Musical Monday: Cowboy from Brooklyn (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:
Cowboy From Brooklyn (1938) – Musical #192

Studio: Warner Bros.

Director: Lloyd Bacon

Dick Powell, Pat O’Brien, Priscilla Lane, Dick Foran, Ann Sheridan, Johnnie Davis, Ronald Reagan, Emma Dunn, Dennie Moore, Candy Candido, Granville Bates, Harry Barris, James Stephenson, Hobart Cavanaugh, Elisabeth Risdon, Rosella Towne, Mary Field, Jeffrey Lynn, John Ridgely, Mary Boley, William B. Davidson

While traveling to Hollywood from New York, singer Elly Jordan (Powell) is stranded in Wyoming. He gets a job as a performer on a ranch resort run by Jane Hardy (Lane). Elly is built up as a singing cowboy, but the only problem is that he’s terrified of all animals.

• Remade as Two Guys from Texas (1948) starring Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson.
• Jeffrey Lynn’s third film role and Priscilla Lane’s fourth. They both would become famous in 1938 due to “Four Daughters” (1938)
• Working titles included Dude Rancher, Howdy Stranger and The Brooklyn Cowboy
• Harry Warren had to step in to write music with Johnny Mercer after Richard Whiting died during production.

Dick Powell and Priscilla Lane in “Cowboy from Brooklyn”

Notable Songs:
• “Ride, Tenderfoot, Ride” performed by Priscilla Lane and Dick Powell
• “I’ve Got a Heartful of Music” performed by Dick Powell, Candy Candido, Harry Barris
• “I’ll Dream Tonight” performed by Dick Powell

My review:
By 1938, crooning Warner Bros. Dick Powell was growing tired of musicals. And by the next year, Powell left the studio so he could change his persona and get better roles.

But before he transitioned, he made the musical comedy “Cowboy from Brooklyn.” While songs are performed, this film is more of a comedy with songs added.

Powell plays a down-on-his-luck singer who ends up stranded at a ranch. While he is scared stiff of animals, the ranch’s owner, played by Priscilla Lane, hires him to be a cowboy singer for the guests. Powell is discovered by Pat O’Brien, who believes he’s an authentic cowboy. Problems arise when the Singing Cowboy is expected to perform at a rodeo and too frightened not only to ride a horse but to see one!

Dick Powell and Pat O’Brien were Warner Bros. regulars by the time “Cowboy from Brooklyn” was released, but Priscilla Lane was still a newcomer to Hollywood. This was only her fourth film role – and it was Lane’s first film with Jeffrey Lynn – though he doesn’t have a credited role.

Jeffrey Lynn plays a reporter in the film, in what was only his second film. The next movie for Lane and Lynn was “Four Daughters” (1938), which made them stars and also started the first of several films where the two were a romantic pair.

“Cowboy from Brooklyn” (1938) was remade 10 years later with Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson and Dorothy Malone in the film “Two Guys from Texas” (1948). The two films aren’t terribly similar, outside of the ranch setting and fear of animals. But I would say both are funny.

If you go into “Cowboy from Brooklyn” expecting a Busby Berkeley-type musical that Powell was starring in during the early-1930s, you will be disappointed. There aren’t any significant numbers with kaleidoscope-like photography.

However, “Cowboy from Brooklyn” is still a fun movie with some genuinely funny moments (like some featuring Dick Foran). It’s one of the few last opportunities you get to see Powell in the boy crooner roles that made him famous.

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