LAST OF THE PONY RIDERS
(director: George Archainbaud; screenwriter: story by Ruth Woodman/Ruth Woodman; cinematographer: William Bradford; editor: James Sweeney; cast: Gene Autry (Gene Autry), Kathleen Case (Katie McEwen), Dick Jones (Johnny Blair), John Downey (Tom McEwen), Howard Wright (Clyde Vesey), Arthur Space (Jess Hogan), Smiley Burnette (Smiley Burnette), Gregg Barton (Dutch Murdoch), Art Dillard (Henchman), Robert ‘Buzz’ Henry (Yank, pony express rider) (uncredited); Runtime: 58; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Armand Schaefer; Columbia; 1953)
“This is the film singing cowboy Gene Autry rides off into the sunset as far as making movies, as he will now only be on television.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is the film singing cowboy Gene Autry rides off into the sunset as far as making movies, as he will now only be on television and will grow increasingly more wealthy over his varied business interests (even owning the California Angels baseball team). The routine old-fashioned story, shot in black-and-white, has Autry as a troubleshooter for the Pony Express, who hopes to keep the route safe for the mail riders until a new stagecoach line can be established. It’s based on a story by Ruth Woodman, who also pens the screenplay. It’s as usual for an Autry film efficiently made, but also is with the usual cornball stuff plus some heavy-handed executed Bible verses thrown in for an inspirational message. George Archainbaud (“Pack Train”/”Goldtown Ghost Riders”/”Saginaw Trail”) directs in a formulaic way, as if he were sitting in a rocking chair and was just along for the ride. Autry’s re-united with his comic relief partner Smiley Burnette, which should please the fan base.
Tom McEwen (John Downey) is the stubborn old buzzard who runs the Pony Express line in Red Sand, who refuses to go partners with Gene Autry in a stagecoach line even though as soon as the telegraph company finishes laying the wire the Pony Express will be history. Clyde Vesey (Howard Wright) is the unscrupulous banker who is sabotaging the mail runs in their last days so he can steal the government contract from McEwen by secretly starting his own stagecoach company. Johnny Blair (Dick Jones) is one of the best Pony Express Riders, who is in love with McEwen’s nice daughter Kate (Kathleen Case). Gene Autry is the ex-Pony Express Rider who is now the division agent, who smells a rat over a flurry of bad incidents with the riders. He will save Johnny from being killed by Vesey’s gang, as he sniffs out what the evil banker is up to and with the help of Smiley rounds up the gang before they kill another Pony Express Rider besides Yank.
Not an interesting story, and the action is stifled by some unconvincing fistfights (Autry looks too chubby to be the hero) and a half-hearted climactic shootout (looked more like a television series shootout than a movie one). But Autry at least croons one lively song, “What You’re Gonna Do When The Pie Is All Gone, Sugar Babe?” This was the kind of Western that could have used more songs, something I never thought I would say with a straight face.
REVIEWED ON 10/3/2007 GRADE: C