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SUNSET SERENADE (director/writer: Joe Kane; screenwriter: Earl Felton/story by Robert Yost; cinematographer: Bud Thackery; editor: Arthur Roberts; music: Morton Scott; cast: Roy Rogers (Himself), Gabby Hayes (Gabby), Helen Parrish (Sylvia Clark), JoanWoodbury (Vera Martin), Onslow Stevens (Gregg Jackson), Frank M. Thomas(Clifford Sheldon), Jack Kirk (Sheriff), Roy Barcroft (Bart, henchman), Bob Nolan (Bob), The Sons of the Pioneers (Themselves); Runtime: 58; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Kane; Mill Creek Entertainment; 1942)
“Offers a pleasing performance by Rogers.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Joe Kane (“Ride the Man Down”/”Fair Wind to Java”/”The Road to Denver”) directs with typical efficiency this formulaic Roy Rogers singing cowboy venture. It’s based on a story by Robert Yost and a screenplay by Earl Felton. The Republic western offers a simplistic plot, filled with more holes than Swiss cheese, and offers a pleasing performance by Rogers.

When rancher Bagley dies he leaves the ranch to an eastern nephew infant, cared for by the guardian Sylvia Clark (Helen Parrish), instead of his housekeeper Vera Martin (JoanWoodbury). She’s livid he left nothing for her in his will, as promised. Neighbor rancher Gregg Jackson (Onslow Stevens) wants to buy the ranch on the cheap and schemes with Vera to make the ranch rundown, rustle the cattle and builds a dam atop nearby Grace Canyon to dry up the creek so the Bagley cattle can’t get water.

Roy, his sidekick Gabby and the cowhands called the Sons of the Pioneers escort Sylvia to the Bagley ranch when her car is forced off the road. When Roy witnesses how Jackson and Martin are scheming to buy the ranch at a very low price from the inexperienced guardian and then have to fight off Jackson’s men from rustling her herd, he advises her not to sell and let him investigate what smells rotten about the offer. Roy soon discovers the evil pair are willing to do anything to get the ranch, even commit murder and thereby Roy stays on to work for Sylvia until he thwarts their plans to drive off the new owner from his ranch.

So many things about the plot don’t add up or make sense, but as a lightweight minor western it’s an easy one to forgive for being so limited since the music is solid old-fashioned country, there are a couple of worthy shoot-outs on the range and Rogers’ pleasant screen presence as a helper of the unfortunate gives the film an almost religious glow.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”