Sunday, October 7, 2018


Rhythm On The Range ambles along, and basically it was the story about a poor man falling for a rich socialite. Bing’s 1934 movie We’re Not Dressing had a similar plot. One of Rhythm On The Range’s most curious moments was the speech given by Lucile Gleason as Penelope 'Penny' Ryland, who owned the rodeo that Bing worked for. As an amazing coincidence, she was also the aunt of Frances Farmer’s character. The speech was about pioneer women and how women should have their own mind to make their own decisions. However, at the end of the movie when she thinks that her niece ran off with Bing, she chastises Bing for taking her niece away. I know that was 1936 and way before the #Me Too movement was even thought about, but as a viewer some 80 years later I find the whole scene annoying. It slowed down the film a bit and did not really further the plot. I have seen Lucille Watson in other roles, but in my opinion her role and acting in this movie was the worst part of the film.

As I wrote earlier, the music and the singing is the top draw of the film. Although for most musicals, only one songwriting works on the film, in Rhythm On The Range numerous songwriters contributed to the film. Three great songs that spotlighted Bing’s soaring vocals were written for the film: “I Can’t Escape From You (written by Richard Whiting and Leo Robin), “Empty Saddles (written by Billy Hill), and “Round Up Lullaby” (Gertrude Ross and Charles Badger Clark). Another great song that was a favorite song of mine for years was “I’m An Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande”, which was written by a young Johnny Mercer. It was one of Mercer’s first hits in Hollywood, and the version filmed for the movie was one of the most charming pieces of the film as the whole cast joined into the song. Martha Raye had a great solo effort with a song that became her signature tune until Ella Fitzgerald made it her own. "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)" written by Sam Coslow) was performed by Martha and accompanied by Bob Burns on his Bazooka, Louis Prima, and The Sons of the Pioneer. It was another high point of the film. Bing recorded most of the song for Decca Records, and there was even a song that Bing recorded called “The House That Jack Built For Jill” that was supposed to be in the film but was omitted from the released film.

Like some of the critics said in 1936, Rhythm On The Range was no western movie. John Wayne had nothing to be nervous about. However, the movie captured Bing really having fun. I have seen enough Bing Crosby movies enough times to notice what movies he had fun doing, and it really looked like Bing had fun on this flick. The movie was a great showcase for Bing’s talent, which was still being discovered in 1936. I highly recommend this breezy film for a fun afternoon viewing, and Bing Crosby definitely puts the rhythm into Rhythm On The Range!


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