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HARLEM RIDES THE RANGE (director: Richard Kahn; screenwriters: Spencer Williams Jr./F.E.Miller; cinematographer: Roland Price/Clark Ramsey; music: Lew Porter; cast: Herbert Jeffries (Bob Blake), Clarence Brooks (Bradley), Tom Southern (Jim Connors, Watson’s Foreman), Spencer Williams Jr. (Mr. Watson), Artie Young (Miss Margaret Dennison), Leonard Christmas (Jim Dennison), Lucius Brooks (Dusty), John Thomas (Cactus), Wade Dumas (Dog City Sheriff), F.E.Miller (Slim Perkins the Cook); Runtime: 58; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard Kahn; Hollywood Pictures; 1939)
“Worth seeing only as a curio.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Harlem Rides the Range is a low-budget all-black singing cowboy Western made for a segregated black audience. It was known at the time as a race film. That it apes a white B western and carries over the same disgusting black stereotypes from the white mainstream films and is far removed from black interests, makes it worth seeing only as a curio. White director and producer Richard Kahn (“The Bronze Buckaroo“/”Two-gun Man From Harlem”/”Buzzy Rides the Range) made three such singing black cowboy pics, with Herbert Jeffries starring, and this was the last of the trio. It’s written by actors Spencer Williams Jr. and F.E.Miller.

It was filmed at the N.B. Murray dude ranch near Victorville, California.

Drifter good guy cowboys from Texas, white hat wearing singing cowboy Bob Blake (Herbert Jeffries) and his comic relief partner Dusty (Lucius Brooks), doing a Stepit Fetchit routine, secure ranch work with Mr. Watson (Spencer Williams, noted for his TV work in the early 1950s on the Amos and Andy show–with him playing Andy). Blake becomes suspicious of his lying foreman Connors (Tom Southern)and soon learns he secretly works forrancher Bradley (Clarence Brooks), who is attempting to steal a valuable radium mine from Jim Dennison (Leonard Christmas) and his attractive single daughter Margaret (Artie Young). The singing cowboy saves Margaret from a kidnapping and in a finale shootout brings frontier justice to Bradley and his gang.

Nothing new here. Jeffries can’t act a lick, but his singing is fine. Check-out him singing I’m a Happy Cowboy, and you might think you’re hearing Roy Rogers. After his brief movie career Jeffries sang with the Duke Ellington orchestra and then moved to France to run a night club.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”