in with their plans, for things to work out as they do. On close inspection the whole Gaslight plot seems highly suspect. But these are quibbles -- as the movie is extremely entertaining if you just suspend disbelief. A scene with a corpse falling sideways and threatening to reveal itself to a reporter at the door of the mansion is terrific!

Verdict: Diabolical story of resentment and revenge --- lots of classy if ghoulish fun. ***1/2.  

Thursday, July 9, 2020

STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET

Kim Novak and Kirk Douglas
STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET (1960.) Director: Richard Quine. Screenplay by Evan Hunter, based on his novel of the same name.

"Outraged innocence is always a good gambit, but the amateur always overplays it." -- Felix.

Larry Coe (Kirk Douglas) is an award-winning architect who is always hoping he'll be given the opportunity to fulfill his potential as an artist. Although he is happily married to Eve (Barbara Rush), and has two little boys, he is galvanized by the sight of a beautiful neighbor, Maggie (Kim Novak), who also has a husband (John Bryant) and young son, and is instantly attracted. Initially resistant, Maggie is eventually won over by the persistent and narcissistic -- and presumptuous -- Larry and the two begin an affair even as Larry designs a house for author Roger Altar (Ernie Kovacs). Maggie seems to be content with the way things are, but Larry isn't so certain, especially when he's offered a job that will take him and his family to Hawaii for five years.

On the beach: Kim Novak and Kirk Douglas
Although the plot goes in a very different direction, you're immediately reminded of Fatal Attraction, because in this movie Douglas basically plays a self-serving pig just as his son does in the later film. Larry seems to give absolutely no thought to his wife and children and is only concerned with his own gratification. Maggie at least has some excuse -- her husband is under-sexed, possibly even asexual, and she is neglected in the bedroom. That this is a sexual affair is made very clear, but that this is supposedly a romantic relationship is not as certain -- sexual obsession maybe -- despite the film's attempt to turn this into some kind of Brief Encounter, which it certainly isn't.

Larry (Douglas) is confronted by Felix (Matthau)
The acting and direction helps a lot. Aside from some moments when she is overly affected, Kim Novak gives a solid performance, proving that she had become quite accomplished in the right role and with a sympathetic director. However, she is so beautiful, such an obvious sex object (which may not have been the case in the novel) that it unbalances the story -- Larry just seems like a horny jerk after a hot babe. Douglas is excellent, but one senses he doesn't plumb Larry's guilt or vulnerability because he doesn't see Larry as doing anything wrong! Barbara Rush puts the viewer on Eve's side, and it's a little sickening when Eve starts blaming herself for her husband's affair. Another actor who really scores is Walter Matthau, playing Felix, a jealous neighbor and alleged friend of Larry's who confronts him about the affair and then makes a repellent play for Eve in a very tense and disquieting sequence. In her last screen role Virginia Bruce makes an impression as Maggie's mother; an interesting character whose back story is only hinted at. Ernie Kovacs is okay as the author who wants Larry to design his dream house, but his part is pretty unnecessary to the story. John Bryant does the best he can do with a thankless role. Betsy Jones-Moreland [Last Woman on Earth] and Paul Picerni play party guests.

Kirk Douglas and Barbara Rush
Then there's the subject of rape. Maggie tells Larry about how she flirted with a man who insisted on coming over to the house when her husband was out, and forced himself upon her after she had taken a sleeping pill. Larry accuses Maggie of wanting to sleep with the man, which is why she supposedly didn't lock the door before retiring. Whatever the case, the whole business of sexual assault is glossed over as if she were talking about somebody making a mere pass.

Verdict: Rather depressing look at martial infidelity with a rather unlikable protagonist. **1/4. 

PENELOPE

Natalie Wood
PENELOPE (1966). Director: Arthur Hiller.

