The Vitaphone Corporation / Warner Bros. Pictures / First National Pictures
Release Date: 1936 02 01
Running Time: 58 minutes
Key book (production) number: MP-298
Dick Foran as Frank Wilson Jr aka The Singing Kid
George Ernest as Frank Wilson Jr as a child
Addison Richards as Frank Wilson Sr
Bonita Granville as Jen Coburn as a child
Alma Lloyd as the adult Jen Coburn
Jim Farley as Tom Coburn, her father
Charles Middleton as Phineas P. Hook
Eddie Schubert as Jake Bannion
Monte Montague as Simon Bannion
Kenneth Harlan as Marshall Bill Graves
Julian Rivera as José
Victor Potel as Little Casino
Pat West as Curley
1. Underneath a Western Sky (M K Jerome / Jack Scholl / Ted FioRito)
2. Square Dance (called by Len Slye)
3. Happy Cowboy (Bob Nolan) instrumental
4. Vengeance (M K Jerome / Jack Scholl)
(Thanks to Ed Phillips for help with actor identification and to Bob Costa for remastering the music.)
The story opens with a proclamation and a land rush on April 22, 1850, opening the land of the Arapaho Nation to settlement. Phineas Hook and his henchmen, Jake and Simon Bannion find a spot to their liking and murder the man who had already claimed it.
Five years later, in a wagon train heading for California, young Frank Wilson Jr. takes his turn driving his father's wagon and the Coburn's daughter, Jen, sits with him. He sings "Underneath a Western Sky" to the accompaniment of Jen's guitar.
George Ernest and Bonita Granville
When they arrive in the town that had sprung up, Frank Sr. looks up Hook who has become a prosperous, murderous businessman. Frank Sr. has a load of trade goods and, instead of going on to California, sells them to Hook, pockets the money and begins the return trip for another load.
Addison Richards dealing with Charles Middleton and his two henchmen, Eddie Schubert and Monte Montague
Dressed like Indians, the Bannion brothers attack the wagon and Frank orders young Frankie to take the money, jump from the wagon and hide. Frank is murdered, the Bannions search for the money in vain while Frankie watches from the ditch. He sees Hook arrive and hears him order the Bannions to find him and the money. Because Frankie had lost the money when he jumped out of the wagon, he has to wait helplessly in the ditch while the Bannions find it and then set fire to his wagon. He buries his father then vows to return and make the three criminals pay for murdering him.
Some years later, Frankie returns to keep his vow and returns to his father's grave.
Dick Foran as "The Singing Kid"
As the unidentified "Singing Kid", he begins to settle the score with Hook by holding up his stagecoaches. He takes only money or goods belonging to Hook. The Singing Kid has three sidekicks, Curley, Little Casino and José who aid him in his quest and get him out of difficulties.
He likewise gets them out of tight corners. Hook, who has rustled a herd of cattle himself, rounds the three men up and prepares to hang them for the theft. The Singing Kid rescues them and hangs Hook and his henchmen artistically from the same tree. José threatens to cut off Hook's ear and, throughout the film, provides comic relief by trying to remove ears from various villains.
Our four heroes return the herd to its rightful owner and Frank also renews his acquaintance with Jen Coburn, whose family has remained in the area. He attends a barbecue and dance at the Coburn Ranch, wins a horse race and the right to share Jen's lunch. Jen is as yet unaware of his true identity.
Dick Foran's double on Smoke.
The following is the only scene involving the Sons of the Pioneers although their music can be heard accompanying the singing in other scenes. Len Slye calls a square dance and then The Singing Kid sings "Underneath a Western Sky" which identifies him to Hook's henchmen.
Left: Roy on the table, calling the square dance, Bob Nolan on the bull fiddle at right.
Right: Dick Foran and Hugh Farr with "Underneath a Western Sky".
Just as Frank and Jen are ready to begin their picnic together, Hook accuses Frank of being The Singing Kid with a price on his head. (In the background, the Sons of the Pioneers play "Happy Cowboy" as an instrumental.)
The Singing Kid escapes Hook and his henchman with ease and returns to find Jen to explain to her. While his three compadres protect him from a sharpshooter by dragging the man to the hideout at the end of a lasso, Frank lets Jen know he was her old playmate of the wagon train.
Leaving her, he rides to the hideout where he finds a disheveled Jake. He instructs his men to strip the villain and tie him loosely so he can escape. He leaves his own clothes for him to find and his horse to ride. Hook shoots him, thinking he is The Singing Kid.
Back at the hideout, the Kid erases a chalk drawing of Jake and sings "Vengeance". Two chalk drawings remain - one of Simon and the other of Hook.
When he discovers his mistake, Hook tells the town Marshall that The Singing Kid did it. The Marshall rides out to Coburns and meets Frank, not realizing the he is The Singing Kid until he's gone. The Coburns tell him the true story about Hook killing Frank's father.
Left: Kenneth Harlan, Monte Montague and Charles Middleton.
Right: Alma Lloyd, Dick Foran, Jim Farley and Kenneth Harlan.
Frank writes a note to Hook warning him that he will arrive right at 8pm. He does - but Simon walks through Hook's door first and is shot. When he reports the death to the Marshall, Hook blames this on The Singing Kid, too. Frank erases Simon's chalked image from the hideout door, leaving only Hook. Hook is desperate now and thinks up a scheme to frame Frank. He hires a man (Gene Alsace) to masquerade as The Singing Kid and sing the Kid's "Vengeance" song. (Bob Nolan's voice is dubbed in here.)
Left: Gene Alsace
Right: Julian Rivera, Dick Foran, Pat West and Victor Potel.
Frank and his gang overhear Hook's plans to rob the mail wearing Frank's clothing. Frank and his companions get themselves put into jail before the robbery takes place so that, when Hook reports it, he is faced with his lie.
Hook shoots the Marshall, runs from the Marshall's office and jumps into the empty stagecoach. "Head for the Pass!" he orders his driver. The wounded Marshall crawls over to the cell and frees The Kid and his compadres. After a wild race, the stage overturns on a curve and Hook is killed.
Frank returns the money from his original robberies, marries Jen and heads to California with his trusty henchmen to the tune of "Underneath a Western Sky".
Dick Foran and Alma Lloyd
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
Calin Coburn Collections
Bruce Hickey images
Dick Foran singing, "Underneath a Western Sky" to the accompaniment of Hugh and Karl Farr. Bob Nolan (in blue) is at the far right.
This is the soundtrack recording you hear as you read this.