Lights of Old Santa Fe

Director: Frank McDonald

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Lights of Old Santa FeDale Evans as Marjorie Brooks puts on a fundraising show for Santa Fe's elite, with all her theatrical gal pals from college adding some spice. She sings a solo of her own, definitely not a cowgirl song however.

Marjorie has been away to school for a few years but no one's surprised to see what a beautiful young woman she has grown to be. Roy Rogers, Gabby Hayes, Bob Nolan & the Sons of the Pioneers are in the audience, & Roy is obviously crushed out on Marjorie, though she hasn't particularly noticed him.

Roy, Bob, & the Sons volunteer to sing a song at her fundraiser, but she dismisses them as country crooners, for her more sophisticated program "is cultural, not rugged." So the dismissed bumpkins head off to the furthest corner of the grounds, & sing for each other, soon siphoning away Marjorie's audience who weren't as captivated by the "Ballet of the Wood Nymphs."

It might not have been the best way to start wooing a girl, but at least we get to hear the amusing "Cowpoke Polka." The best song is yet to come, the titular Lights of Old Santa Fe (1944) being a lovely romantic western swing tune.

George "Gabby" Hayes as Gabby Whittaker runs a small rodeo outfit ever since the death of Marjorie's father who founded the show. He has fairly old-fashioned notions of rodeo performances, plus he hasn't been able to modernize because rodeo profits were skimmed to support Marjorie's schooling. A younger, fresher outfit is owned & managed by Frank Madden (Tom Keene, though credited as Richard Powers)

Lights of Old Santa FeFor the new rodeo season, Gabby gets his usual gig at the nearby county fair, but his booking agent hasn't been able to get him anything else because the Madden Rodeo is a bigger commercial success.

Madden has been courting Marjorie quite successfully. He wants to buy out what remains of her late father's rodeo.

He has already hired away the best of Gabby's performers, & the Brooks Rodeo is down to Roy & Trigger, aging rodeo queen Rosie McGurk (Claire Du Brey), & the Sons of the Pioneers. Marjorie again dismisses them as "crooners" rather than real cowboys, though Roy begs to differ.

Frank Madden would love to have the famous horse Trigger in his show, but Roy is faithful to Gabby. When the booking agent gets them a one-day show in Albuquerque, it's understood that if the show is popular some other bookings will follow. Unfortunately, Madden is a bigger villain than Marjorie is capable of detecting, & he hires thugs to set fire to the Brooks Rodeo camp one night while the little troupe is en route to Albuquerque.

The chief thug (Roy Barcroft) even tries to steal Trigger, but Trigger is too smart to be captured. Missing the Albuquerque gig is the final straw for Marjorie, who finally agrees to marry Frank, & join what little remains of her father's rodeo to Frank's, leaving Gabby out in the cold.

Roy arrives in the nick of time with the evidence of Madden's perfidy, & Marjorie feels pretty stupid having just about said "I do" to such an bad man. By the end Gabby has plans to update the Brooks International Rodeo, getting his best performers back from the criminal Madden. The show is aiming to for the big gig at Madison Square Garden, with Marjorie now a proper cowgirl singing country swing with Roy.

This is just about the youngest you'll ever see Roy & Dale together in starring roles, as they only began making films together that year, & this was their second release. It's a kid's story of course, but the physical & vocal beauty of Roy & Dale is timeless & for all ages, & the Sons of the Pioneers the best cowboy swing band that ever existed. It's hard to find light entertainment any lighter than this, but what a joy it can be if you put yourself in the right frame of mind for innocent tales & delightful songs.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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