Penelope (Natalie Wood) is the neglected wife of a bank president, James Elcott (Ian Bannen of Psyche 59). Apparently she has had a problem with stealing -- which gives her pleasure -- for some years, but her crowning achievement, some might say, is robbing her husband's bank on the very day it opens. Two cops -- Lt. Bixbee (Peter Falk) and Sergeant Rothschild (Bill Gunn) -- are called in to investigate, and are quickly on the trail of a blond woman with a French accent who disguised herself as an old lady and changed her clothing and wig in the ladies room. The two cops get closer and closer to Penelope, but ultimately arrest a streetwalker named Honeysuckle Rose (Arlene Golonka). Will Penelope come clean and keep this innocent woman out of jail?

Penelope in old lady drag
Penelope has its amusing moments, but as a major comedy it's a bust. Natalie Wood is cute in the picture, but her character calls more for a kookie Gracie Allen-type -- even Phyllis Diller would have been better in some ways -- and Wood doesn't really have sharp comedic skills. Ian Bannen isn't especially funny, either, but although he's initially rather off-putting, his performance is acceptable. At first Dick Shawn as Penelope's psychiatrist doesn't exactly act as if he's in a comedy, but he has his moments as well. Lila Kedrova and Lou Jacobi enliven the film a bit with their portrayal of a couple who run a dress shop. Jonathan Winters is completely wasted in a terrible flashback wherein he plays Penelope's college professor who literally tries to rape her -- even back in 1966 this sequence must have seemed utterly tasteless.

Peter Falk
Yet Penelope never quite made it onto my Films I Just Couldn't Finish list. That's because the movie is generally watchable, moves fairly quickly, and has some interesting twists to it that keep you  involved. As for the other actors, Peter Falk is fine, although one could argue that he's auditioning for his role on Columbo. Bill Gunn is a likable African-American actor who does what he can with a small if sympathetic part. Norma Crane [Night Gallery] is zesty as Elcott's ex-girlfriend, who just won't let go, and Arlene Golanka [Diary of a Bachelor] really runs with her brief portrayal of Honeysuckle. If you don't blink you'll also see adept bits by Jerome Cowan and Fritz Feld. Wood didn't make another movie for three years after this flick bombed at the box office.  

Verdict:  If the biggest laugh comes from a character's burping, you know a comedy is in trouble. **1/2.                                                                                                                                                     

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1962)

Joyce Taylor and Mark Damon
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1962). Diretor: Edward L. Cahn.

Althea (Joyce Taylor) travels with her father, Count Roderick (Dayton Lummis), to a kingdom presided over by the young and recently coronated King Eduardo ( Mark Damon of The Young Racers). Althea, who is affianced to Eduardo, expects a warm greeting but discovers that her fiance is "indisposed" and there is hardly any staff in the castle aside from his chief aide Orsini (Eduard Franz). Althea sees the handsome Eduardo in the morning, but he tells her that their wedding may have to be postponed. It's worse than that -- a curse was placed upon Eduardo by a alchemist who was sentenced to death by Eduardo's father when he refused to share his secrets. Now each night Eduardo grows fur, claws and fangs and becomes a benign if tormented werewolf (of sorts). If Eduardo's nasty Uncle Bruno (Michael Pate) finds out, his regime may come to a decidedly violent conclusion.

Anders, Pate and Burrke
Beauty and the Beast is a rarity in that it's probably the only TechniColor film directed by B Movie maestro Edward L. Cahn. (This was Cahn's last film, as he died the following year.) Mercilessly skewered for its low-budget and a comparison to Cocteau's 1946 film of the same name, on its own terms Beauty and the Beast is a minor but entertaining film that probably works best for young viewers. Taylor and Damon, especially the latter, give good enough performances; Pate and Merry Anders as his gal pal, Sybil, are fine; Franz and Lummis are credible; and Walter Burke gives the most notable performance as the slimy and scheming Grimaldi, servant to Bruno.

