Sunday, September 29, 2019

Gene Autry Songs From the Movies.

Happy birthday to the one and only Gene Autry. In his heyday Gene was a hero to millions of young boys worldwide. Watching one of his movies today it is easy to see why. He was the image of everything a cowboy should be. Whenever I watch one of his films I become like a young kid wanting to be just like the man I am seeing on the screen. 

Of course one of the great appeals of Gene's films was to hear him sing some great country music. As such for his birthday, here are some great songs from his movies.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Silent Films on TCM This October

Hello my fellow silent film fans and TCM fans. Once again it is time for us to look at what silent films will play on TCM this next month. To be honest I am a little disappointed there is not a night of all silent horror movies as there have been some other years. That does not change that the films being shown are great ones.

Friday October 4

Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages
(1922) Director: Benjamin Christianson. Starring Benjamin Christianson and Maren Pederson. 1:30am Pacific. 3:30 am Eastern.

Sunday October 6

The Symbol of the Unconquered
(1921) Director: Oscar Micheaux. Starring Iris Hall and Walter Thompson. 9:15pm Pacific. 12:15am Eastern.

Sunday October 13

(1926) Director: FW Murnau. Starring Gosta Ekman and Emil Jannings. 9pm Pacific and 12am Eastern.

Friday October 18

The Phantom Carriage
(1921) Director: Victor Seastrom. Starring Victor Seastrom and Hilda Borgstrom. 2:30am Pacific. 5:30am Eastern.

Sunday October 20

The Phantom Carriage
(1921) Director: Victor Seastrom. Starring Victor Seastrom and Hilda Brogstrom. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

Friday October 25

(1922) Director: FW Murnau. Starring Max Schreck and Alexander Granach. 1:45am Pacific. 4:45am Eastern.

Sunday October 27

The Haunted Hotel
(1907) Director: J. Stuart Blackstone. Starring Paul Panzer and William V. Ranous. 9pm Pacific. 12am Eastern.

TCM's online schedule only lists this one short film on its online schedule. However the film is only six minutes and the next movie is on at 11pm. Since this is silent Sunday night, I feel it is safe to assume that there will be multiple spooky themed silent shorts following The Haunted Hotel.

-Michael J. Ruhland   

Cowboy Church #29

Hello again my friends and welcome to another service of Cowboy Church, 

We begin our musical selection off with Ray Price performing Don't Give Up When Your Down from his 1974 album This Time Lord. Next comes Roy Acuff's 1940 recording of The Precious Jewel. This song was written by Roy himself though the melody is borrowed from the old murder ballad The Hills of Roan Country. That old song was actually written by a real murder, Willis Maberry, who killed his former friend Thomas Galbreath in a fight in 1884. He wrote the words as a poem when held in jail in Kingston until his trail. Many people probably recognized the similarities between the two songs as The Blue Sky boys recorded The Hills of Roan County in 1940. After this comes the Queen of the West, Dale Evans performing (I'll Pray For You) Until We Meet Again from her and her husband, Roy Rogers' 1960 album Jesus Loves Me. Next comes The Sons of the Pioneers' 1937 (when Roy Rogers (then Leonard Slye) was still a member of the group) recording of the classic gospel song, There's Power in the Blood. This is followed by The Stanley Brothers' 1949 recording of Gathering Flowers For the Master's Bouquet. This song was originally written by Marvin Baumgardner for the 1940 Hymnal, Golden Key. The Maddox Brothers and Rose recorded the song in 1948 just a year before the Stanley Brothers. The Stanley Brothers version is pure bluegrass gospel at its best. Next is Jim Reeves' recording of Thomas E. Dorsey's Take My Hand Precious Lord. This comes from his 1962 album, We Thank Thee. We end with Emmylou Harris with Precious Memories. This comes from her all acoustic 1987 gospel album Angel Band

With joy you will draw from the wells of salvation. Isaiah 12:3

Dear children let us not love with words or speech but with power and truth. 1 John 3:18

Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

 The Lord says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.” Micah 5:2Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Ephesians 4:28For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life John 3:16What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:14-17In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35

Thanks for joining me for another round of Cowboy church come again next week. Happy trails to you.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #38

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. You know what that means? If you don't know what that means, then can I assume you are new to this blog, in which case I say welcome and hope you enjoy these classic cartoons today. 

