Friday, September 28, 2018


Some of Bing Crosby’s movies from the 1930s are pretty forgettable. The plots are light and even the movie run times are short – some do not even surpass the 90 minute mark. We all know that the main draw of the films was Bing Crosby and his singing. It was singing that was new to popular music and new to movie musicals as a whole. Bing’s 1936 film Rhythm On The Range may not be an epic cinematic adventure, but it was enjoyable, fun, and it featured some great Bing moments! I had not watched the film in years, but I was home sick with a cold and figured it would be a great chance to revisit the movie.

Based on a story by Mervin J. Houser, the film is about a cowboy who meets a beautiful young woman while returning from a rodeo in the east, and invites her to stay at his California ranch to experience his simple, honest way of life. Rhythm on the Range was Crosby's only western film (apart from the 1966 remake of Stagecoach. Bing starred as Jeff Larabee, a simple man who would rather sleep under the stares than be burdened by city living. It was not really a stretch for Bing, because Bing loved the outdoors and western life that he even had a ranch built in Elko, Nevada in the 1940s. So basically, Bing played himself or at least one facet of whom he was.

In addition to Bing Crosby, troubled actress Frances Farmer was cast as Bing’s leading lady. Farmer played Doris Halliday. She was the daughter of a big New York millionaire who left her fiancé at the altar, so she could try to live her life the way she wanted to. Things like that just did not happen in 1936! Frances Farmer was brought to Hollywood after having a successful Broadway career in the early 1930s. Frances soon found herself co-starring with Hollywood’s biggest star Bing Crosby and then loaned out for the Howard Hawks film Come And Get It (also from 1936), where she was given the challenging dual roles of mother and daughter. Hawks called her “the greatest actress I have ever worked with”. However, depression and alcoholism caused Farmer’s star power to fade, and she spent most of her later years in and out of mental hospitals. You would not think that Bing and Frances Farmer would be compatible as star and co-star, but they were very good together. They made the romance seem believable, even though I found Farmer’s acting to be somewhat wooden.

Rounding out the cast was comedian Bob Burns, who I have to say I never got. I did not think he was that funny or even interesting. Was he trying to replace Will Rogers as a “down home” comedian? I never was too sure. Bob Burns plays Bing’s best friend and fellow rodeo employee. Making her debut in the film was the great Martha Raye. Raye plays a woman that Bob Burns’ character meets on the train, and she instantly falls for him. Raye’s character is pretty forgettable, but she is really bubbly and enjoyable in this debut role. Bing worked well with Martha Raye’s comedy, and they would make a few movies together. (Martha Raye would also appear on Bing’s 50th Anniversary Special on television in 1977.) There are also great cameos in the film like musician Louis Prima, future singing cowboy Roy Rogers, and the singing group The Sons Of The Pioneers...


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