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The Old Corral

(aka "Texas Serenade")

 

Republic Pictures Corporation

Release Date: 1936 12 21

Running time: 56 minutes

Key book (production) number: 603

 

• Credits

• Cast

• Songs

• Plot Summary

• Publicity and Production Stills

• Posters

• This film is available on DVD.

 

Introduction: The plot of "The Old Corral" is woven around the flight of a woman who has accidentally witnessed a murder and how Gene Autry rescues her from the vengeance of a Chicago gangster. Aside from Gene Autry's fans' listening pleasure when he sings, the movie has only one thing going for it - Gene shares the screen with Roy Rogers who will one day be his equal in popularity. (In the film, Leonard Slye is credited only as one of the Sons of the Pioneers.)

        Filmed less than ten years after the advent of sound in the movies, the acting is stiff and melodramatic to our modern eyes. Of course, we must remember that the heroes weren't trained actors. Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers were singers. This was the seventh feature film in which the Pioneers appeared but it was only the second that gave them a bit of dialogue. Other than their few spoken lines, the Pioneers' sang and did a lot of hard riding. Bob Nolan drew a heavy, hard-mouthed white horse and is usually at the tail end of the line of riders racing across rough terrain. The old film remains on the my shelf only because the Sons of the Pioneers so wistfully sing Tim Spencer's "Silent Trails". "The Old Corral" is available on DVD.

 


Cast:

 

Others in the Cast:

Left: John Bradford as Mike Scarlotti

Far Right: Frankie Marvin as the wife-beating prisoner handcuffed to Gene

 

Left: Lon Chaney Jr as Garland and Lynton Brent as Dunn, two of Simm's henchmen

Right: Cornelius Keefe as Martin Simms, owner of The Blue Moon, a notorious nightclub

 

 

Left: Ed Platt and Lou Fulton as Oscar and Elmer, the garage attendants

Right: Milburn Morante as Clem Snodgrass

 

Others in the Cast:

Abe Lefton as Abe (rodeo announcer)

Merrill McCormick as Joe (henchman)

Charles Sullivan as Frank (henchman)

Joe Yrigoyen as an uncredited posse rider.


Songs:

   • Intro

   • The Old Corral (Walter Higdon)
   • One Man Band (Smiley Burnette)
   • Down Along the Sleepy Rio Grande (Roy Rogers)
   • He’s Gone, He’s Gone up the Trail (Vern Tim Spencer)
   • In the Heart of the West (Fleming Allan / Gene Autry)

   • Money Ain’t No Use Anyway (Gene Autry)
   • La Cucaracha (DeLorah / Savino / Traditional) with dialogue
   • Silent Trails (Tim Spencer) duet

   • Silent Trails (Tim Spencer)

   • Instrumental snippet
   • So Long Old Pinto (Oliver Drake)

   • The Old Corral to end credits


Plot:
The story opens in Chicago as police burst into a nightclub. Singer, Eleanor Spencer, disappears into the back to hide and inadvertently witnesses the murder of Tony Pearl by Mike Scarlotti, both gangsters in a turf war. 

 

 

Realizing that her life is now in danger, Eleanor races out and into a waiting taxi. Scarlotti recognizes both the glove she dropped and the implications immediately. The girl must be removed or he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

 

 

The following days and weeks are a nightmare to Eleanor as she heads for Los Angeles, as far away from the scene of crime and Scarlotti as she can get.

 

 

On a bus somewhere in the West, one of the passengers recognizes her from her picture in the newspaper.

 

 

He moves over to the seat beside Eleanor and, unable to rebuff him without drawing attention to herself, she answers in monosyllables. He introduces himself as Martin Simms, owner of a string of amusement places, and offers her a job. She refuses, stiff with fear.

 

 

The bus catches up with a buckboard and is unable to pass on the narrow road. Sheriff Gene Autry is on his way to Turquoise City with a prisoner he has handcuffed to his wrist. As they drive along, Gene sings "The Old Corral", much to the the delight of the passengers and the annoyance of the impatient bus driver.

 

 

When the road widens and the sheriff can pull over, the bus roars past and Gene's team bolts. The panicked horses crash through a fence, tossing both sheriff and prisoner to the ground.

 

 

One of the buckboard's wheels rolls over Sheriff Gene Autry.

 

 

The driver stops the bus and all the passengers pour out to see if the sheriff has been hurt. When Eleanor notices the star on Autry's shirt, she is tempted to place herself under his protection. She glances at Martin Simms, hesitates, and the moment passes.

 

 

Assured that no one has been hurt, the driver herds his passengers back onto the bus, this time including the Sheriff and his prisoner. No one remains to care for the horses, still harnessed to the buckboard. One assumes they will make their own way home.

 

 

Martin attempts to converse with the unresponsive sheriff, teasing him about his singing voice. Using that as an opening, he turns to Eleanor and asks her if she's ever done any singing. Well aware of who she is, he tries to hire her himself but she refuses.

 

 

They haven't been long on the way when the bus is stopped once more, this time by a tree fallen across the road. The passengers take this opportunity to get out of the bus again.