So we start off with a classic Merrie Melody directed by the one and only Chuck Jones, Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur (1939). This was the first Daffy Duck cartoon he directed and animation buffs can easily tell the difference between this and Chuck's later efforts with the character. Chuck would be a very prominent figure in the evolution of Daffy from a character who was completely and utterly insane into the more greedy self centered character. However in this cartoon Daffy is the crazy character more associated with directors like Tex Avery or Bob Clampett. A reviewer in Boxoffice magazine was less than impressed with this film stating "Humor content of this cartoon is not up to par for this series. But it's just as daffy as the others with a couple of good laughs." A review in the Motion Picture Herald however called it "one of the most entertaining Merrie Melodies to date." 

I admit to really liking Columbia's Fox and Crow cartoons, and here is one especially like, Woodman Spare That Tree! (1942).

In the 1930's before Mighty Mouse or Heckle and Jeckle. Terrytoons had trouble finding cartoon characters that would stick. Part of this came from Paul Terry preferring one shot cartoons at this time over ones with reoccurring characters. Bill Weiss who was put in charge of much of the studio's output was opposed to Paul's ideas and tried to introduce new characters anyway. One of these was Kiko the Kangaroo. He came about due to a conversation with Roger Ferri (editor of the 20th Century Fox house organ), who liked the idea of a cartoon character being a kangaroo. Next is one of Kiko's cartoons, Kiko Foils the Fox (1936). A review in the Motion Picture Herald called this "a lively cartoon." An exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (written by L. A. Irwin from the Palace Theatre) was just a little bit negative stating "The usual dull cartoon. Nothing to make it entertainment. They oughta throw overboard all these Paul Terry characters and start anew."

As I have stated before plenty of times on this blog, Jack Kinney's Goofy cartoons for Disney are extremely funny. That put shame to that unfortunate belief that Disney cartoons were cute and sweet, while Warner Brothers and MGM cartoons were actually funny. One of my favorite of these Goofy cartoons is Cold War (1951). This is a hilarious cartoon that combines great slapstick with some extremely clever satire. So enjoy this fantastic cartoon.

We end with a classic Fleischer Brothers Popeye cartoon, Morning, Noon and Nightclub (1937). This an especially good Popeye with many laugh out loud moments.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Movie Review: Abominable

Michael's Movie Grade: B+

A lovely sweet film that overcomes its clichés with pure and utter sincerity.

This movie was a project of passion. Writer and director Jill Culton came up for the idea for this movie seven years ago while working at DreamWorks Animation. She did some work on it, but then left the studio. However one of the heads at DreamWorks saw some of her work and called her back to make the film. She then spent a year and half making this movie. During that time Jill didn't lose her passion for the project.

This passion and work can certainly be felt in this movie. The storyline may contain many clichés we have seen before, but few of them feel forced. Our main character Yi, is extremely likable and relatable. Her emotional arc feels very real and it is hard not to feel for this character. Her talking about her dad bring some surprisingly very emotional and well written lines. They bring a surprisingly very intelligent look into the different effects loss can have on different people. While some may cry, others may just isolate themselves from everyone and everything. This is what Yi does as she spends no time at home with her family and avoiding her friends. Instead she is doing small jobs. Her emotions become numb as all that becomes important are tasks that will never fill the hole inside her. This reality keeps this fantasy movie grounded and completely believable to us. We believe her, so we have no problem believing the fantasy. The film is also visually gorgeous. Some moments of this movie are completely breathtaking. You really begin to feel like you visited these places and went on the adventure with them (which is exactly what I want from an adventure film). Since Everest cannot speak words, character animation is very important. Luckily this was done extremely well. Everest feels as fully formed as a character as Yi. While some humor falls flat much of it is actually quite good. I wouldn't call this a hilarious movie, but the jokes made me smile and sometimes laugh.

However as much as this movie made its clichés work, there was one cliché that felt forced as all get out. This is the villains. These are bland stereotypical movie villains we have seen a million times before and there is nothing about them to cause any interest. Also much of the modern day references about selfies and social media felt unnecessary and will date this movie that should feel timeless.

All in all this is an excellent film and a definite recommendation from me.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Movie Review: Country Music - A Film By Ken Burns

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

As every reader of this blog knows, I am a huge country music fan. As such it is no wonder that Ken Burns' recent country music documentary had such an appeal to me. It certainly did not let me down in the least.

