South of Santa Fe
Republic Pictures Corporation
Production Dates: completed on January 5, 1942
Release Date: 1942 02 17
Running Time: 59 minutes (4,998 ft or 6 reels)
Production Number: 1124
Location: Andy Juaregui Ranch
South of Santa Fe incorporates all the popular elements of the B films of the early 40s: action, big city gangsters, pretty heroine, brave cowboys, hold-ups, fast cars, fast horses, airplanes, kidnappings, Colt 45s and machine guns mixed with lots of fast-paced songs. Guest stars are Spade Cooley, Judy Clark and Bobby Beers. Although they are present in nearly every scene, the Sons of the Pioneers, with the exception of Pat Brady, have very little dialogue. No uncut version has become available yet.
The making of this film was very nearly disastrous to Bob Nolan's career - or even his life. In one scene, the Sons of the Pioneers were to pull Gabby's car out of a wash. Here's what happened in Bob's own words:
I had one fall and that was my own fault because I shouldn’t have attempted to do the thing that they wanted me to do in "South of Santa Fe". The stunt was to rope Gabby Hayes’ Tin Lizzie which was stuck in a mud hole, see. I take my dallies around and pull him out with my horse. My horse, when he turned to go away, stepped over that rope and that’s all she wrote, you know. He broke in two and I went up and then down right under his feet. Now, this horse is tethered to this rope and he can’t get away from it and it’s all over. But he never touched me once. I could feel the air of his hooves going past my head. One of those, if it had caught me right in the head, I was through. That’s all. But that put the end of me trying to do any kind of a stunt. I called for a stunt man every time.
Left: Roy Rogers as himself and Linda Hayes as Carol Stevens
Right: George "Gabby" Hayes as Gabby Whittaker
Left: Roy with the Sons of the Pioneers, cowhands and musicians
Right: Bob Nolan as the foreman
Left: Paul Fix as Joe Keenan aka Harmon and Jack Ingram as Louie
Right: Charles F. Miller as John McMahon, Arthur Loft as Peter Moreland and Sam Flint as Harold Prentiss
Left: Hank Bell as the bartender, Centre: Milburn Morante as Ace Brody and Right: Jack Kirk as Sheriff Benton
Left: Judy Clark as Judy and Bobby Beers as Bobby
Right centre: Spade Cooley as Jim Clancy, the projectionist
We’re Headin’ for the Home Corral
(Tim and Glenn Spencer)
The film opens with Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers riding down the road, singing We're Headin' for the Home Corral. Each member of the group has a verse.
Left: Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers. Right: Roy Rogers
Left: Karl Farr. Right: Hugh Farr
Left: Bob Nolan and Lloyd Perryman. Right: Tim Spencer and Pat Brady
They hear a Klaxon behind them and turn to find the mayor of Whittaker City, Gabby Whittaker, overtaking them. The Pioneers tease him a bit and then Roy calls out a warning about the washout ahead. Gabby assures him that his car, Leapin' Lizie (not Lizzie), is quite capable of handling any washout but the words are no sooner out of his mouth than he gets stuck.
The Pioneers fasten their ropes to Leapin' Lizie and gleefully pull Gabby out of the wash. [Although it isn't included in the film, this is where Bob's horse was caught in the rope and bucked him off. You'll notice that Bob's double has his back to the camera in the finished scene.] Gabby pulls over and stops.
Gabby is carrying the mail and has several pieces for mine owner, Carol Stevens. Roy playfully holds him up at gunpoint, extricates a certain letter from the pile and says he'll deliver it himself. Gabby wrathfully assures Roy that Leapin' Lizie will reach Carol before he does. She doesn't.
When Roy hands Carol the letter from investor, Peter Moreland, she opens it hopefully because her mine development is badly in need of financing and she's had nothing but rejections to every other application she's made. This one is also a rejection and, as Gabby joins them, Roy gets an idea about a presenting "singing telegram" to prospective investors.
Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers burst into Peter Moreland's office singing Bob Nolan's Song of the Vaqueros and, at the conclusion of the song, Mr. Moreland is ready to head for Whittaker City to take part in their Vaqueros celebration.
This song is interesting because Roy Rogers, many times over the long years of his life, remarked on Bob's beautiful physique. Bob was an athlete with the well-developed chest and long, smooth muscles of the swimmer he was. The song Bob wrote for the film is tongue-in-cheek praise of his own build.
Roy and the Pioneers also invite John McMahon and Harold Prentiss to be guests of honor at Whittaker City's annual Vaquero Ride. One other man, Joe Keenan, a big city gangster hiding out from the law, decides to take advantage of the Vaquero Ride.
The first day they hit town, Keenan and his confederates, Muggsy (or Bugsy) and Louis go into a bar to learn something about the locality from the bartender. He tells them about the coming Vaquero Ride and all the wealthy men who will be taking part. They learn that a bearded old-timer asleep at one of the tables had been an outlaw in the old days and knew the badlands like the back of his hands.
Keenan decides to hide out here and becomes "Joe Harmon", a wealthy businessman. Although he tries to fit in with them, he despises the other guests and his arrogance sets their teeth on edge.
Gabby and Pat have an ongoing pigeon racing bet and they are constantly bickering about the qualities of each other's pigeons, Princess Ide and The Desert Tornado.
Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers meet Moreland, McMahon and Prentiss in town and accompany them on horseback to meet Carol who has arranged a party for them. The group, led by Roy and the Sons of the Pioneers, sing Down the Trail with them. The mounted party is met by two children, Judy and Bobby, singing Yodel Your Troubles Away for them.
Judy Clark and Bobby Beers with Spade Cooley in front on guitar, the Pioneers behind them all.
Gabby and Pat argue about their pigeons some more and then go back into the house where a hot jive tune is being played. Everyone is dancing but the two children steal the show with a fast routine.
Carol has decided she must tell them the real reason the prospective investors were invited. Initially disappointed, the three men soon change their minds when they inspect the large pieces of ore she has laid out on a table. They let Carol feel guilty for awhile and then tell her that, although the gold is minimal, the tungsten content of the samples will make it well worth their while to invest in her mine.
Joe Harmon, listening outside the window in the dark, hears enough to realize that here is an opportunity to make hundreds of thousands of dollars for himself. Hearing Roy tell the men that the following day the group will be riding into the badlands and stopping at Willow Springs, he telephones his confederates and they make plans. They will have that sleepy old-time outlaw show them his old hide-out.
The next day, Keenan asks Bob Nolan if they could stage a fake holdup so he could film it with his home movie camera. Bob can't see anything wrong with the idea and agrees.
Meanwhile, Gabby drives Carol and the three investors to the mine and they discuss their future plans while they wait for Roy to arrive with their horses. Gabby drives Carol home. Roy and the men rejoin the crowd and they all set off joyfully for the supper camp. Bob and the boys ride ahead to join the chuckwagon and prepare the meal. While they await their guests, the Pioneers sit around the campfire and sing There's an Open Range Ahead so this is the song the tired and hungry crowd hears as it reaches camp.
With a whoop and a holler the guests dismount but, as they head for the chuckwagon, Keenan and his thugs hold Roy and the Pioneers up with guns. To begin with, Roy and the boys think it's a game but they are soon disabused of the idea, disarmed, and tied up while the gunnies kidnap the guests.
Keenan drives immediately to Gabby and Carol's house where he knocks violently on the door. He waves his movie camera at them and accuses Roy and the Pioneers of kidnapping the guests. He has the film to prove it. The film will be developed in the morning, he says, and he wants everyone to see it.
Next day, Carol, Gabby, Pat, the sheriff, etc, gather to view Keenan's film. (Spade Cooley is the projectionist.) Just in time to see the movie, the kidnapped investors' attorneys arrive. Everyone is dumbstruck to see Bob and the Pioneers apparently herd the guests off at gunpoint. Bob's presence is very unmistakable because there is a close-up of him. Even Carol's faith is shaken. The sheriff and posse head out to make their arrests.
