The Old Barn Dance (January 29, 1938)
Released on January 29, 1938: Horse rancher Gene Autry fights a villain more devastating than sheep ranchers, more dangerous than horse thieves . . . Tractor Salesmen!
Produced by Sol C. Siegel
Directed by Joseph Kane
Written by Bernard McConville and Charles F. Royal
The Actors: Gene Autry (Gene Autry), Smiley Burnette (Frog Millhouse), Joan Valerie (Sally Dawson), Sammy McKim (Johnny Dawson), Walter Shrum and His Colorado Hillbillies (musicians), The Stafford Sisters (comic singing trio), Maple City Four (comic singers), Roy Rogers (singer, billed as Dick Weston), Ivan Miller (Mr. Thornton), Earl Dwire (Clem Handley), Hooper Atchley (Maxwell), Ray Bennett (henchman Buck), Carleton Young (Peabody), Frankie Marvin (cowboy), Earl Hodgins (Terwilliger), Gloria Rich (county fair singer), Victor Adamson (cowboy), Chris Allen (old dancer), Chuck Baldra (man at dance), Bob Burns (tractor owning farmer), Fred Burns (farmer), Bob Card (tractor owner), Ken Cooper (Autry ranch hand), Frank Darien (Dawson), Jack Evans (tractor owner), Helen Gibson (woman at dance), Neal Hart (second sheriff), Art Janes (singer, Maple City Four), Jack Kenney (tractor salesman), Duke R. Lee (first sheriff), Fritz Meissner (singer, Maple City Four), George Montgomery (rider), Bill Nestell (tractor owner), Bob Nolan (singer), Bill Patton (tractor owner), Pat Petterson (singer, Maple City Four), Al Rice (singer, Maple City Four), Jack Rockwell (Reagan), Francis Sayles (tractor owner), Cal Shrum (band member), Walt Shrum (banjo player), Rudy Sooter (musician)
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Gene Autry was the most famous singing cowboy of motion pictures when this movie was released, and immediately after filming this movie, he made demands for a better contract for the next movie that were rejected by Republic Pictures and instead of paying him a lot more money, they went on the search for a replacement. Autry's next picture, already scheduled for shooting, would need a new leading man . . . that man was an unknown singer in the background of this movie that nobody noticed before. My imagination plays it out something like this:
The producers and directors are talking about who they have working in the studios that can replace the legendary Autry . . . . Someone mentions one of the singers from the Sons of the Pioneers with Bob Nolan who might fit the bill. He has been in several cowboy movies in bit parts . . . singing in the background and being a cowhand without any speaking parts . . . He is a young fellow named Leonard . . . he is one of the background singers in this movie . . . billed as Dick Weston instead of Leonard Slye.
After taking a look at the young fellow they decided that he had a better screen image than Gene Autry . . . a clean-cut sharp-jawed fellow who could not only sing as well as Autry but could handle a horse. Of course they would need to give him a new name. . . Dick Weston wasn't bad, but Leonard Slye would never do for a cowboy hero.
How about Roy . . . Roy Rogers? Four months after this movie hit the big screens, the next Republic Pictures cowboy adventure was sent to theaters across the nation. It was called Under Western Stars . . . Starring a new young fellow freshly named Roy Rogers, . . . And he would go on to become a much bigger movie star than Gene Autry ever was, gaining the title of King of the Cowboys. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and watch for an unknown singer in the background of the movie who would very soon become the biggest cowboy movie star in motion picture history.
Earl Dwire and Jack Kenney
Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette
Jack Rockwell and Joan Valerie
Joan Valerie and Gene Autry
Joan Valerie in the hay loft
Sammy McKim and Frank Darien
Sammy McKim and Joan Valerie
The Maple City Four