This is a very in depth look at the history of country music. However how wide reaching country music is, this film could no cover everything. There were artists I wished could have been discussed much more. For instance The Sons of the Pioneers and Roy Rogers (and Dale Evans receives no mention at all) only got passing mentions and I certainly would love to have heard more about Lynn Anderson, The Statler Brothers, Jim Reeves, Johnny Rodriguez, Tex Ritter, Charley Daniels, George Strait and Tompall Glaser. To cover that much would have been an impossibility, so this becomes little more than nitpicking. There is a lot to learn in this movie even from country music buffs like me. Also it is really nice to see DeFord Bailey get the attention he deserves. As a harmonica player myself DeFord is definitely an influence on me. I also loved that they payed tribute to country music from artists who are not known for country such as Ray Charles, Bob Dylan and The Byrds.

The highlight of this movie is the interviews. We get to see true country music legends discuss country music. It is always a joy to see Kris Kristoffeson, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams JR. (when the film focuses on Hank Williams Sr. the subtitle under Hank Jr literally says "Hank Williams Jr. - Son"), Dwight Yoakam, and Willie Nelson. It was also a very nice surprise to see Merle Haggard and Little Jimmy Dickens, who had passed away recently. Charley Pride always seems like the nicest guy in the world whenever I see him talk. If there is anybody in country music I would like to be friends with, it is Charley Pride. Charley is of course one of the all time great country singers and I wish more people I knew were fans. Marty Stuart shows how he truly is country music's resident historian. Emmylou Harris is a delight and her passion for country music can be felt each time she talks. Dwight and Merle often stole the show. They both would sing the songs as they were talking about them and even singing brief snippets of the songs, you could hear the incredible emotion in their voice fully be reminded of why these two are such great singers. They just have a perfect way with words and a great sense of humor. I love Merle stating that if anyone doesn't like Bob Wills they are under suspicion with him, or Dwight saying that Lovesick Blues is sentimental to its core but also sticks its middle finger up at the world. Hearing Dwight yodel that song is also a highlight, and I want to see him do a full cover of that song.

Plus getting to hear songs by all those previously mentioned plus Jimmie Rogers, The Carter Family, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell, Pasty Cline, Gene Autry, Roy Acuff, Buck Owens, Bill Monroe, Townes Van Zandt and more certainly didn't hurt the film at all.

Most of all though this film is a love letter to country music and a lovely heartfelt one at that. I found myself singing along with each song, remembering why I fell in love with the genre. This movie made me fall in love with Country music all over again.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Songs From Honeysuckle Rose (1980)

As I have mentioned many times on this blog, I adore country music. I have had it on my mind a lot lately due to Ken Burns' excellent Country Music documentary on PBS. As this is a film blog and I have country music on my mind, I feel it is only right for me to share some country songs from the movies. One of the most popular and best country music movies is Honeysuckle Rose (1980), featuring two country music legends, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris (as well as Dyan Cannon who proved she could have had a great career as a country singer in this movie). Enjoy these song performances from the movie.   

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, September 23, 2019

Movie Review: Downton Abbey

Michael's Movie Grade: D-

So I have never seen an actual episode of Downton Abbey. In fact before this movie came out, I hadn't even the slightest idea what the show was about. I actually knew so little about the show that I thought it was called Downtown Abbey. So calling me a newcomer when I came in to this movie is a complete understatement. Perhaps this movie is better if you have seen the show, but judging this as a standalone movie it was terrible.

This film left me completely and utterly bored. Perhaps the personalities of these characters came off better in the TV show, but here they are completely bland and one-note. They seemed to have only one personality trait each. Each felt like stereotypes of characters we might see in this type of movie rather than actual characters. Part of the problem came for the filmmakers trying to give each character their own subplot. There were simply too many characters for them to attempt such a thing. No plot was given time to be developed enough to be interesting. Because of this they all blended together in a similar blandness. This is not a plot with high stakes (one of the major conflicts in the film is that the servants won't be able to serve dinner for one night). This is something I don't have any problem with, but even when the stakes are small we have to be given a reason to care about them. Personally I didn't care about a single thing that happened. This movie also tries to inject as much humor in the form of one liners as possible but it all falls completely flat without one joke even making me smile.  

To be fair to this film, the costumes and set designs are very pretty. I can imagine people who are into clothes and fancy houses finding a sense of escapism in this. However I am not one of those people and this movie offered me nothing that I found the slightest bit entertaining. I was bored to tears myself.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Cowboy Church #28

Hello my friends and welcome to another service of Cowboy Church.

