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Public Cowboy No. 1 (1937) HD online

Public Cowboy No. 1 (1937) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Action / Drama / Music / Western
Original Title: Public Cowboy No. 1
Director: Joseph Kane
Writers: Oliver Drake,Bernard McConville
Released: 1937
Duration: 1h 1min
Video type: Movie
Shannon is running a modern rustling operation using an airplane to spot the cattle, short wave radio to alert the rustlers, and trucks to haul away the beef. When the aging Sheriff Doniphan is unable to bring them in, he is replaced by an eastern detective. But Doniphan's deputy Gene suspects Shannon and sets a trap to nab him and his gang.
Complete credited cast:
Gene Autry Gene Autry - Deputy Sheriff Gene Autry
Smiley Burnette Smiley Burnette - Frog Millhouse
Ann Rutherford Ann Rutherford - Helen Morgan
William Farnum William Farnum - Sheriff Matt Doniphon
Arthur Loft Arthur Loft - Jack Shannon
Frankie Marvin Frankie Marvin - Deputy Stubby
House Peters Jr. House Peters Jr. - Jim Shannon (as Grant Peters)
James C. Morton James C. Morton - Eustace P. Quackenbush
Maston Williams Maston Williams - Thad Slaughter
Frank LaRue Frank LaRue - The Judge (as Frank La Rue)
Milburn Morante Milburn Morante - Ezra

Reviews: [8]

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    Good imaginative mix of music, action, comedy, and man vs. machine. Gene's trying to stop a gang of cattle rustlers. Trouble is they're using modern technology like airplanes (spotters) and refrigerated trucks (hauling carcasses) to elude capture. Old Sheriff Doniphon and younger deputy Autry are not having much success, so ranchers call in a high-falutin' motorized detective company (think Pinkertons). So how's this all going to work out—will the new win out over the old. There's a little more story depth here than usual.

    Catch ace director, old Joe Kane using an off-angle camera shot to heighten effect of careening cars. Good touch even if on the arty side. Then there's cutie Ann Rutherford showing why she had such a durable Hollywood career. Heck, I even got laughs out of Frog and buddy donning a cow hide, especially when the horny and apparently near-sighted bull chases them. Okay, these are basically kid's shows, not to be taken seriously. So I have no problem with all the goofy anachronisms as long as they add to entertainment, which they do.

    On the matinée scale (not to be confused with adult westerns) I give this Autry entry a solid 8.
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    Times are changing out in the west and there's this gang of rustlers who've got sheriff William Farnum and Deputy Gene Autry baffled. The local newspaper editor Ann Rutherford is calling for sheriff Farnum to be replaced and that's not sitting well with Gene. Besides that political differences are interfering in a promising romance.

    Who'd ever have believed it, but Gene's perennial sidekick Smiley Burnette decides that a short wave radio just might be the key to things and son of a gun he turns out to be right. Ham radio operators the world over must have loved this picture.

    No really great songs for Gene come out of this particular film, but Smiley Burnette is a sight to see in a disguise as a cow trying to fend off the attentions of an amorous bull. All in the line of doing some undercover work. Worth watching Public Cowboy No. 1 for that alone.
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    Copyright 23 August 1937 by Republic Pictures Corp. No recorded New York opening. U.S. release: 23 August 1937. U.K. release through British Lion. Australian release through British Empire Films: 18 May 1939. 6 reels. 60 minutes.

    SYNOPSIS: The movie opens with a sequence showing big city crooks bringing modern cattle rustling techniques to the prairies. In a scene that must have seemed then like a sophisticated James Bond caper, we see rustlers operating a mobile slaughter house. A plane spots the herd and radios its location to trucks hauling men and horses. Riders quickly round up the cattle and butchers clout them over the head as they come through a chute. They remove their hides, quarter them and load the beef aboard refrigerated trucks for shipping to a packing house. Then, it's a quick fadeout before Sheriff Matt Doniphon (William Farnum) and Gene Autry, his first deputy, come to the scene. The slick operation has brought mounting headaches to the sheriff. The raids, combined with a rancher's killing, have brought a storm of protests. Headlines in the Prairie County Courier blare: "Rustlers Strike Again. Another Herd Vanishes Overnight." "Reign of Terror Sweeps Prairie County." "Sheriff Doniphon No Match for Modern Rustlers."

    Newspaper editor Helen Morgan (Ann Rutherford) thinks the sheriff's old-time methods are outmoded. She is campaigning to have him ousted.

    COMMENT: Kane's 21st film as a director, but he was still young enough here to experiment a bit with the camera, what with whip pans, running inserts, diagonal angles, dollying-back shots, even a combination whip pan and running insert. True a lot of his direction is expectedly routine and some of it is even a bit rough around the edges, but overall it has a vigor lacking in his later more polished (if still thoroughly routine) efforts.

    Fortunately the accent is firmly on action in this Public Cowboy, though Gene does get to sing four or five songs, including happily "The Old Buckaroo". The budget is high with lots of extras, plus location shooting. Our only complaint is that the long-anticipated big action climax starts off big enough but ends rather tamely.

