Cast & Crew
Bar Cross Ranch foreman Gene Autry and his pal, Frog Millhouse, spend six weeks in New York City trying to convince Tom Bennett to return to Solitude, Arizona, to run the ranch left to him by his late father. Believing that the West is too dull for him, Tom is reluctant to go home to the ranch, but Gene forcibly puts him on the train. During the ride home, Gene meets up with his old friend, gambler Duke Winston. Upon arriving in Solitude, Tom escapes from Gene's watchful eye and meets singer Taffy and her teenaged sister Patsy, who have come to town to find a job. Believing that Duke is the big shot he made himself out to be, Tom asks him to help Taffy get a singing job in the local saloon. Duke, who has convinced E. G. Blaine, the mine owner who runs the saloon, to hire him as the manager, does hire Taffy. Gene, meanwhile, assumes that Taffy is a common showgirl and is after Tom's money, and his rudeness toward her starts a brawl in the saloon. Soon after, Gene tries to get Tom to settle down to work, but his efforts are interrupted because waste from Blaine's copper mines has been dumped in the local watering holes, poisoning the cattle. Gene asks Blaine to build proper drainage pits to clean the water, but when the foreman states that they would have to shut down operations for two weeks to do so, Blaine refuses. Infuriated by Blaine's greed, Gene goes to Judge Bent to obtain an injunction to stop the mining, but learns that he must travel to Phoenix to get it. While he is at the train station, Gene runs into Patsy and Taffy, to whom he apologizes for his earlier behavior. During Gene's absence, Tom grows frustrated watching the cattle die and, despite Frog's warning that they should wait for the injunction, rounds up the ranchers and attacks the mine. During the ensuing shootout, Tom kills one of Blaine's henchmen in self-defense, but Blaine makes it look like murder. The miners organize into a lynch mob, but Duke returns and persuades Blaine to stop them and use Tom as a bargaining chip. When Gene arrives, Blaine tells him that if the injunction is served, he will make sure that Tom is hanged. Gene agrees to withdraw the injunction if Blaine starts digging a drainage system voluntarily and ensures that Tom will receive a fair trial. Tom and Taffy are mystified by Gene's reluctance to act, however, and believe that he is now in league with Blaine. Soon after, Judge Bent advises Tom that he will be acquitted, and Gene explains why he withheld the injunction. Their friendship restored, Gene and Tom join forces against Blaine, who has refused to stop dumping the waste. While the judge arranges for a change of venue, which will free Tom from Blaine's control, Gene serves Blaine with the injunction. Blaine orders his henchman, Sheriff Simpson, to organize a frame-up that will implicate Gene and Tom in a jailbreak, during which they can both be killed. Duke learns of the plan, and even though he is being watched, he alerts Taffy. Although Taffy cannot warn Gene herself, Patsy is able to ride to the ranch and get Frog and the other men. While Gene and Tom are trapped by Blaine's men in the jail, Duke sneaks in to help them during the shootout. Blaine's men set the building on fire, and Duke is shot and killed as he helps Gene and Tom escape. Frog and the ranch hands stampede a herd of cattle through the town to scatter the mob, and soon the criminals are apprehended. Later, Gene, Taffy and their friends celebrate Tom's twenty-first birthday with a picnic.
Jesse Lasky Jr.
Gene Autry in Back in the Saddle
With a pre-sold title, Autry and Republic Pictures could have taken the easy way out, slapping together some meager story and counting on the song to pull audiences in. After all, Republic was practically Poverty Row and needed the money. A few minutes into Back In The Saddle, however, such fears are put to rest. This is a crackling, well-written entertainment with solid characters, good stunts and the best selections of tunes in any "singing cowboy" movie.
Gene Autry plays, as he usually did, Gene Autry. He's gone to New York City with his sidekick Frog ("Smiley" Burnette) to bring back Tom Bennett, the son of the ranch foreman. It requires fisticuffs to get him out of the nightclubbin' set and onto a train headed west. Tom is not home long before he meets up with another nightclub singer, this one looking for work in any saloon that will take her and provide a home for her little sister. She's really a nice girl but Autry, knowing Tom's profligate ways, suspects the worst. Meanwhile the local bigshot, who has the town sown up, is dumping copper and arsenic as runoff from his mine. Cattle are dropping dead and Autry has to play Erin Bronkovich (2000) and bring legal action to close him down. Tom, however, decides to take the law into his own hands, leading to gunplay, last minute rides-to-the-rescue, and a shootout in a burning barn.
There's plenty of action and great stunt work, from two men jumping from horses to speeding trains, to the well-staged and exciting final conflagration. Director Lew Landers and editor Tony Martinelli deserve special recognition for making the action go like a pistol shot from the beginning to the end. All the excitement might have stopped dead for the songs, except they are some of the best tunes of Autry's career. Not only does he gets a chance to warble "Back In The Saddle Again" at the beginning and end of the film, but he also saddles up to the mike for Johnny Mercer's "I'm An Old Cow Hand" and Jimmy Davis and Charles Mitchell's "You Are My Sunshine" as well.
Image Entertainment was not content to merely provide a restored print of the movie on this DVD. As with the other entries in the Gene Autry Collection, Image has raided the holding of the Autry Foundation and included a video clip of Autry reminiscing with Pat Buttram about Back In The Saddle in the late 1970's, images of production and publicity stills, posters, lobby cards, and the original press kit, and excerpts from Autry's Melody Ranch Radio Show. This is a wonderful presentation of a movie that already brims with entertainment and it is one any western fan will want to ride again and again.
For more information about Back in the Saddle, visit Image Entertainment. To order Back in the Saddle, go to TCM Shopping.
by Brian Cady
Gene Autry in Back in the Saddle
The working titles of this film were Song at Twilight and Back in the Saddle Again. According to a January 21, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was partially shot on location at Victorville, CA. Modern sources include the following actors in the cast: Reed Howes, Stanley Blystone, Curley Dresden, Frank Ellis, Jack O'Shea, Victor Cox, Herman Hack, Bob Burns, Buck Bucko, Jack Montgomery, Frankie Marvin, John Indrisano, Art Dillard, Bob Woodward, Bill Nestell, Bob Card, Roy Bucko, Jess Cavan and Jack C. Smith.