We start our music selection with The Sons of the Pioneers' 1951 recording of The Wonderous Word. This song was written by the Sons' own Ken Carson. Next comes The Carter Family's 1929 recording of God Gave Noah the Rainbow Sign. This is an old African American spiritual sometimes said to date back to the days of slavery. The song often was preformed by others under the title I Got a Home in the Rock. Two versions of the song recorded under that title were by The Weavers and Frank Sinatra. The Frank Sinatra version recorded in 1947 is a much slower paced traditional gospel recording that could not be more different than this fast paced Carter Family recording. After this comes Roy Acuff with a 1947 original entitled A Sinner's Death (I'm Dying). This is a sad sorrowful song about a man dying without ever finding God's grace. Roy Acuff was a master at capturing such incredible raw emotions in his songs and this is one of his most powerful. Next comes Gene Autry and Dinah Shore's lovely 1950 version of In The Garden. This recording was originally released as the B side of the two's version of another gospel classic, The Old Rugged Cross. Next comes Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with their 1962 recording of The Bible Tells Me So written by Dale herself. Last but not least is George Jones performing Old Brush Arbors on TV's Hee Haw.

You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden, neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it in the house, so it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before others so that they may see your good deeds and praise Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16
You were wearied by your ways, but you would not say it is hopeless. You found renewal in your strength so you did not fall. Isaiah 57:10

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14
"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." John 5:24 For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6

Thank you for joining me yet again for Cowboy Church. Come again next week for more. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Saturday, September 21, 2019

Movie Review: Ad Astra

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

An incredibly atmospheric and moving film. One of the year's best movies so far and as good as you can want from a science fiction film.

Anyone who wants Star Wars style action in their sci-fi movies might be disappointed by a film like this. This is a quiet, slow and contemplative film that requires and demands a lot of attention. However for someone who is into this type of film, this is as good as it gets. The story of this film is controlled by emotions rather than logic. Few space movies have captured the pure isolation of space than this film. This movie's sense of isolation is incredible. This movie's vision of space is so massive and awe inspiring. However as beautiful as this film looks, the look also gives a sense of pure emptiness and coldness. Space not only dwarfs our main character, but offers him little if anything warm and human. The other people in this movie offer him the same lack of warmth and humanity. Many act like cold machines simply doing their assigned tasks in their assigned way. Meanwhile what our main character is looking for may or may not be just as empty. He is looking for answers that may or may not even exists. This brings up questions of whether man truly alone in the universe or if there may be some purpose out there. This film gives no easy answers to either of those questions making the sense of isolation all the more powerful.

Director and co-writer (along with Ethan Gross) is especially daring to even attempt a film like this. The fact that he successeds so fantastically is an even more incredible feat. Meanwhile Brad Pitt gives one of the finest and most subtle performances of his entire career. He gives a pure sense of humanity to the role that helps endear this abstract art film to us on such a relatable level.  

Though this is certainly not a film for everybody, it is a powerful movie that had a really powerful impact on me.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #37

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Of course you know what that means. It is time for more classic cartoons. 

Old cartoons rarely presented an anti-smoking message, because at this time smoking was just what everybody did. However there is one type of anti-smoking cartoon that appeared in the olden days. This was a cartoon that was against kids smoking. Probably the most famous examples are the Looney Tunes cartoon Wholly Smoke (1938) and the Pleasure Island sequence from Disney's feature length Pinocchio (1940). However these types of cartoons were around much earlier than those films. Such an example is the Dreamy Dud cartoon, He Resolves Not to Smoke (1915). 

Just as the Pink Panther character came out of the opening credit sequence for The Pink Panther (1964), a fellow DePatie-Freleng cartoon character, The Inspector came from the opening credits sequence of that movie's sequel A Shot in the Dark (1964). The Inspector was based off of the main character of these movies, Inspector Clouseau, however he was not quite just an animated version of Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards' famous character. Villains the Mazzi-O-Riley Brothers appear in this opening sequence. They would later be the villains of the Inspector cartoon, The Great De Gaulle Stone Operation (1965). By the way in my mind Henry Mancini's main theme for this movie is every bit as good as his famous Pink Panther theme.


It has become an accepted idea that self-referential or meta cartoons are something fairly recent. There is no truth to this. In fact such cartoons date all the way back to the silent era. This was especially true of Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer's silent Felix the cat cartoons. One great example of this is Flim Flam Films (1927)

In my mind the best non-Pink Panther cartoon series from DePatie-Freleng was The Ant and the Aardvark. Next comes a typically fun entry, Mumbo Jumbo (1970).