While everyone is excitedly discussing what must have happened, the sound of a plane sends the children outside to look. They watch a small parachute drift down. They pick it up and run to Gabby who discovers that it carries a note asking for a quarter of a million dollars ransom for the prisoners or they will be killed. The attorneys are empowered to provide the ransom money and Gabby volunteers to drive the ransom money out to the kidnappers.
Meanwhile, Roy and the Pioneers are struggling with their bonds and, with the help of a small stream of water, they free themselves. Roy is suspicious because the bonds were too easy to loosen and his suspicion increases when he finds their horses and loaded guns awaiting them.
Still uncertain of what is going on, they mount and head for the ranch but meet the Sheriff and posse on the way.
Roy and Pat are the only ones who escape the posse and they race on to the ranch and Carol who meets them coldly. When Pat tell her that Keenan had asked them to stage the holdup "for the folks back home", she wants to believe them. Then Roy asks her if she saw him or the investors in the picture and she realizes that she hadn't. They quickly decide to find that film and show to the Sheriff before it's too late for the prisoners.
Roy holds no illusions over the fate of the prisoners, even if all the ransom is paid, so he, Pat and Carol jump into her car and head for town just ahead of the posse.
After they are sure the posse has gone, they turn the car around and return to the ranch for Trigger. Pat decides to go into town after the film but Carol takes the car herself and leaves him behind because she knows he would be arrested on sight. She breaks into Keenan's room, finds the reel and then the radio the outlaw uses to contact his confederates. When she realizes what it is, she smashes it and disappears out of the window just as Keenan comes in the door. Carol forces the reluctant sheriff to watch the film again and tells him that the reason Roy is not in the film is that he and the investors were with her at the mine when Keenan staged the fake holdup.
Gabby drives out to Indian Wells with the ransom money and hands it over to Louis. The gangster takes it, shoots Gabby in the chest and rides away. Roy rides up a few seconds too late and takes off after the gunman, knocks him from the saddle, recovers the money and gives chase to another member of the gang. He ropes this one off his horse and ties him up but Louis regains consciousness, sees that the money is gone and returns to the cave to help prepare to dynamite the entrances.
Gabby regains consciousness, tears off a corner of his handkerchief, writes a message on it, ties it to his pigeon's foot and turns her loose. The children point out the returning pigeon to Pat who reads the message telling where the missing men are being held. He takes the message to the sheriff's office, narrowly missing being jailed himself. The Sheriff, after some persuasion, releases the Pioneers and they all tear off for the hideout on horseback.
Now Keenan arrives at the dimly-lit cave, followed by Roy who was right behind Louis. A gun battle ensues, Keenan wounds him and escapes with the money. In the cavern itself, the other henchmen are still holding the guests at gunpoint but they are becoming uneasy at the sound of all the gunfire. They gather together in front of the elderly outlaw who had led them to the cave. He is pretending to be asleep but, when they get close enough, he dives at the back of their knees, knocking them down. The prisoners pounce on the gangsters and disarm them. The posse arrives at the back entrance and takes care of the guards.
Keenan and Louis take the money from the unconscious Roy and escape in their car. Roy wipes the blood off his head and follows on Trigger. He swings into a tree and drops into the convertible, disposing of first one and then the other of the outlaws. Then he jumps from the car just as it flies off the cliff and rolls down the mountain, destroying a perfectly beautiful vehicle.
Everyone gathers together at the end of the film, Gabby proudly displays three indentations in the front of his bullet proof vest, and everyone sings Down the Trail over the end credits.
Studying the Script
Courtesy of Bruce Hickey
(The Calin Coburn Collections)
(The Karl E. Farr Collection)
(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
(Courtesy of Les Adams)
(Courtesy of Bruce Hickey)
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
(The Calin Coburn Collections)