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  King of the Cowboys Happy Trails
Year: 1943
Director: Joseph Kane
Stars: Roy Rogers, Smiley Burnette, Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers, Peggy Moran, Gerald Mohr, Dorothea Kent, Lloyd Corrigan, James Bush, Russell Hicks, Irving Bacon, Norman Willis
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Roy Rogers (Roy Rogers) rides in the rodeo, the star attraction, but today he might have to leave all that behind when the Governor calls him to his office. When Roy and his sidekick Frog Millhouse (Smiley Burnette) arrive, they are ushered in and asked to explain themselves concerning a recent arrest made of a notorious outlaw. The criminal was supposed to be brought in over the state line, yet Roy ensured he was not, but in actual fact the Governor admires him for this and, with Frog out of the room, he puts a proposal to him...

Roy Rogers made about a hundred films, although the less charitable could say they were pretty much the same film remade a hundred times, but for his fans, many of whom saw these westerns as children, they didn't want any big surprises and simply were watching to see the familiar thrills and spills played out along with a few well-chosen songs. For Rogers was a kind of movie star you don't see anymore: utterly wholesome, uncomplicated and of course a singing cowboy.

Possibly the last gasp of the singing cowboy genre was Paint Your Wagon, but before the curtain came down on Rogers and his contemporary Gene Autry, there was plenty of entertainment to be served up to their legions of fans. One thing about King of the Cowboys - which was either where Rogers got his nickname or what the film was named after - is that it was set during wartime, which posed a problem for the host of cheap westerns being released at the time.

That problem being the Nazis and the Japanese forces didn't make many inroads into Texas, so it was difficult to shoehorn them into the usual plots about foiling cattle rustlers and bank robbers. Therefore the bad guys Rogers is recruited to combat by the Governor are vaguely-described "saboteurs", led by a travelling carnival act called Maurice the Mental Marvel (Gerald Mohr). Old Maurice has a psychic set up going on where his assistant Judy (Peggy Moran in her final role) asks for questions from the audience and he answers sagely, but we know from the start this is a scam, fittingly for a no-good scoundrel.

Judy is a nice girl though, and she teams up with Roy to bring Maurice down. Some of the baddies' schemes include blowing up warehouses, railway bridges and, erm, doing the full Wile E. Coyote by placing a huge mirror in front of an oncoming car for an assassination by vehicle crash. In one of those warehouses Roy is tied up and has to escape in true serial exploits style, but much of the comfort provided by these films is knowing that our hero will live to fight another day no matter what obstacles are thrown his way. Atop his faithful steed Trigger, you can be sure there's nothing that will sabotage Roy Rogers, and there's always a pleasant song not far away. Even without the presence of Dale Evans, King of the Cowboys is typical fare in many ways, and none the worse for it.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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