DOWN MEXICO WAY (director: Joseph Santley; screenwriters: Olive Cooper/Albert Duffy/Dorrell McGowan/Stuart McGowan; cinematographer: Jack A. Marta; editor: Howard O’Neill; music: Raoul Kraushaar; cast: Gene Autry (Gene), Sidney Blackmer (Gibson), Arthur Loft (Gerard), Duncan Renaldo (Juan), Smiley Burnette (Frog), Paul Fix (Henchman Davis), Joe Sawyer (Allen), Fay McKenzie (Maria Elena Alvarado), Julian Rivero (Don Alvarado), Harold Huber (Pancho Grande), Ruth Robinson (Mercedes), Thornton Edwards (Capt. Rodriguez), Herrera Sisters (Singers); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; Republic; 1941)
“Republic responded to FDR’s request to make a pic in a neighboring South of the Border country, as part of the administration’s Good Neighbor Policy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Republic responded to FDR’s request to make a pic in a neighboring South of the Border country, as part of the administration’s Good Neighbor Policy. Joseph Santley was in his second directing effort after his musical 1940 Western “Melody Ranch.” Santley built a future rep on his lighthearted musicals and comedies. Down Mexico Way is a breezy second-rate musical Western starring singing cowboy Gene Autry, playing himself, and his longtime faithful comical foil sidekick Smiley Burnette as the harmonica playing character known as Frog. The studio usually made eight Autry films a year and two of them were big budget works. This one cost $300,00 to produce and therefore gets classified as one of the big budget jobs.
The film opens with Autry serenading the locals of Sage City at a barbecue for investing their hard-earned money in a sure-fire movie deal with unknown transient producers calling themselves Gerard and Gibson, but who are really con artists Davis (Paul Fix) and Allen (Joe Sawyer) posing as producers. They swindle $35,000 in phony stock certificates out of the gullible investors and flee town to the Mexico location of the real Gerard (Arthur Loft) and Gibson (Sidney Blackmer). Gerard and Gibson are also con artists and not real producers, who are in San Ramon, Mexico, fleecing local ranch owner Don Alvarado out of $500,000. He’s putting up the dough to make a pic with his daughter Maria Elena Alvarado as the star. Autry, Smiley, and their new Mexican amigo, the barbecue chef, Pancho (Harold Huber), go down to Mexico to recover the stolen money and apprehend the crooks, meeting on the train Maria. She invites Gene to the town’s fiesta and to meet the real Gerard and Gibson, whom at that point she believes are honest.
Autry doesn’t inform the American police about the crime and waits until the final reel to clue in the Mexican police about the scam. At that point the Mexican police under the charge of Captain Rodriguez arrest one of the crooks and get into a car chase with the three fleeing train robbing bandits, as a heroic Gene on horseback manages to jump into their fast moving car and toss two of them out of the convertible. The remaining villain, the driver, takes the car over the side of the mountain and meets his Maker, as things end with Gene recovering the money and shaking hands with his romantic interest Maria–promising to return at some unspecified later date (with the asexual Gene hinting with his gleaming eyes that he wants to get some more handshakes and smiles!).
It’s a lively but inane musical Western, with almost no action but for the car chase in the last reel. It’s built around a dumb premise, that is handled about as well as can be expected all things considered.
REVIEWED ON 5/5/2005 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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