 

 

Just as the men are about the push the tree aside, they are held up by the O'Keefe Brothers, entertainers-turned-robbers who have recently lost their jobs on radio.

 

 

These newly-minted "outlaws" take money from the male passengers and collect it on a newspaper displaying Eleanor's picture. The sheriff sees the photo but says nothing. 

 

 

Simms makes a snide remark to Len O'Keefe about being a thief and Len reminds him that he is a bandit, too, because he runs a nightclub. Then Len, temporarily sympathetic to all lawbreakers, orders the sheriff to unlock the handcuffs on his prisoner. He changes his mind when he hears the prisoner has been arrested for beating his wife and child.

 

 

To the disappointment of a romantic eastern woman, Bob assures the ladies that they won't be robbed.

 

 

The O'Keefes leave, counting on being well out of Autry's way by nightfall.

 

 

Simms mocks the sheriff for his inability to arrest them. Unperturbed, Gene promises him that the O'Keefes will be behind bars before nightfall.

 

 

When the passengers finally disembark at Turquoise City, Simms wishes Eleanor good luck and then strides into his office where he orders his henchman, Dunn, to keep her under surveillance. He plans to turn her in to Scarlotti for a sizeable reward.

 

 

Gene and his prisoner enter the jailhouse in time to hear deputy Frog Millhouse practicing One Man Band to the disgust of the bored inmate already behind bars.  Frog is accompanying himself on complicated setup of accordion, harmonica, tambourine and xylophone.

 

 

Frog shoves the wife beater into the cell. This done, he looks for his gun but it has slipped around behind his back and the prisoner easily removes it from its holster, cocks the hammer, and holds it out to him - muzzle first. Startled, Frog freezes and stares at him but the prisoner hands the gun to him.

 

 

Gene and Frog leave the office for the O'Keefe Ranch to arrest the five brothers. Frog does not believe they can be highway robbers. "They couldn't even find a highway," he complains. He and Gene mount their horses and head out for the ranch, leading four extra mounts in anticipation of a long chase.

 

 

Meanwhile Martin Simms' henchman keeps an eye on the bus for Los Angeles and questions the driver when he doesn't see Eleanor embark. She has turned her ticket in and she's still in town somewhere. Simms instructs his man to find her.

 

 

They are joined by Garland who can't see why Simms is so interested in this particular girl. Simms explains the Scarlotti connection and Garland is visibly shaken.

 

 

Meanwhile, Eleanor has found a ride with an elderly man in a jalopy. The old fellow, Clem Snodgrass, is convinced the girl is running from something and he advises her to hide out at the O'Keefe Ranch.

 

 

At the same time, the O'Keefe brothers are cantering along in the hills singing "Down Along the Sleepy Rio Grande" when the two lawmen spot them. The chase is on!

 

 

Gene ropes Tim O'Keefe and leaves him with Frog, then, in a spectacular piece of stunt work, Gene bulldogs Bob and Karl at once.

 

 

 

Gene can't understand why the four boys should take up highway robbery when they had a promising career in radio. Bob hangs his head and mumbles that the the radio job fell through and Tim states that they are willing to take their medicine.

 

 

Meanwhile, Clem Snodgrass, has finally persuaded Eleanor to stay with the O'Keefes when a tire blows on his jalopy. He cannot find any of his tools so he flags Martin Simms down - or thinks he did. 

 

 

Actually, Martin was following Eleanor on a tip from Oscar and Elmer.

 

 

Simms is quick to persuade Eleanor to come back to Turquoise City with him, pretending to care about what happens to her. Eleanor hesitates.

 

 

Gene's arrival and Eleanor's fear pushes to her take Simms' offer of help and they leave Gene standing in the road holding the girl's suitcase.

 

 

 

Gene and Clem drive back to town and, when Gene enters his office, he hears the three captured O'Keefe brothers singing the mournful "He's Gone, He's Gone Up the Trail" to the utter disgust of the other prisoners.

 

 

Gene picks up a newspaper from his desk and Eleanor's face looks at him from the front page. Now everything begins to make sense and he heads off to the Blue Moon, Simms' gambling joint.

 

 

He enters the Blue Moon in time to see Eleanor dissolve into tears as her singing is ignored by everyone.

 

 

Gene explains that she has a lovely voice but the people in Turquoise City aren't used to her type of singing. They decide to sing "In the Heart of the West" and the patrons start to pay attention, visibly cheering her.

 

 

By the end of the song, the patrons insist that Gene sing one on his own songs, "Money ain't No Use Anyway".

 

 

Gene could have continued singing indefinitely but an irate gambler starts to shoot up the room, declaring he'd been cheated. Gene quietly takes his gun away and sends him home.

 

 

Simms and Garland insist he arrest the man but Gene has something else on his mind. He tries to persuade Eleanor to leave the Blue Moon and put herself into his protection. Simms objects but Gene and the girl leave. Garland wonders aloud if Gene has stumbled onto their dirty little plot but Simms can't see how he could.

 

 

In their hideout in Chicago, Scarlotti and his gang are edgy. The radio is on and the announcer breaks into their boredom with the news that Eleanor has not been found yet. Scarlotti isn't worried. He's heard from someone who has located the girl and is waiting for his information.