We end with a classic World War 2, Daffy Duck cartoon, Daffy the Commando (1943). This is a fast paced pure slapstick cartoon of the type that was really dominating the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies at this time period. A review in The Film Daily stated "The Technicolor treatment is extra good in this cartoon, which is an ace filler. Leon Schlesinger produced capitally.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, September 20, 2019

Circus Day For Dumbo

As I have mentioned before on this blog Dumbo (1941) is my favorite animated Disney movie. It is an incredible masterwork of filmmaking at its best.

For advertising a film (like Dumbo) that takes place in a circus the best route is to make it "Circus Day." In 1941 this happened in Stamford, Connecticut. The following is an article from Showman's Trade Review (dated December 6, 1941 (the day before news in the US would get much darker)).

"Neil Welty, city manager of Stamford Theatres Inc., made it circus day in and around Stamford, Conn., in his elaborate campaign for 'Dumbo' at the Palace. The campaign included a torchlight street parade in which the fife and drum corps of the American Legion participated. Five hundred in all were in the line of march as Connecticut officially welcomed the opening of the Walt Disney production. Merchants and the theatre donated prizes for the best costumes in the line of march.

"In the street ballyhoo were sideshow barkers, clowns who drew chalk pictures of 'Dumbo' and who visited the Stamford schools. One of the clowns distributed new Lincoln pennies to children who gathered while he did his chalk talk. The clown's drawings of Disney characters were presented to patrons on their way out.

"Six floodlights loaned through the courtesy of the Stamford Electric Company threw lights on the theatre and a special canvas marquee. A loud speaker was used for announcements and 'Dumbo' records.    

"Full cooperation was obtained from the Stamford board of education and bulletins were posted on all boards. Ten thousand heralds were distributed at the schools. One honor student and a teacher from each school attended the opening and wrote their impressions for use by the Stamford Advocate.

"The radio phase of the campaign included 13 spot announcements over Station WSRR, children of a school enacting a play with characters from 'Dumbo,' and a lobby broadcast with patrons telling how they enjoyed the picture.

"The posting consisted of 100 three-sheets, 100 one-sheets and 250 window cards.

"Leading stores cooperated for window displays. The official store for 'Dumbo' Merchandise, the C.O, Miller Dept. Store, used their toy department to advertise the picture via the opening of their 'Dumbo' toyland.

"Mayor Gonnard and American Legion commanders participated in the opening ceremonies.

"Bill Brown and Tony Marino of the Stamford Theatres and Harry Reiners, RKO field representative cooperated with Welty in the far reaching campaign."

Having been a kid who was terrified of clowns, I would have run out of that school screaming when the clowns came to visit. Other than that though this does sound really cool. It is interesting today to see that the theatres created this advertisement for the film instead of the Disney company. However this was very common place during this time. Though this is an especially elaborate way to go about this, such elaborate ways of advertising a film were not as rare as one might think.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Movie Review: Rambo: Last Blood

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Rambo kills a bunch of people in the most over the top bloody way possible. What more did you except and what more did you want?

This movie is never going to win any awards and I won't argue that it should. Regardless of this though, it is pure fun. This movie follows a simple formula that we are familiar with but does it very well. Some people do horrible evil things and Rambo plots revenge against them. What makes this work is that the bad guys are completely horrible people. They have no redemptive qualities whatsoever, and it is really easy to hate them. After what they do there is no way you are not going to root for our buddy, John Rambo. We not only root for him, but we take immense satisfaction in each one that he kills. Of course Sylvester Stallone's performance doesn't hurt at all. Though he has been parodied more times than you can count, there is no doubt that he is a one of a kind and very talented actor. Like in all the previous Rambo movies he brings a real humanity to the character, and therefore gives some heart behind the over the top gore. When I say gore, I mean gore. This is by far the bloodiest Rambo movie.  The climax itself is a nonstop gore fest. However the movie does not rush into this gore from the beginning, it instead takes its time setting up the characters and story, so that the gory finale can fully satisfying and it is. The story itself is nothing original but it is well told enough for us to care.

