Gabby Whittaker (George “Gabby” Hayes) has had great success in California during the Gold Rush. His granddaughter Mary (Pauline Moore) has convinced him to come back home to Missouri, cash in on the gold and put his money in the bank.
Sam Wyatt (Arthur Loft), the owner of the bank Whittaker chooses, decides to take advantage of the notorious name of Jesse James (Don “Red” Barry). Jesse and his brother Frank (Michael Worth) are outlaws known throughout the West for their crimes, and greedy Wyatt decides to rob his own bank, blaming the whole thing on the James brothers.
Successfully scheming to keep himself from the blame, Wyatt calls in the authorities: Captain Worthington (Harry Woods) and his corrupt gang of underlings, who are in on the deal.
There’s one hitch in their plan of sharing the riches, though. Famed cowboy Roy Rogers (starring as himself, transplanted to a different era) is hired by the banker’s association to track down the James brothers and recover the stolen money.
His plan is to infiltrate their gang, and all goes swimmingly… until he learns that the brothers are truly innocent. Roy must then work out a way to bring true justice in the robbery case.
Joseph Kane directs 1939’s Days of Jesse James. This musical-Western was produced and released by Republic Pictures. The original running-time was 63 minutes, but the existing print of the film (available on Netflix) is about nine minutes shorter than that.
Let me begin by saying that this film gets a MAJOR cute puppy bonus. The puppy hides in a bag, smiles when Roy Rogers sings (see the photo below) and is generally extra-adorable. Like The Artist‘s scene-stealing pup, this lil guy is a character all his own, not just a cute, fluffy prop to accompany the film’s actors. Major, major bonus points. PUPPY.
Roy Rogers and Pauline Moore are cute to watch, too, though not as cute as the puppy. Their chemistry is sweet and makes the romantic subplot of the film work.
Of course, the film includes a couple of nice songs: “Echo Mountain,” “I’m a Son of a Cowboy” and “Saddle Your Dreams.” All of the tunes are sung by Rogers, of course. The inclusion of only three songs works greatly in the film’s favor. Since the film’s running time is already so short, they provide a bit of fun without overwhelming the story.
In terms of the film as a Western, this one’s pretty hokey, with exaggerated Southern accents and all. It’s got quite a bit of excitement. In addition to his great chemistry with Pauline Moore, Roy Rogers also works very well with George “Gabby” Hayes, who is my favorite part of the film. It’s a nice, minor Western.
Did it boost my appreciation of the Western genre? SOMEWHAT – It’s highly enjoyable but kind of forgettable. The performances are fine and the cast’s chemistry is good, but there’s nothing really rave-worthy about it. I wouldn’t turn it off if I happened upon it again, but I’m also not eager to add it to my re-watch rotation.
The score: 3.5/5