A rattlin’ good oater
We’re on a bit of a Noah Beery Jr jag at the mo and that gives us a good excuse to review another Roy Rogers flick because Noah appeared in Roy’s 1940 epic The Carson City Kid.
OK, yes, it’s just another Joe Kane-helmed 57-minute programmer, with Gabby Hayes as the old-timer marshal of Sonora (which looks remarkably like any other Western town lot and not Californian at all). And it’s supposed to be set in the 1849 gold rush yet they all have 1870s hats and guns (and sing 1940s songs). It doesn’t matter. Fun is fun.
It opens with the stage to Sonora being held up by the Spanish-speaking Kid one night. Luckily for us, the stage driver is Hank Bell’s mustache, with Hank Bell attached. Hank gets an unusually big part, with several lines. Excellent. The outlaw only takes a letter. Weird, huh?
The owner of the Yellowback Saloon in Sonora, Lee Jessup, wears a frock coat and silk vest, so is obviously a villain. He’s probably after the gold claims, we know right away. Wouldn’t be surprised if he has a sneaky derringer up his sleeve. More of a surprise, though, is that it’s Bob Steele, third-billed after Roy and Gabby (Trigger was disgracefully uncredited). Bob was, we know, usually the good guy but I must say he does a great job of being a crooked town boss. You especially dig his flashy pants, with a stripe down them.
The Kid is a remarkably goody-goody outlaw. Well, obviously; it’s Roy. He spends his time preventing his pardner Laramie from doing naughty things. Laramie is played by unshaven Francis McDonald, so is self-evidently a bad guy. When the two come across decent, straight-shootin’ if rather naive Noah (and as we know, Noah did decent naive straight-shooter; it was his thing) who is a prospector and has struck it rich, Laramie tries to rob the fellow, the skunk.
Well, Noah and Roy put a stop to that but still, the young man goes into town and promptly loses all his worldly wealth to Jessup in a dishonest poker game.
This despite being warned of the cardsharpery by the saloon gal Joby (Pauline Moore, in two other oaters with Roy that year). Joby gets a song, which is warmly applauded by the Kid, who gets into town by ‘borrowing’ Gabby’s horse. He’s incognito, natch, and Jessup hires him as saloon enforcer. Turns out that Jessup also cheated Roy’s brother, and killed him, and Roy has been chasing him ever since and has now finally caught up with him.
It’s wonderful, really, how much plot they could squeeze into less than an hour, and still leave time for the requisite horse chases, fisticuffs, gunfights and comic-relief shtick from Gabby.
Roy himself only gets one song, in the Chinese restaurant, where he has invited Joby to dinner. I thought it was shaping up to be a duet but Joby stays mum. Roy croons (Sonora Blue) to the accompaniment of an early juke box (as well as of a full symphony orchestra which magically provides lush background music as usual).
Well, Noah robs the saloon safe to get his money back and is mistaken for the Carson City Kid (to be fair, he was wearing the Kid’s costume) and he is captured and has to stand trial. You know how fair and above-board Western trials in saloons always were. However, before Noah can be railroaded, the real Carson City Kid appears! The letter business is explained and the villain shot.
So it all ends happily, and the newly-wed Kid and Joby take the stage for Carson City for their honeymoon. And guess who the driver is? Yup, Hank Bell’s mustache.
Most satisfactory all round. Sadly, though, Bob didn’t have a derringer after all, only a .45. Joe Kane missed a trick there.
If you like a Roy Rogers oater now and then, and if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?, then you should have a go at this one. You won’t regret it.