Across the Rio Grande (1949)
“SINGIN’ JIMMY SENDS AN INNOCENT MAN TO JAIL…then has to blast him out to stop a “necktie party”!”
Director: Oliver Drake
Cast: Jimmy Wakely, Dub Taylor, Reno Browne
Synopsis: Outlaws attempting to kidnap Steve Blaine from a stagecoach are ran off by the sharpshooting of his sister, Sally and rescuers Jimmy Wakely and Cannonball Taylor.
I’ve seen in excess of 7000 movies over a period of thirty years (sad bastard that I am), and spent a lot of time reading up on the history of the cinema and it’s a fact that I’d never heard of Jimmy Wakely, the crooning star of this sorry Monogram Western. Or perhaps I had heard of him, but he never made enough of an impression to stick in my memory. So let’s face it, when a leading man with more than 60 movies under his belt, most of which feature him playing a character with the same name as him, fails to make an impression on a self-confessed cinephile he’s got to be pretty forgettable.
Wakely proves this point in Across the Rio Grande, in which he plays, well, Jimmy Wakely, a cowboy who comes to the aid of a brother and sister Sally and Steven Blaine (Riley Hill and Reno Browne respectively) who find themselves the targets of the evil mine owners who killed their old man after framing him for theft. His face remains immobile throughout except for when it broadens creakily into an unconvincing facsimile of a smile. He’s aided by a comedy sidekick played by Dub Taylor, who was then known as Cannonball Taylor and still had a few stubborn strands of hair clinging to the top of his head. Taylor might be an unfamiliar name to many, but he’s also a familiar face to most who somehow managed to break free from the shackles of Poverty Row hell to forge a career as a respected character actor (he was Michael J. Pollard’s treacherous father in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)). Cannonball gets up to all sorts of ‘comical’ antics, most of which Wakely smiles upon indulgently, like the patient carer of a mentally challenged charge.
Across the Rio Grande lasts only 56 minutes, which is something of a blessing, even though it seems to last a lot longer. The story is rubbish, and features a jail escape which involves Sally Blaine walking up to the barred window of the town’s jail and passing a gun between the bars to her brother. The audacity of it is breathtaking, and leaves you wondering just how long it took screenwriter Ronald Davidson to dream it up. Wakely warbles a couple of tunes, and he has a reasonably pleasant, if unremarkable, singing voice — although singing cowboys have always struck me as a grotesquely incongruous creation.
(Reviewed 26th July 2012)