Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts (1937)

“Tex Rides with the Boy Scouts” (1937) stars Tex Ritter, his horse “White Flash”, and features Marjorie Reynolds, who later went on to a better role in “Holiday Inn” (1942) opposite Bing Crosby.

The movie begins with a kind a newsreel feel to it with the announcer voice over telling us a bit about the history of the Boy Scouts. In this short, Tex, and his two bumbling pals Stubby, played by Horace Murphy and Pee Wee, played by Snub Pollard, stumble upon a Boy Scout camp near to where some bad guys are hiding stolen gold.

You have to be a pretty confident guy to hang out with pals named Pee Wee and Stubby, or else just desperate for friends. Tex has an easy time winning over the Scouts, because he lets on he is a former Scout himself. The lead Scout, a freckled, overly enthusiastic youth named Buzzy, who says things like “Jiminy Crickets!” has a big sister, played by Marjorie Reynolds. “Sis” does little more than pout in Tex’s direction, so there is little love interest in the film. Just as well, because that’s sissy stuff.

Tex wears an enormous ten-gallon hat, sings a bit, and says things like “mosey.” There is a smattering of stereotype in the form of the Chinese laundry man named Sing Fung, played by Phillip Ahn, who actually says, “No tickee, no washee.” There is some swell riding, a shootout on horseback where nobody loses their hats, and some fisticuffs. Only the bad guys smoke, and there’s no cussing. Just bad acting and bad writing.

The real charm of this film is a brief but lovely segment where Tex gets to sing “Red River Valley” at a barn dance. His band, and the dancers before us, girls in print dresses and men in the best clothes they could find, look utterly genuine, like the kind of people you would see in a rural dance in Depression-era America. It is remarkably unaffected and natural, and all too brief. Tex also sings “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” and the crowds erupts into a square dance. It is sweet and somehow touching.

The only unnatural part of the scene is when “Sis” enters in a gown she might wear to New York City’s Rainbow Room. Then the rest of the short crumbles back to awkward melodrama when young Buzzy gets shot by the bad guy.

After the local sawbones patches the boy up, Tex asks, “Who shot you, son?” After a dramatic, almost eternal pause (young Buzzy, played by Tommy Bupp, has learned to milk it), Buzzy accuses the bad guy in some mumbled additional plot exposition.

Tex and the Boy Scouts prevail in this Grand National picture, Marjorie Reynolds went on to better things, and alls well that ends well.

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