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The Big Show (November 16, 1936)

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Gene Autry at The Big Show
 

Released on November 16, 1936: (running time 53 minutes) Gene Autry thwarts gangsters at the Texas Centennary Celebration and rodeo.

Produced by Nat Levine

Directed by Mack V. Wright and Joseph Kane

The Actors: Gene Autry (stunt man Gene Autry and movie star Tom Ford), Smiley Burnette (Frog), Kay Hughes (Marion Hill), Sally Payne (Toodles Brown), William Newell (Lee Wilson, movie studio publicity man), Max Terhune (ventriloquist), Charles Judels (Swartz, movie studio head), Roy Rogers (Sons of the Pioneers guitarist), Sons of the Pioneers (musicians), The Jones Boys (singers), The Beverly Hill Billies (musicians), The Light Crust Doughboys (musicians), Rex King (Fred Collins), Harry Worth (Tony Rico, gangster), Mary Russell (Mary), Christine Maple (Miss Van Everly, Ford's Fiance), Jerry Larkin (Blackie, Rico's henchman), Jack O'Shea (henchman Joe), Wedgwood Nowell (the movie director), Antrim Short (studio assistant), June Johnson (studio secretary), Grace Durkin (studio girl), Richard Beach (studio assistant), Elton Britt (musician with the Beverly Hill Billies Band), Horace B. Carpenter (studio gate man), George Chesebro (henchman), Hugh Farr (Sons of the Pioneers violinist), Karl Farr (Sons of the Pioneers guitarist), Aleth Hansen (musician with the Beverly Hill Billies Band), Edward Hearn (studio man), I. Stanford Jolley (parade extra), Cornelius Keefe (studio actress), Jeanne Lafayette (studio actress), Tracy Layne (henchman), Frankie Marvin (movie lot cowboy), Art Mix (studio stunt double), Marvin 'Smokey' Montgomery (musician with The Light Crust Doughboys), Frances Morris (studio script girl), Bob Nolan (Sons of the Pioneers Bassist), Captain Leonard Pack (himself), Jack Rockwell (studio actor), Helen Servis (studio actress), The SMU 50 (Southern Methodist University Marching Band), Rudy Sooter (musician with the Beverly Hill Billies Band), Tim Spencer (Sons of the Pioneers singer), Martin Stevenson (studio actor), Slim Whitaker (henchman)

 

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The Singing Cowboys at the Texas Centennial

From June 6, 1936 until November 29, 1936 Texas held a Centennial Exposition that attracted six million people, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The celebration featured art-deco architecture pointing to the future, and a celebration of the Western Cowboy culture. The western Cavalcade of Texas featured the largest stage ever created, showcasing the finest rodeo and western shows of the time.

Singing cowboy Gene Autry was probably the most famous cowboy star in 1936, and he was part of the headline show at the fair. This movie was filmed in Fair Park during the first weeks of the exposition, and released on November 16, while the fair was still going on. While we are watching most of the action scenes, a large audience in the bleachers is also watching.

If you look at the teaser picture that I selected for this movie, you can see Gene Autry at the peak of his popularity, and also the man who would replace him as King of the Cowboys. Gene Autry selected the Sons of the Pioneers to play for him during the Centennial, and a young man from Cincinnati Ohio named Leonard Slye is on the right of the picture, dressed in black and playing guitar.

In 1938 Gene Autry was so popular that he demanded a large increase in his salary, and Republic Pictures immediately began searching for a new singing cowboy that it could groom into a replacement for the high-priced Autry. Leonard Slye became Roy Rogers, filming his first role as a singing cowboy hero instead of a guitar-playing singer in the backup band, and soon Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy) were all competing with each other for the hearts of Western movie fans.

When Gene Autry joined the Army Air Forces during the final years of World War Two, Republic began boosting the career of Roy Rogers, and after the war, Gene Autry began making his own independent movies, and later television shows.

In this adventure showcasing the 1936 Texas Centennial, Gene Autry is a singer and movie stunt man working for cowboy star Tom Ford, also played by Gene Autry. There are gangsters and two women tangled up with Gene Autry as he performs for the fans at the Cavalcade of Texas exhibition. All of the movie was filmed on Fair Park grounds, and many of the cowboy action scenes were filmed in front of thousands of fair-goers in the bleachers overlooking the Cavalcade of Texas stage. Now almost another hundred years later, we too can watch this historic event. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.

Cavalcade of Texas poster
Cavalcade of Texas poster
Harry Worth, Gene Autry, William Newell
Harry Worth, Gene Autry, William Newell
Antrim Short, Wedgewood Nowell
Antrim Short, Wedgewood Nowell
Champion, Gene Autry
Champion, Gene Autry
Charles Judels
Charles Judels
Charles Judels
Charles Judels
Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Gene Autry, Helen Servis
Gene Autry, Helen Servis
Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Gene Autry
Harry Worth
Harry Worth
Harry Worth, Gene Autry
Harry Worth, Gene Autry
Harry Worth, William Newell
Harry Worth, William Newell
Helen Servis
Helen Servis
Horace B. Carpenter, William Newell
Horace B. Carpenter, William Newell
William Newell
William Newell
Kay Hughes
Kay Hughes
Kay Hughes, Champion, Gene Autry
Kay Hughes, Champion, Gene Autry
Light Crust Dough Boys
Light Crust Dough Boys
Marvin 'Smokey' Montgomery
Marvin 'Smokey' Montgomery
Rex King, Christine Maple, Gene Autry
Rex King, Christine Maple, Gene Autry
Rex King, William Newell
Rex King, William Newell
Sally Payne, Smiley Burnette, William Newell
Sally Payne, Smiley Burnette, William Newell
Smiley Burnette
Smiley Burnette
Sons of the Pioneers
Sons of the Pioneers
Sons of the Pioneers
Sons of the Pioneers
The Beverly Hill Billies
The Beverly Hill Billies
The Jones Boys
The Jones Boys
William Newell
William Newell
William Newell
William Newell