Cast & Crew
After his father dies, Edward, the young Earl of Granville, travels from England with his solicitor, Henry Wyndham, to his father's ranch in the western United States. Edward is greeted by ranch foreman Gene Autry and Gene's pal, Frog Millhouse. Gene and Frog, who promised their late friend that they would make a real Westerner of his son, are dismayed by Edward's arrogant demeanor and Wyndham's assertion that the ranch, which is deeply in debt, will be sold at once. Gene rescues Edward from a runaway horse, and Edward's apology for his earlier attitude proves to Gene that he is a "regular fellow." Gene and Frog christen him "Spud," which was also his father's nickname, and encourage him to keep the ranch open. They are approached about buying the ranch by Jim Neale, a wealthy rancher to whom the late earl owed money. Neale inadvertently gives them the idea to save the ranch by selling their feisty cow ponies to the Army, but he warns them that if they do not pay him his money in sixty days he will sue. A few days later, Edward has proven his mettle by helping round up the horses, and the cowboys drive them back to the ranch. On the way to nearby Fort Wayne, where Gene intends to offer his horses for sale to Colonel Allen, Gene, Frog and the others insult the passengers of a buggy by deliberately overwhelming them with the dust raised by their wagons. Unknown to Gene, the passengers are Neale, Allen and his daughter Bernice. Bernice recognizes Gene when he comes to the colonel's quarters and pretends to be a maidservant in order to ridicule him later. She falsely advises Gene that Allen is hard of hearing, and so the next day, Allen is put off by Gene's yelling at him during the horse auction. Allen refuses to consider Gene's cow horses until he sees Gene's own horse, the magnificent "Champion," in action. Gene and Neale's bids are the same, so Allen proposes that they each race twelve horses the next morning and that the winner will receive the contract. That night, Gene eludes Neale's henchmen, who have been ordered to get him out of the way, while Edward locks up a process server attempting to serve a summons claiming all their property for Neale. Gene then gets the upper hand on Bernice and reveals that he knows who she is. They are quarreling when Gene spots a fire in the barn where his horses are being kept. While the horses are being saved, Frog reveals that he does not know who knocked him out and started the blaze, but that he was able to grab hold of the man's watch and can use it to discover the arsonist's identity. The next morning, Gene determines to carry on even though he has only five horses left, and the race begins. Edward tells Bernice what a fine fellow Gene is for helping him, and Frog discovers that the watch belongs to Neale's henchman, Joe Larkins. Despite Neale's dirty tricks, Gene wins the race, and Edward's ranch is awarded the contract. Larkins reveals Neales's underhanded schemes, and Gene and Bernice make up.
Walter G. Samuels
Sol C. Siegel
Boots and Saddles
It's an amiable film, with good action and stunts, that moves right along. As per usual in an Autry western, it's also full of comedy relief from sidekick Smiley Burdette -- as in the scene where he practices the bugle, unknowingly causing a post full of soldiers to race around answering his military calls. Additionally, Autry sings some pleasant songs including "Take Me Back to My Boots and Saddle" and "The One Rose That's Left in My Heart" (the personal favorite of Autry's second wife, Jackie).
When Autry made this picture, his salary was $5000 per film, with an extra $250 for the use of his wardrobe and horses and for doing publicity. He made enough movies per year that the numbers added up to make him the top-paid star at Republic. It was still relative: by contrast, the top moneymaking stars in all of Hollywood at the time made nearly $500,000 annually.
The film was shot in eleven days mostly in the Alabama Hills of Lone Pine, California, at a cost of about $43,000. Director Joseph Kane, a former editor, had made his directing debut with Autry's first starring feature, Tumbling Tumbleweeds (1935), and he would direct the star in eighteen musical westerns overall. Kane went on to helm hundreds of B westerns and TV episodes in a career that stretched to 1975.
Notable in the supporting cast is Bill Elliott, who would become a prominent star of B westerns himself the following year, thanks largely to the Columbia serial Wild Bill Hickock; afterwards, he was known as Wild Bill Elliott and was even billed as such in some films.
Leading lady Judith Allen, who emanates fun sass and spunk, had once co-starred alongside Bing Crosby in Too Much Harmony (1933), W.C. Fields in The Old-Fashioned Way (1934), Shirley Temple and James Dunn in Bright Eyes (1934), and in the Cecil B. De Mille picture This Day and Age (1933). A pretty, promising actress, her career was derailed by constant semi-scandals played up by the tabloids, especially her rancorous three-year marriage to boxer Jack Doyle. Later in her life, she became a minister near Palm Springs, Calif., where she died at age 85.
Also in the credits is the curiously named Ra Hould, as the young boy. A New Zealander, his birth name was Richard Arthur Hould, but he would mostly be known as Ronald Sinclair. He went on to a fascinating career. After this film, he signed briefly at MGM and appeared in more films at various studios, including A Christmas Carol (1938), Tower of London (1939), and That Hamilton Woman (1941). A few years after serving in World War II, he re-entered the film business behind the scenes, becoming a prominent film editor and then a sound editor in a career that lasted forty years. He was also president of the California branch of the Humane Society.
In a sign of Gene Autry's huge popularity, the low-budget Boots and Saddles became the first Autry film to play a Broadway movie house in New York City. It was also the first to garner a review in The New York Times. The paper dismissed the film in no uncertain terms, but trade papers recognized Autry's appeal, with the Motion Picture Herald deeming the star "in good form and in good voice," and Variety calling the picture "plenty horsey and tricky to sate the Alamo addicts... Autry is too good an asset for Republic." And Autry's films kept on coming.
By Jeremy Arnold
Boyd Magers, Gene Autry Westerns: America's Favorite Cowboy
Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn, Kings of the Bs: Working Within the Hollywood System
Holly George Warren, Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry
Boots and Saddles
The film's titles credit Aaron Gonzalez, Jr. as an additional song writer, but his contribution to the released film has not been determined. Modern sources add the following actors to the cast: Max Terhune, Jerry Frank, Bob Reeves, Nelson McDowell and Al Taylor.