In Old Caliente (1939)
Director: Joseph Kane
Cast: Roy Rogers, Lynne Roberts, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes
Synopsis: Americans come west to California in the hope of peaceful settlement.
Apart from the singing, the roles taken by Roy Rogers and John Wayne, that other stalwart of the 1930s Hollywood B-movie, were practically interchangeable. They even shared the same co-star – George ‘Gabby’ Hayes – in a number of flicks, and both presented depression-era audiences with a fine example of clean-cut, presentable American manhood. Even in his early days, though, Wayne was more of a presence on screen, and it’s kind of interesting to watch his on-screen persona develop throughout the 30s. Rogers, however, remained pretty static in terms of screen – and career – development, and was singing on Trigger until he hung up his spurs.
Rogers is OK in In Old Caliente, a solidly built Republic programmer. Although Republic never climbed out of ‘Poverty Row’ status they generally devoted enough care and attention to plotting and production standards to set them apart from other low-budget studios who were churning out dozens of oaters each year (Lone Star, for example). The setting of Spanish-Californian ranchers is a fairly unusual one for this type and era of movie, enabling In Old Caliente to steer clear of most of the common stereotypes and plot cliches, and a decent plot is helped by good performances from a respectable supporting cast. Good use is made of the Californian countryside and coastline – and you will probably never see in any other film, dramatic or comedic, a bunch of cowboys puzzling over a ball made of pure gold…
(Reviewed 11th June 2005)