(director: Joseph Kane; screenwriters: Bernard McConville/Charles Francis Royal; cinematographer: Ernest Miller; editor: Lester Orlebeck; music: Alberto Columbo; cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Smiley Burnette (Frog), Helen Valkis (Sally Dawson), Sammy McKim (Johnny Dawson), Frank Darien (Mr. Dawson), Ivan Miller (Mr. Thornton), Earl Dwire (Clem Handley), Hooper Atchley(Maxwell), Raphael Bennett (Buck), Earl Hodgins (Terwilliger),Duke R. Lee(Sheriff),Roy Rogers (Singer, Dick Weston); Runtime: 55; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol C. Siegel; Mill Creek Entertainment; 1938)
The lively modern-day Western makes for an enjoyable Gene Autry singing cowboy picture about corrupt businessmen tarnishing the honest cowboy’s good name.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The title is derived from a popular country music radio station at the time. Joseph Kane (“Billy the Kid Returns”/”Rough Riders’ Roundup”/”The Maverick Queen”) directs in a snappy fast-pace way. The solid, original and unique screenplay is by Bernard McConville and Charles Francis Royal. The lively modern-day Western makes for an enjoyable Gene Autry singing cowboy picture about corrupt businessmen tarnishing the honest cowboy’s good name and how progress, in this instance, is killing off the valued old-fashioned ways of the Old West.

Gene Autry and his sidekick Frog (Smiley Burnette) and their friends are struggling horse-traders from Rainbow Valley, who trek while singing to nearby Grangeville to sell their horses to the farmers. At an auction, after the traditional Old Barn Dance, Gene fails to sell any horses as the wary farmers buy Mammoth Tractors sold by the oily owner Thornton (Ivan Miller). Meanwhile the invalid Dawson (Frank Darien) has put every cent he has into a struggling radio station and needs sponsors immediately or else the businessman Terwilliger (Earl Hodgins) threatens to remove all the unpaid equipment. Dawson’s daughter Sally (Helen Valkis) is told by Thornton that if she can get Gene to sing on her radio program, he will sign on as sponsor. Gene, desperate for cash, is willing to sing if not sponsored by the tractor company. But Sally fools him, and as Gene hits the road selling horses he’s unaware his show is sponsored by Thornton’s tractors. Thornton’s sleazy finance partner Maxwell (Hooper Atchley) threatens during harvest time to take away the tractors from the farmers for failing to pay the money owed on their time-shared investment; that is, unless they sign to give up their crops. The irate farmers, led by Clem (Earl Dwire), attack Gene and tell him that some never would have bought the tractors if it weren’t for hearing him on radio sponsored by Mammoth. To save his good name, Gene figures a way to put the corrupt businessmen and their goon, Buck (Raphael Bennett), out of business, as they vandalize the radio station and smash all Gene’s records. They also get the help of Sally’s kid brother Johnny (Sammy McKim), who gets on record Buck and Thornton talking about how Buck stampeded Gene’s herd–which was to be used at the harvest instead of the confiscated tractors. Thereby the good guys get the law on their side and the rest predictably ends up happily resolved like all of Autry’s pics.

Republic was in a bitter contract dispute with Gene, at the time, who was justifiably asking for more money for saving their struggling studio, and a young back-up singer, Roy Rogers, was being groomed by the studio head as a replacement, and had a bit part.

Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette in The Old Barn Dance (1938)