Mark Damon. 
The werewolf design is by Ernie Young and the famous Jack P. Pierce. It doesn't look bad, although an unfortunate side effect of the big teeth is that it comically affects Damon's speech. Hugo Friedhofer's musical score is a plus, especially the theme music. A former pop singer and Howard Hughes discovery, Joyce Taylor appeared in Atlantis the Lost Continent and other genre films; her last feature was in 1971. Mark Damon starred in Roger Corman's House of Usher, did many films overseas, and became a producer. Merry Anders was in Hear Me Good and Ib Melchior's The Time Travelers, among others. Beauty and the Beast has a notable climax when the couple race to get married with Bruno's hate-filled followers in rabid pursuit. Edward L. Cahn directed Zombies of Mora Tau and about a zillion others.

Verdict: More than acceptable children's fantasy film. ***. 

GRANT WILLIAMS

GRANT WILLIAMS, Giancarlo Stampalia. Bearmanor; 2018.

It is made clear from the beginning that this is not a traditional biography of the actor Grant Williams -- most famous for The Incredible Shrinking Man -- but a career study put together from assorted press clippings and interviews with a couple of co-workers and acting students. Stampalia was hampered by Williams' extreme privacy during his life, as well as the absence of living co-stars and others who were willing to contribute anecdotes. However, Stampalia adds depth to his manuscript with his analyses of Williams' acting approach to various roles, and whether his performances worked or not, and why they did or didn't. He goes on for some length on The Incredible Shrinking Man -- but there are also notes on all of Williams' film, TV, and radio appearances. Although it would be easy to see Williams as a closeted gay or bisexual man suffering from Catholic guilt -- and this may certainly have been the case --  Stampalia argues that this assessment is by no means certain without solid proof. If Williams failed to reach major stardom it may have been, as Stampalia suggests, that he was more interested in being a good actor than in being a movie star. However, even his TV and "B" movie career might have suffered because of his heavy drinking and possible alcoholism. Williams became a regular on Hawaiian Eye and gave a notable performance in the thriller The Couch. Stampalia makes a strong case for Williams' acting talent -- he did a creditable job playing Peter Tchiakovsky on a episode of The Magical World of Disney -- although it is also true that the effect the actor frequently exuded was one of handsome blandness. Stampalia is perhaps more erudite then other writers of movie star fan books, so he can be forgiven the occasional foray into pretentiousness. The book is bolstered with lots of interesting photographs.

Verdict: Intensive study of a comparatively minor film player who kept his secrets to himself. ***. 

KING OF THE COWBOYS

Roy Rogers behind bars
KING OF THE COWBOYS (1943). Director: Joseph Kane.

Rodeo star Roy Rogers, playing himself, is importuned to quit the show so he can go undercover to find some WW2 saboteurs. His sidekick, Frog Milhouse (Smiley Burnette),  goes along with him and they hook up with another show of which Judy Mason (Peggy Moran of Horror Island) and her pal Ruby (Dorothea Kent of Young Fugitives) are a part. The gals work with Maurice  (Gerald Mohr) -- the "Mental Marvel" -- who does a mind-reading act via which he communicates with his fellow spies. James Bush plays Dave Mason, the show manager, who may not be on the side of the angels. Lloyd Corrigan plays Karley, the governor's private secretary, who is definitely not on the side of the angels.

Kent, Moran and Mohr
King of the Cowboys is often mistaken as Roger's first starring role, but he starred in a great many films-- mostly for Republic Studios  --  before he made this one. The plot in this "modern" nominal western is negligible, but Rogers has a nice voice and the film's highlights are the musical numbers: "I'm an Old Cowhand;" "Ride, Ranger, Ride;" and especially "Prairie Moon." An odd moment occurs when the governor (Russell Hicks) tells Roy how his last agent was killed and that his final words were "following May." Rogers, who is not too swift, assumes that May was some hot tamale, says "sounds like nice work," and shows absolutely no concern for the agent who was murdered! Otherwise, Rogers is pleasant, handsome and bland, and Burnette is only mildly amusing. The two gals don't get much to do, but Mohr and Corrigan are as professional as ever. Irving Bacon, Ethel's dad on I Love Lucy, has a small role as well. In addition to other Roy Rogers features, as well as co-directing a couple of serials, Joseph Kane also helmed Jubilee Trail for Republic.

Verdict: Odd mixture of cowboys and spies with some good songs. **1/2.