Cast & Crew
Just outside the small western town of Red Valley, government agent Gene Autry masquerades as a bandit known as The Whirlwind and prevents a series of stage mail robberies by a gang. In town, Gene, now posing as a cattleman, is waiting for his partner, Smiley Burnette, when prosecuting attorney Wade Trimble orders him out of town. After Trimble starts a brawl, Smiley shows up and joins in until Sheriff Barlow arrives to break things up. Unknown to Gene, Barlow, as well as Trimble, is part of a county-wide organization run by wealthy Big Jim Lassitter. Later, Gene informs Smiley, who is impersonating a peddler, that the government knows Lassitter is the head of an expansive syndicate that is responsible for the mail robberies. Their assignment is to provide evidence of the thefts and break up the organization. In town, Gene announces his intention to start a ranch and purchase land, all of which is owned by Lassitter. Lassitter offers to sell Gene a sizeable portion, provided Gene can prove he has the finances to pay for it. While Lassitter has Gene investigated, Gene befriends Lassitter's high-spirited niece Elaine, to the annoyance of Lassitter's henchman, Lon Kramer. Lassitter then orders his gang to conduct another series of robberies. When one of his henchmen, Slim, returns with a number of bonds, Lassitter orders him to destroy them, as they are too easily traced. Soon after, while out branding cattle with several of Lassitter's men, Smiley finds traces of the bonds in a smoldering fire. Slim knocks him out and retrieves the bond fragments, but later, Smiley tells Gene the fragments were mail bonds. Trimble then reports to Lassitter that Gene has enough money to buy the land. When Lassitter overhears Gene singing "Whirlwind" to Elaine, he begins to suspect that Gene is the interfering bandit, but tells him that he has agreed to the land sale for cash. Frustrated by Lassitter's order not to meddle with Gene, Trimble and several of Lassitter's men chase Gene, and a shootout ensues, but Gene escapes unharmed. The next day, Elaine confides in Gene that her uncle wants to send her to Europe and refuses to let her start her own cattle outfit or give her the inheritance she knows was left to her by her father. Although Lassitter insists that, according to her father's will, Elaine did not inherit a thing, she suspects that the will may have been faked. After agreeing to help, Gene visits Lassitter to inform him that the money for the land sale is on the way and will arrive by special mail stage. Lassitter realizes Gene is setting a trap and tells his men not to rob the stage, as he has a more elaborate plan to get rid of Gene and Smiley and keep the money safe. When the stage arrives in town, Kramer and Trimble discuss the fact that their final cut will be small, and on impulse, steal the coach. Gene gives chase in another stage and forces Kramer and Trimple off the path, where their stage overturns. Gene finds Kramer dead and Trimble dying and goes through his coat, where he finds several papers, among them Elaine's father's legitimate will. Trimble confesses that Lassitter killed his brother and Trimble was using the will as blackmail. Gene and Smiley go to Lassitter's to arrest him, but he resists and attempts to shoot his way out, only to be shot by Gene. With the syndicate broken, Gene and Smiley depart, after Gene promises Elaine he will return.
Norman S. Hall
According to Hollywood Reporter and Variety reviews, Smiley Burnette, who at the time was appearing with Charles Starrett in Columbia's "The Durango Kid" series, substituted for Gene Autry's current "sidekick" Pat Buttram, who had been injured just prior to shooting in an on-set accident. Autry and Burnette had not appeared in a film together for two years. Songwriter Stan Jones made a brief appearance in the film as a stagecoach passenger. Although information in the copyright file indicates that Whirlwind was released in sepia, the print viewed was in black and white.