This has very little of the social commentary of First Blood, instead this is a pure action movie and quite a satisfying one at that.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Overlooked Classics: Dark Command (1940)

 Having John Wayne and Roy Rogers in the same movie, would be enough to make this film an interesting curio for fans of old westerns. To be honest with how this was made before either became iconic images of western movies, I expected little more than a movie that was historically fascinating but critically not that good. However this film instead managed to be an excellent film in its own right.

A cowboy named Bob Seaton (John Wayne) comes to a town in Kansas. A naïve young southern gentleman named Fletch (Roy Rogers) is taken with the newcomer wanting to become a cowboy himself. The two start up a fast friendship, that is not hurt at all by Bob being in love with Fletch's sister, Mary (Claire Trevor). When Bob decides to run for Marshall his competitor is a man named William Cantrell (Walter Pigeon), who is also his rival for Mary's love. However it turns out that Cantrell despite his appearance of a good hearted school teacher is actually a man who plans to get what he wants through the most sinister means possible.

This film was made at a turning point for the careers of both of its stars. The year before John Wayne had made his first film with director John Ford and the movie that many consider Wayne's first great film, Stagecoach (1939). With this film John Wayne was starting to finally be taken seriously as an actor. In fact with the success of Stagecoach, Republic Pictures (known for cheap B films) actually made this a much bigger budget film than normal for them. In 1938 Roy Rogers received his first starring role in a feature film. Around this time Roy would no longer be a country singer who was also an actor, but instead an actor who was also a country singer.

John Wayne is unquestionably the star of this film, but the actor who impresses the most would be Roy Rogers. I love Roy Rogers movie as I am sure many of my readers do. However it is no secret that Roy played basically the same role in almost all his films. This causes many of Roy critics to state that he was only capable of playing one role. This movie is definite proof that such a statement is false. Roy plays a very different role here. We are used to seeing him as a hero with zero to little faults and who is always smart enough to be one step ahead of the villains. This could not be further from the truth here. Fletch is not always in the right and can sometimes do things that we would not consider morally right. Though he has more book learning than John Wayne's character, he does not possess the same maturity to handle himself in the outside world. He is essentially still a kid in many ways. He can lose his temper at the worst times, he has a hero worship of Bob similar to the type many young boys would later have for Roy Rogers, he has a childlike and romanticized view of what cowboys are and he is easily outsmarted by the movie's villain. Roy plays this part excellently turning in one of his finest performances. He even makes us fans of his many B-westerns and his classic TV show, forget we are watching Roy Rogers and instead only see the character he is portraying. Considering the icon of good and purity Roy represents to us classic movie fans this is no small feat. He truly was a great actor and I would have liked to see him be given more roles like this. I would have also liked to see him in more movie with John Wayne. The two had perfect chemistry with each other and it is a joy to watch them share the screen. Speaking of John, he plays a part much more similar to what we except from him. Even at this early stage this film shows the John Wayne persona almost fully formed. He plays the part here with the same charm and charisma that one should except from him. The supporting cast is also fantastic. Standing out is one of the great character actors, Gabby Hayes. Gabby made a career playing sidekicks to western heroes and here he plays a sidekick to John Wayne. He plays this part to perfection getting plenty of good laughs into this more serious story. However he also gets some chances to play dramatic scenes (a rarity for him). He does just as excellent of a job at these scenes.

As well as having a great cast in front of the camera this film also had a great director behind the camera. This was the one and only Raoul Walsh. This man's excellent filmography includes The Thief of Bagdad (1924), What Price Glory (1926), Sadie Thompson (1928), The Roaring Twenties (1939), High Sierra (1941) and White Heat (1949). He does an incredible job directing this movie giving us some fast paced action scenes (which he was always very good at ), great use of montage and an incredible sense of atmosphere. Writers Grover Jones, Lionel Houser and F. Hugh Herbert provide us with a smart and literate script that doesn't forget to also be entertaining.

A review in Modern Screen magazine stated "If all doses of history were as easy to take as this, there would be fewer kids playing hooky from school - and more adults reading history books." A review in The Film Daily stated "Few historically dramas in film annuals have packed more popular appeal." Other critics were just as positive when talking about this film. The movie also proved to be a Boxoffice success, helping John Wayne and Roy Rogers to grow even more in popularity.

Appropriate for a movie with two of the stars of Stagecoach (John Wayne and Claire Trevor) and actual stagecoach was driven down the streets of Fall River, Massachusetts to advertise the film's opening at the Empire Theatre. The theatre's manager, Bill Canning and assistant manager, Tommy Dries rode in this stagecoach.