    Autry is as personable and ingratiating as ever, whilst Burnette provides amusing support. Miss Rutherford is much more appealing here than in her childish impressions over at M-G-M's Andy Hardy stables. Silent star William Farnum has a meaty role. Arthur Loft is okay as the villain, James C. Morton equally acceptable as an additional comedy relief.
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    Gene Autry helps out a sheriff who is besieged by rustlers who are using spotter planes and short wave radios to get the cattle. A good, if some what forgettable, tale that plays in a way more like one of Republic Studio's serials with electronic gadgets and solid action. The problem with the film is, like with many Autry films, is that there is perhaps a bit too many songs. Granted the songs are nicely shoe horned into the tale, but at the same time they slow the momentum of the story. (I like Autry's films, I even like the songs, I just don't like the number of songs in the movies.) Worth a look especially if you're doing more than one movie.
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    "Rustlers using modern technology (airplanes, shortwave radios, refrigerated trucks) are Gene's target."--IMDb Summary The version of "Public Cowbiy No. 1" I saw was only 53 minutes long instead of the time listed on IMDb. This is most likely because in the early days of TV they cut down many B-westerns to make them fit TV time slots. However, it's odd that this abbreviated version STILL has so many songs in it, as usually they shortened the films by clipping off a few songs. Actually, clipping a song or two isn't a bad thing, as it tended to speed up the films and keep them much more coherent! But, with ALL the songs seemingly intact in this film, it's not among Autry's best.

    The film begins with Gene Autry doing what he does best--singing a song. Soon you see the most amazingly ridiculous cattle rustlers strike nearby. Although this is a western, the baddies drive up in a HUGE modern truck--one that was awfully ridiculous. With meticulous precision, folks pop out of the truck and they quickly butcher and skin the cattle--and hide them in this refrigerated truck! What sort of western would have this any many other oddities in the old west? Yep...a Gene Autry film! You'll also see Gene's Sidekick, Frog (Smiley Burnett) using a shortwave radio, Gene chasing a truck down a highway...with his horse and airplanes! It's the weird sort of melange that even Roy Rogers films tended to avoid--and Autry films abounded with over the years.

    So is it any good? Well, not particularly. But, it's also pleasant enough as a time-passer...and it IS funny to see all these modern devices along with so many old fashioned at the same time.
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    With many of Gene Autry's pictures taking place in the 'modern' era, it's only fitting that modern methods be used to tell the story. Consequently, cattle rustlers resort to spotter planes, short wave radio and refrigerated trucks not only to steal cattle, but butcher them and load the meat out before anyone can figure out how it's being done. With the times passing him by, old time sheriff Matt Doniphon (William Farnum) is approached to resign in favor of the Quackenbush Detective Agency, using the latest in scientific criminology techniques to put an end to cattle rustling in Prairie County.

    Interestingly, Gene himself finds himself on the side of the old timers in this one, which is probably not the way you want to present your leading man, but he manages to make it work. With a play list of a half dozen tunes or so, "Public Cowboy No. 1" demonstrates that experience and loyalty can sometimes trump innovation.

    The one to watch in this picture is Gene's sidekick Smiley Burnette. His character, Frog Millhouse goes for more slapstick than usual, with an unusual opening scene where he's riding on his horse backwards with a goofy mask on the back of his head. It's distracting enough by itself, and you're left wondering quite a while what's up with that until Gene finishes his first song, 'Wanderers of the Wasteland'. Later on, Smiley dangles from a meat hook, trapped in the back of a meat packing truck, and takes a swipe at Oriental Detective Charlie Chan with his rendition of 'The Defective Detective From Brooklyn'. One thing about that meat hook scene - after Smiley falls off the truck, there's no longer a hole in the back of his jacket!

    There shouldn't be any doubt about the picture's eventual outcome. Gene and his cowboy posse track down villain Shannon (Arthur Loft) and his bad guy bunch, and manages to win over the pretty editor of the Prairie Junction Courier (Ann Rutherford). For their part, the methods of the Quackenbush Agency turn out to be all wet, and you have to hand it to Smiley and pal Stubby (Frankie Marvin). As a pair of would be cattle rustling detectives, it turns out they did their best work under cow-ver.
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    This is a pretty typical early Gene Autry Western. Cowpokes and cattle and horses and cars/trucks/airplanes ... yeehaw.

    Anyway, the most unusual scene in this movie, very subtle indeed, is the opening sequence. Gene, ridin' and singin' along, the titles rolling by. Check out behind him and see if you see anything odd.

    What's that? Looks like a dummy or something. No, it's Smiley Burnette, riding backwards with a forward facing mask on the back of his head. Even funnier, once the titles and song are finished, Gene and another guy have a long conversation before they even mention the bizarre Smiley and his "disguise" ...

    His explanation: It was a disguise so that he could keep an eye out so no one could sneak up on them from behind. Ah, Smiley. Ah, humanity.
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    We watch Gene Autry movies for his sincerity, his interplay with a female lead or Smiley Burnette (all on display in 'Yodelin' Kid From Pine Ridge' from 1937), a mean villain or an interesting story (as in 'The Big Show' from 1936) but in this film we get none of these.

    Too much of it is outdoors with new or stock footage of cattle movements, rustlings and chasing of the rustlers. Unless Yakima Canutt is available for doing Gene's stunts, we get more singing than slam bang action. The only good song is "Old Buck-a-Roo" about an old man hanging up his boots and saddles.

    We get to see the spunky Ann Rutherford, who went on to play Polly Benedict in the Andy Hardy movies. But in this one, too much time is wasted on poor low comedy (Smiley Burnette sitting backwards on a horse, trapped in a meat packing truck, and paired as the head in a two man steer costume), and outdoor landscape chases. One of Smiley's songs was cut from the edited version I have ("I Got the Heebie Jeebie Blues")and his "Defective Detective from Brooklyn" is certainly one of the high points (?) of his career as a singer-composer.

    Hardly any character interaction or development to speak of. Only good if you like to watch lots of men on horseback chasing more men on horseback across the plains. I'll give it a two and half.