Gene Autry, Patricia Barry, and Champion in Riders of the Whistling Pines (1949)


(director: John English; screenwriter: Jack Townley; cinematographer: William Bradford; editor: Aaron Stell; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Patricia White (Helen Carten), Jimmy Lloyd (Forester Joe Lucas), Douglass Dumbrille (Henry Mitchell), Clayton Moore (Henchman Pete), Damian O’Flynn (Henchman Bill Wright), Len Torrey (Marshal), Roy Gordon (Supt. John Hoaglund), Jason Robards Sr. (Forester Charles Carter), Harry Cheshire (Dr. Daniel Chadwick), Loie Bridge (Loie Weaver), Leon Weaver (Abner Weaver); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Armand Schaefer; Columbia; 1949)

The title is derived from one of the many songs Gene sings on his merry way to bagging the villains in an undisclosed timber preserve.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The title is derived from one of the many songs Gene sings on his merry way to bagging the villains in an undisclosed timber preserve. Director John English(“Mule Train”/”The Blazing Sun”/”Whirlwind”) sets the action in a government forest preserve, where the bad guys are greedy, sneaky and dangerous. The so-so western, in b&w, was adequately written with no formulaic surprises by Jack Townley. When viewed today the pic is obsolete, as its criminal detection science is from the stone ages.

Forest ranger Carter (Jason Robards Sr.) is killed by bad guy Wright (Damian O’Flynn), a henchman of crooked lumber company owner Mitchell (Douglass Dumbrille), to prevent the reporting that there’s a tree poisoning, called tussock moth infestation, and the forest must be sprayed or it will be destroyed. It seems Mitchell’s company has an exclusive government contract and a delay in cutting the timber will cause them to lose the contract. Coincidentally, in the same area the ranger was shot, Gene is trying to kill a mountain lion but keeps missing because some foresters, he just worked with before quitting to return to run his camp, fooled around with his gun-sight as a joke after giving him the rifle as a parting gift. Gene blames himself for the accidental death, and secretly through Dr. Chadwick (Harry Cheshire) gives the vic’s surviving daughter Helen (Patricia White) money to continue ranching.

When the foresters learn of the poisoned trees, they have it sprayed by airplane with chemicals and promise the ranchers it won’t poison their livestock. But Wright and henchman Pete (Clayton Moore, the future Lone Ranger) poison Helen’s cattle and the dim-witted ranchers follow Wright’s pleas to stop the spraying program by force. But Gene, with the help of his wartime flying buddy, Joe (Jimmy Lloyd), locate the plane, stored on the grounds of Mitchell’s site, that’s used by the bad dudes to spray the livestock. With some pilot heroics by the self-pitying Joe, a drunk ever since his pretty wife died while he was at war, the bad guys are caught and all’s well in the timber preserve again. The photo Joe always keeps with him when flying was actually of Marilyn Monroe (under contract to Columbia).

The array of songs include the previously mentioned title song, It’s My Lazy Day, Toolie Oolie Doolie, Hair of Gold,Let’s Go, Let’s Go Roaming Around The Range,Little Big Dry, Every Time I Feel The Spirit and Let’s Go Roaming Around The Range.