 

 

As he speaks, the man arrives with a letter from Simms. Scarlotti and gang get moving. Yes, they'll do a deal with Simms but not the one he expects.

 

 

In Turquoise City a parade is underway and the mayor announces a musical afternoon featuring Sheriff Gene Autry.

 

 

A Mexican dance duo performs to "La Cucaracha" while Gene asks Eleanor to sing.

 

 

 As he enters his office, Gene reads a telegram instructing him to hold the Spencer woman for extradition.

 

 

Gene has obviously planned for the O'Keefes to be part of the afternoon's entertainment. Behind the bars, the three boys are practicing "Silent Trails" with long faces. They naively suggest he arrest the other two brothers so the harmony can be perfect. He agrees to to it.

 

 

Gene sets off to capture the other two O'Keefe brothers and is captured himself - for a moment - but Gene neatly gets the upper hand and asks the older boy to test his voice.

 

 

Puzzled, the boy yodels a bar and Gene packs the brothers off to Turquoise City.

 

 

 Behind bars now, the reunited O'Keefe brothers sing "Silent Trails" to an audience of two. Frog and the prisoner are noticeably subdued by the lyrics although the prisoner stoutly denies this.

 

 

Frog frees the O'Keefes and they promise to turn up at the concert later in the day.

 

 

Meanwhile, Scarlotti and his gang have arrived in Turquoise City, unobserved by all but Frog.

 

 

 Frog notices that the tonneau of the beautiful car is filled with what appears to be musical instruments in cases but which are actually guns. He watches the men enter the Blue Moon.

 

 

Frog approaches the driver, Tony, on the pretext of inviting him to the afternoon's entertainment but he has a good look at the weapons' bags while he's at it. He hurries back to his own car, only to find he must repair a flat tire before he can drive it.

 

 

While Frog repairs his tire, Scarlotti has entered the Blue Moon and ordered drinks: 1 bourbon, 2 scotch and 1 whiskey for the grand total of 85 cents!

 

 

When they finish their drinks, Scarlotti and his gangsters are led to Simms who is in his office with Garland. When Simms realizes to whom he is speaking, his face lights up and he becomes effusive in his welcome.

 

 

Simms asks what kind of deal they can make and Scarlotti tells him the deal is this: if he behaves, they won't hurt him. This wasn't the way it was supposed to work out and Simms is knocked down for emphasis.

 

 

Fearing for his own life, Garland directs the gangsters to the fairground where they can expect to find Eleanor.

 

 

When the gangsters leave, Simms grabs his handgun from his desk drawer but Garland stops him. To calm Simms down, Garland points out that the gangsters will take care of Autry for him.

 

 

Scarlotti and his men rejoin Tony in the car and head for the fairgrounds. Clem Snodgrass fiddles a breakdown and then the mayor introduces Gene who sings "So Long, Old Pinto" to a receptive audience.

 

 

The gangsters push their way through the good-natured crowd and then separate to look for Eleanor while Gene is singing, accompanied by the O'Keefe Brothers.

 

 

Frog pulls up beside the gangster's car and runs around looking for Gene. Gene is talking with Eleanor, of course.

 

 

The girl is stricken with terror when Frog tells Gene that Scarlotti is in town. Gene instructs Frog to take Eleanor to the cabin by the old corral while he tells the mayor to let the O'Keefes sing right away.

 

 

 

Willing to reestablish their good name, the brothers do a good job of "Silent Trails". The gangsters see Frog and Eleanor leave and are after them quickly.

 

 

Gene enlists the aid of the O'Keefe Brothers and race across country to intercept the gangsters. Now comes a spectacular race between the two cars on the roughest road imaginable.

 

 

Gene and the O'Keefes are on horseback not far behind the vehicles. Frog and Eleanor reach the cabin with a minute to spare and Frog manages to dispose of the driver of the gangster's car before it gets too close.

 

 

As they near the cabin, Gene can see that the gangsters are spreading out and will be attacking from four directions. He recalls seeing a small herd of cattle and sends the O'Keefes after it. Stampeding the cattle through the narrow valley seems to be the only answer. Inside the cabin Eleanor mans a gun, too.

 

 

The arrival of the stampeding herd takes care of the rest of the gangsters while their leader, Scarlotti, races for his car.

 

 

Gene knocks Scarlotti out of the vehicle then rolls him under it to protect him from the cattle.

 

 

Meanwhile, Simms has told the townsfolk that the O'Keefes have abducted Gene and they arrive at the scene just as Gene is wrapping it up.

 

 

Gene assures them that the O'Keefes have made ample reparation and all charges have been dropped.

 

 

Scarlotti and the rest of the criminals languish in jail while the record player plays "The Old Corral".

 

 

Gene and Eleanor end the film in a clinch - which must have annoyed the little boys in the audience in 1936.

 

 

 

Production and Publicity Stills

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Gene's double bulldogging Bob's double

(Calin Coburn Collection ©2004)

 

Private Collection

 


 

Posters

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Les Adams image

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

Courtesy of Buddy Bryant

 

 

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