This is a delightful movie that deserves to be better known or appreciated today.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, September 16, 2019

Jimmie Rogers in "The Singing Brakeman" (1929)

As anyone who reads this blog knows I am a huge country music lover. As such I am highly enjoying Ken Burns' new documentary film, Country Music. Those of you who like me watched the first part on PBS yesterday, you heard mention that Jimmie Rogers appeared in a short film called The Singing Brakeman (1929). Luckily for us this film exists today and can be found on YouTube. The film doesn't have much in the way of story but Jimmie performs three of his classic songs, Waiting For a Train, Daddy and Home and Blue Yodel. For my fellow country music fans being able to see Jimmie Rogers actually performing these songs is a special treat. So enjoy this great film. 
Sadly a reviewer in Motion Picture News was not impressed stating "three number song novelty that is just a little too much the same throughout to be particularly effective."

An exhibitors review in the Exhibitors Herald World was more positive stating "A very good act and well recorded." The following is another review from Exhibitors Herald World, "Fine piece of recording. If your town likes this blue yodeling stuff go after it. Jimmie broke a record here in person and the liked his talking act too. (Henry Reeve, Mission theatre, Menard, Tex. Small Town Patronage)." Yet another exhibitors review from the same magazine stated "As fine a short as you can play."

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Cowboy Church #27

Hello again my friends and welcome to another service of Cowboy Church. 

We start our musical selection with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with their 1956 single, Thank You God. This song was written by husband and wife team Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller. The song was released as a little Golden Record with the songwriting team's most famous composition Let There Be Peace on Earth as a B-Side. Next comes one of Roy Acuff's most famous hits, The Great Speckled Bird. Though this song was originally credited as written by Roy himself, Roy would later state that the song was actually written by Reverend Guy Smith. Though this song was recorded in 1936 it would not be released until 1938. A few months prior to this release Roy had performed the song on the Grand Ole Opry to a very positive reaction. This song has been covered by many over the years, but Roy Acuff's version still remains the best. In 1953, singing cowboy Rex Allen had a hit with Crying in the Chapel. This was more than a decade before Elvis Presley had his famous hit with the song. After this comes The Sons of the Pioneers' 1947 recording of The Sea Walker. This song was a Sons' original written by one of the group's founding members, Tim Spencer. Next comes Johnny Cash performing No Need To Worry live in 1971. He is backed by The Carter Family, Carl Perkins, The Statler Brothers and his usual backing band The Tennessee Three. This is a high energy performance that is incredibly fun. This is followed by Charley Pride's 1968 recording of Wings of a Dove. We end with Hank Williams performing his lovely original composition, House of Gold.  Hank recorded this song in either 1948 or 1949, but it was not released until 1954, after his death. Despite this the song has rightfully become a gospel classic.

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his [Jesus'] mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Titus 3:5

Thanks for joining me for another service of Cowboy Church join me next week for more. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Movie Review: Hustlers

Michael's Movie Grade: F

I may be in the minority, when I state that I hated this movie. However whatever the appeal of this film is, it completely alludes me.

This is a movie that offers no emotional connection at all. There is no reason for us to care about our main characters and the victims are so blandly presented that we don't really feel sorry for them. Our two main characters are the only ones given any personalities. However there is nothing about either's personality that comes off as either likable or engaging. Every other character is given one personality trait. It doesn't help that they are given very clumsy dialogue. Some of these personality traits are not even personality traits at all. For instance one of the partners of our two leads pukes at inopportune times (however no one working on this film could come up with an inopportune time that might actually be funny). On that note this movie has many attempts at humor. However I laughed at only one joke in the entire movie (paying for an expensive purse with all ones got a chuckle out of me).

The movie's biggest fault however is that it gets repetitive. In the scenes before the actually scheme, this film could be called Strip Club: The Movie. ,It feels like a long music video of barely dressed women dancing to hip hop music (something that does not help with this reviewer who couldn't care less about that type of music). It doesn't take long for this to become monotonous and boring. After the scheme comes to be the film simply becomes them doing it to another man over and over again.  By the time things get serious I had already stopped caring.

This movie tries to have an anti-capitalist theme. This feels extremely forced into the film as it is mostly shown in clumsily written dialogue. Not helping is that everything stated is something we have heard a million times before leaving nothing thought-provoking for the audience.

Despite being less than two hours this film felt extremely long and the more it went along the more I wanted it to be over.

-Michael J. Ruhland