This Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of B-western hero Gene Autry.
From the official Gene Autry website, we have the following admission, “When Gene Autry went to Hollywood in 1934, he couldn't act, he couldn't ride, he couldn't rope and he couldn't shoot. But that didn't prevent him from becoming the screen's most popular cowboy star within just a few years, revitalizing the whole genre and paving the way for Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter and other Western warblers.”
That pretty much sums up his rise to stardom, that and one thing more. Gene Autry is also the only entertainer to have all five stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for records, radio, movies, television and live performances. The man knew how to diversify.
The plots of his films were pretty simple. The romances were chaste, the bad guys lost, the good guys won, and the comedy relief sidekick was always stupid but good natured. It was a winning formula for the 89 of Gene’s films made between 1935 and 1953.
His accomplishments extended as well to business and to philanthropy. The museums of the Autry National Center promoting Southwest history and culture are gems, and not to be missed if you’re traveling to Los Angeles.
Gene Autry’s acting style was a bit wooden. There are planks of wood out there at the Home Depot that are not as wooden as Gene. But when he sings, “Sioux City Sue, your hair is red, your eyes are blue, I’d swap my horse and dog for you,” well, you can’t get any more romantic than that. Gene played a good guy. Today’s filmmakers show us that nobody is all good or all bad, and while that is true, it sometimes seems there is nobody good at all anymore. Gene was good. He just was, and our confidence in his goodness made us care that he bested the bad guys.
The Encore Western channel is running a 100-hour Gene Autry marathon this weekend. Have a look, and at the official Gene Autry website as well (http://www.autry.com), for more on this old movie hombre.