HEART OF THE ROCKIES (director: William Witney; screenwriter: Eric Taylor; cinematographer: Reggie Lanning; editor: Tony Martinelli; music: R. Dale Butts; cast: Roy Rogers (Roy Rogers), Penny Edwards (June Willard), Gordon Jones (Splinters McGonigle), Ralph Morgan (Andrew Willard), Fred Graham (Devery), Mira McKinney (Mrs. Edsel), William Gould (Warden Parker0, Rand Brooks (Jim Corley), Ray Bennett (The Sheriff); Runtime: 64; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edward J. White; Republic; 1951)
“The only thing to be found in these Rockies are rocks and not a heart.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Roy Rogers made 92 films for Warner Brothers, starting in 1937. This was one of his last films (he made three more films, with his last in 1975), as he switched from 1951 to 1957 from movies to star in an NBC television series. By this film, his act was becoming passe and Heart of the Rockies is one of his weaker films. Dale Evans was home with the kids, so Penny Edwards replaces her as his leading lady (this is the sixth time in that role). Veteran studio director William Witney (“Sunset in the West”/”Grand Canyon Trail”/”Pals of the Golden West”) tries to save the project with aggressive direction, but the story is so hokey and outdated that it was beyond saving.
Rogers is the chief engineer of a construction crew building a much needed town road. Crusty land baron Andrew Willard (Ralph Morgan, brother of Frank) opposes the road as bad for the town, but really because he fears that he’ll be discovered as acquiring the land ten years ago through crooked means. Willard’s crooked foreman Devery (Fred Graham, Hollywood stuntman) knows this, and behind Willard’s back is running a scam of stealing his prized cattle and replacing them with scrubs. Willard’s pretty niece June (Penny Edwards) doesn’t care for Devery, but can’t convince her stubborn uncle to fire the thug.
Helping to build the road is a youth convict crew, who act like choir boys, headed by idealistic Warden Parker (William Gould). He believes that by giving the boys a second chance he can save them from a life of crime. With Willard’s approval, Devery and his goons sabotage the road project, rob a diamond pin from a dude ranch guest, and on their own murder the saintly warden; the wayward youths get the blame for some of those crimes until Roy, thank goodness, straightens everything out.
Roy and Foy Willing and The Riders of the Purple Sage get in a few tunes. Gordon Jones as the goofy dude ranch owner and Mira McKinney as an eastern city slicker vacationing at the ranch, add some corny comic relief. But the only thing to be found in these Rockies are rocks and not a heart.
REVIEWED ON 9/2/2007 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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