Roy Rogers in “Bad Man of Deadwood” (1941)

“Bad Man of Deadwood” starts off with Brett Starr a/k/a Bill Brady (Roy Rogers), Professor Gabby Blackstone (George ‘Gabby’ Hayes), and Princess Sally Blackstone (Sally Payne) putting on a show with Roy singing a song. They are all members of “Professor Blackstone’s Medicine Show”, a snake oil and singalong side show.

Their offering of tuneful entertainment and elixir arrives and enters the town of Deadwood, where its businesses are controlled by Ripper (Hal Taliaferro) and his gang of local hoods that have rendered the Sheriff (Monte Blue) and the Judge (Herbert Rawlinson) powerless.

Ticket sales at Jake Marvel’s (Ralf Harolde) theater were way down when the medicine show was performing. So, it’s claimed they need a license to stay, and the mayor, who dispenses such, is said to be out of town.

Brady is a trick shooter trying to put his gun handy ways behind him. Of course, the bad guys wouldn’t allow that, and when they push him too far we see how corrupt the legal system is here in Deadwood. Professor Blackstone’s Medicine Show is quickly run out by Ripper and his gang.

But, before they leave, they get involved in an attack by Ripper’s badmen on the town’s general store. They barely escape, back to their wagon, and are recommended by a young woman to go to Laramie Gap, where others who have been pressured to leave, have established a small community. They are welcomed by this community, who save them from a gang of badmen chasing them.

When the going gets too tough Brady and Gabby fight back to bring the gang to the law with evidence. They join the Laramie Gap gang that is fighting Ripper. They are made up of everyone who has been mistreated or run out of town is gathering up and working together to fight back.

When Gabby’s inheritance money is stolen, the crew must come up with a plan to try to get his money back. They rob the stage to get it back. It was in the strong box on the stage, being transported elsewhere. Strangely, the money was divvied between a number of envelopes, with names on the envelopes that indicated that it had been divided between members of the civic league: a group of well established businessmen in Deadwood who schemed to keep out new competition. Significantly, much the largest portion was in the envelope marked Ted Carver (Henry Brandon), the editor of the local newspaper. This suggested that he might be the one who divided the money, although this would be a very surprising development, since Carver was regarded as a strong voice for law and order. Getting the money and the names assigned to it, Brady hopes this evidence will enable the Judge to bring law and order to Deadwood.

Chasing, shooting. more chasing, more shooting ensues. A very typical western.

The other young female of interest is Carol Adams, who plays Linda Barrett, reporter for Carver’s newspaper. It’s later established that she isn’t aware of her boss’s shady dealings. Thus, she becomes a romantic interest for Roy, who is thinking of settling down nearby.

A 1941 American Black & White Western film produced & directed by Joseph Kane, written by James R. Webb, cinematography by William Nobles, starring Roy Rogers, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Carol Adams, Henry Brando, Herbert Rawlinson, Sally Payne, Sally Blackstone, Hal Taliaferro, Jay Novello, Horace Murphy, Monte Blue, Ralf Harolde, and Jack Kirk. Distributed by Republic Pictures.

James R. Webb went on to win the Academy Award (Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen) for “How the West was Won” (1962).

Joseph Kane, Jasper Joseph Inman Kane (1894 – 1975) began his career as a professional cellist. In 1934 he took an interest in film directing and, starting in 1935, he co-directed serials for Mascot Pictures and Republic Pictures, earning the monicker, “king of the westerns.”

A Roy Rogers’ Western before Trigger became the smartest horse in the movies. Rogers emerged from the Sons of the Pioneers in 1938 to lead in oaters and he’d been Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Sheriff of Tombstone, and Brett Starr. Later on, of course, he abandoned all these characters and played ‘Roy Rogers’.

Soundtrack music:
“Joe O’Grady” – Written by Jule Styne and Sol Meyer, performed by Roy Rogers and Sally Payne
“Home on the Rangeland” – Written by Rogers and Fred Rose, performed by Roy Rogers
“Song of the Dusty Trail” – Written by Fred Rose and Ray Whitley, performed by Roy Rogers

There’s a lot of gallopin’ and shootin’, and the US Cavalry arrives at the last moment. All good stuff. They weren’t junk, you know, these Republic oaters. They were positively big-budget compared with the Bob Steele/Buster Crabbe PRC Billy the Kid programmers.

If you have to pick a single movie to introduce someone to B westerns, this is a good choice. Roy Rogers was a big star, and his movies got extra attention. This oater never slows down, hits a lull, or has any filler, and it has the look and editing of the perfect cowboy movie.


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