Down the Wyoming Trail (June 14, 1939)
Released June 14, 1939: Tex is hired to play Santa Clause on Christmas Eve, and when another man dressed as Santa murders a man, Tex is accused and must fight to clear his name.
Directed by Albert Herman
Written by Peter Dixon and Roger Merton.
The Actors: Tex Ritter (Tex Yancey), Mary Brodel (Candy Parker), Bobby Larson (Jerry Parker), Charles King (George 'Red' Becker), Bob Terry (Blackie), Horace Murphy (Sheriff Missouri), Jack Ingram (henchman Monte), Earl Douglas (henchman 'Silent' Smith), Frank LaRue (McClellan), Ernie Adams (Limpy Watkins), Charles Sargent (Ted Kern), Edward Coxen (Whiskers), Jean Sothern (waitress Hilda), Victor Potel (Slim), The Northwesterners (musicians), Merle Scobee (Northwesterners band member), A.J. Brier (Northwesterners band member), Wilson F. Rasch (Northwesterners band member), Ray Scobee (Northwesterners band member), Charles L. Davis (Northwesterners band member), Chuck Baldra (mob organizer), Bob Burns (Bob), Herman Hack (man at party), George Morrell (man at party).
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How many Christmas Cowboy movies have you seen? When have you seen the good guy cowboy in a desperate sled ride down a steep hill through the deep snow? Do you remember John Ritter, the young fellow on the television show 'Three's Company?' Well, John Ritter's papa was a singing cowboy in the 1930's, and this movie stars Tex Ritter, a singing cowboy that plays Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, and winds up in jail on Christmas day facing murder charges and a lynch mob hanging. Pop a big bowl of popcorn and grab a hot cocoa and enjoy a simple tale of clearly defined good guys and bad guys, and a little boy that just wants a nice Christmas.
Our movie opens with Tex riding along a Wyoming trail on Christmas Eve when he comes upon a herd of Elk that look a lot like Santa's reindeer. A little boy on a horse puts a gun on him and orders him to get down off of his horse. Tex takes it good naturedly, and as he is talking to the boy, the Sheriff comes up, and Tex knows him and they renew old friendships. But the bad guys are near by, and they start a stampede of the ranch cattle, and the little boy's big sister is caught in the stampede. There is only one thing to do . . . Tex jumps on his horse and runs after the big sister and gallantly saves her from being destroyed by the stampeding herd. She thanks Tex, and then fires her foreman, who nobody likes anyway, and hires Tex to be her foreman. This is bad news, because the old foreman was part of the gang that is rustling her cattle, and they needed an 'inside' man to get the job done. So when the bad guys find out that Tex is going to dress up as Santa that night, one of them dresses as Santa and robs the ranch payroll and shoots and kills the man that discovers him, the whole town thinks that it was Tex that killed Limpy, and he is taken to jail. Now it is Christmas Day, and Tex is strumming his guitar and singing from his jail cell. If you listen during the first part of his song, before the Sheriff starts knocking drum sounds on his desk, you'll hear a peculiar whine, or almost a Hawaiian guitar sound accompanying him . . . it is the unique sound of a musical saw. Yup, the plain, ordinary kind of cross-cut saw that you'd buy in a hardware store and saw a limb from a tree with. You sit on a chair, put the handle between your knees, and hold about two inches of the tapered end in your right thumb and fingers, and with your left hand hold a violin bow and swipt the violin bow across the straight edge of the saw opposite the teeth. You bend the blade of the saw, and depending on how deeply you bend the saw, you get a higher or lower 'whine' or whistle. I know this because as a youth I played a saw just a bit. Where did I learn how to play it? My dad played the saw for many years, and played it very well. It's a unique sound, made by farmers and pioneers that learned to play music with whatever they had at hand. Now back to the movie . . .
As a lynch mob is ready to storm the jail and string up Tex, he escapes and joins the bad guys. But as things would have it, the bad guys soon figure out that Tex is not with them, and they leave him tied up in their mountain top hideout to die in the cold snow storm that is approaching. Not only that, but the little boy has wandered up to the mountain top hideout and he is also tied up and left to die as the gang heads down the mountain for their final attack on the ranch and the young lady that is running it. As Tex and the young boy lay on the floor of the cold cabin, and winter snow is blowing into the open door, soon to cover them as they lay helplessly on the floor . . . it looks like the end is near for our hero and the little boy, until suddenly . . . .