Cast & Crew
World Wide Wild West show workers Daniel and Melinda McCracken, known to their friends as Pa and Ma, become involved in a brawl with rival rodeo owners Jed and Stag Johnson after the Johnson brothers catch them defacing their advertisements. When wandering cowboys Gene Autry and Frog join in the fray, Frog's little brother Tadpole inadvertently invites the sheriff to watch. The sheriff arrests Pa, Ma, Gene, Frog and Tadpole, after which Gene entertains his friends with a song. Jennifer Benton, the owner of World Wide, bails Ma and Pa out of jail and agrees to hire Gene in the hope that his singing can boost their sagging business. Gene succeeds in drawing crowds, much to the dismay of Jed and Stag, who want to take over World Wide before their important engagements in Capistrano. Stag has even begun wooing Jennifer and assures Jed that he will marry her if necessary in order to gain control of her operation. Later, Gene receives a visit from Jed and Jackie Laval, Stag's former girl friend, who offer him a job with the Johnson Brothers rodeo. When Gene declines, Jackie confesses that she does not want to lose Stag to Jennifer and warns him that they will take World Wide apart by force if they have to. Gene gets into a fistfight with Jed, which Jennifer mistakenly assumes is Gene's fault. Determined to get rid of the competition, Jed returns to the World Wide camp with a gang of toughs, who proceed to destroy the equipment. Gene rescues Jennifer when her horse runs wild during the fracas, but she again blames him for the disturbance. Stag offers to pay for the damage, and in gratitude, Jennifer decides to marry him and sell him the show. Worried that Jennifer is making a mistake, Gene gets the deputy sheriff to attach the rodeo for back wages. Jennifer turns the show over to Ma, Pa and the others, although she broken-heartedly tells them that she was going to give them the proceeds of the sale anyway. Jennifer then joins Stag, whose negative reaction upon learning of her actions convinces her that Gene was right about his motives for romancing her. She returns to the camp, where her friends assure her that she is still the owner. They then travel to Capistrano and hold a big fiesta to celebrate their upcoming opening. The Johnsons have planted one of their stooges, Jenkins, in Capistrano, and Jennifer unwittingly hires him. On the night of the fiesta, he sets fire to their campground, and Pa is injured while trying to rescue the horses. After learning that Pa needs a special doctor to perform a delicate operation, Gene leaves for the Johnson Brothers rodeo without revealing to anyone the severity of Pa's condition. Gene agrees to work for Jed and Stag if they will immediately advance him the money for Pa's operation, but changes his terms upon learning of the connection between them and Jenkins. Gene promises not to turn them in for arson if they pay Pa's medical expenses and re-equip World Wide. Jennifer and the others are relieved to learn that Gene did not desert them, and soon after, Gene performs in a special show attended by a booking agent for Madison Square Gardens. The agent books the group for the Gardens, and Pa recovers from his operation.
Joe Strauch Jr.
The viewed print did not contain all of the above-mentioned songs and appeared to be missing some scenes. Hollywood Reporter production charts credit Ernest Miller as photographer and Russell Kimball as art director, although the onscreen credits list Reggie Lanning as photographer and Ralph Oberg as art director. Bells of Capistrano was the last film made by Gene Autry before he joined the Army Air Force in late July 1942. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the film was to have a budget of $500,000, and two camera crews worked on the picture in order to finish before Autry's induction date. According to Autry's autobiography, the Pentagon requested that he be sworn in during a broadcast of his Melody Ranch radio show.