Musical Monday: Under Western Stars (1938)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Under Western Stars (1938) – Musical #608

Studio: Republic Pictures

Director: Joseph Kane

Starring: Roy Rogers, Trigger, Smiley Burnette, Carol Hughes, Guy Usher, Tom Chatterton, Kenneth Harlan, Stephen Chase, Dick Elliott, Dora Clement, George Montgomery (uncredited)
Themselves: Maple City Four

Plot:
Conditions for farming are terrible for ranchers due to the Dust Bowl and drought. Roy (Rogers) runs for Congress in order to get more federal help for ranchers and cowboys.

Trivia:
• Roy Rogers’s first starring role in a full-length feature film.
• Original title was to be “Washington Cowboy”
• The film was originally set to star Gene Autry, who was dropped from the film due to a dispute with Republic Pictures.
• Gene Autry and Johnny Marvin wrote the songs “Dust” and “Listen to the Rhythm of the Range,” which Republic purchased. Autry sued for unauthorized use of the songs in the film.

Roy Rogers, Carol Hughes and Smiley Burnette

Awards and Nominations
• Johnny Marvin was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for the song “Dust.”

Notable Songs:
• “Send My Mail to the County Jail” performed by Roy Rogers
• “Rogers for Congressman” performed by Roy Rogers and the Maple City Four
• “Pioneer Mother of Mine” performed by Roy Rogers
• “Dust” performed by Roy Rogers
• “Listen to the Rhythm of the Range” performed by Roy Rogers

My review:
Often times, hour-long B-budget movie westerns follow the same pattern: lawlessness in the town, bar fights or fighting Native Americans – maybe with some songs sprinkled in.

But “Under Western Stars” is something different. In 1938, audiences saw a new singing cowboy, fresh-faced Roy Rogers, with a fresh story.

Rogers, son of a Congressman, is determined to help his state get water after they have suffered from the Dust Bowl. When he can’t get any help from the water company, Rogers runs for Congress and heads to Washington to get a bill passed.

Rather than lawless men, the bad guys are the water company and representatives in Washington who don’t take the drought conditions seriously.

To break up the story are some very catchy songs performed by Roy Rogers and the Maple City four. These include “Send My Mail to the County Jail,” “Rogers for Congressman” and “Listen to the Rhythm of the Range.” The song “Dust” is a more stirring, serious tune, which is also different than most songs performed in musical westerns.

“Under Western Stars” is Roy Rogers’s first starring role, but you would never know it. He does well in the role and is also adorable

It’s a simple and short western, running at 65 minutes. I had a good time with this brisk-paced movie and its different take on the movie musical western.

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3 thoughts on “Musical Monday: Under Western Stars (1938)

  1. There is lots of fun and music to be found in Roy’s movies. You are so right about his personality coming across as more than a rookie film star.

    – Caftan Woman

    Liked by 1 person

  2. …incidentally, this film – like many Republic, Monogram or PRC films, is freely available on YouTube, but in two different versions: one is the full-length, 65-minute version as released in 1938, but the other version, which I have not yet watched, is only 53 minutes. I cannot as yet inform you as to what has been cut, but that’s almost a fifth of the film gone. It’s not like it’s lost, either because, as I say, the complete version is still around:

    x

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