Heldorado (December 15, 1946)
Released on December 15, 1946: Roy Rogers is a Nevada State Ranger who visits the annual Helldorado Frontier Days Festival in Las Vegas, and must investigate the Festival Queen who is passing black market thousand dollar bills.
Directed by W. Lee Wilder
Written by Gerald Geraghty and Julian Zimet.
The Actors: Roy Rogers (Roy Rogers), George 'Gabby' Hayes (Gabby), Dale Evans (Carol Randall), Paul Harvey (C.W. Driscoll, gangster), Brad Dexter (Alec Baxter), John Bagni (henchman Johnny), John Phillips (Sheriff), Malcolm 'Bud' McTaggart (Dr. Harrison), Rex Lease (Charlie, bartender), Steve Darrell (henchman Mitch), Doye O'Dell (carnival ticket taker), LeRoy Mason (ranger at dam), Charles Williams (carnival judge), Eddie Acuff (carnival shooting gallery attendant), Bob Nolan (leader, Sons of the Pioneers), Pat Brady (Pat Brady, member Sons of the Pioneers), Tim Spencer (member, Sons of the Pioneers), Hugh Farr (Hugh, member Sons of the Pioneers), Karl Farr (member Sons of the Pioneers, man at treasure hung), Lloyd Perryman (guitar player, Sons of the Pioneers), Phil Arnold (vendor), Sam Ash (vendor), Joaquin Bascou (little girl), Virginia Carroll (Ann, hatcheck girl), George Chandler (photographer), Tex Cooper (townsman), Bobbie Dorree (cowgirl), Shug Fisher (stable foreman), Frank Henry (deputy), Eddie Kane (Humphries, State Bank), Walter Lawrence (vendor), Frank McGrath (bearded man next to carnival jail), Clayton Moore (Joe, reporter), Victor Potel (Desert Springs station agent), Keith Richards (croupier), Tom Smith (parade spectator), Jack Sparks (guitar player), Tex Terry (cowhand), Emmett Vogan Jr. (show barker), Bill Yrigoyen (rider), Joe Yrigoyen (rider).
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First off, I must tell you that I enjoyed this Roy Rogers adventure as much, if not more, than most of his movies. But that said, I will spend the rest of my words on the errors and mistakes in the film. First off, that title - "Heldorado" - if you watch this flick, you will see that all of the signage for the actual event is spelled "Helldorado" with two L's. So why only one L in the title of the movie? My guess is that in 1946 America, many small town theaters would refuse to put the title of any movie with a name that contained a 'four letter word' on thier large marquee outside the theater. So they mis-spelled the name of the annual event in Las Vegas so they wouldn't be 'banned in Boston.'
Now the Helldorado parade in Las Vegas . . . it began in 1934, and by the time this movie was shot, it was a growing event in the young city of Las Vegas. No problem. But you know, they stole that name from Tombstone, Arizona, where in the late 1800's a disgruntled miner wrote a letter to the local newspaper complaining that he came to Tombstone to find his fortune in gold, but ended up washing dishes in a local restaruant. The town was known as "El Dorado" in those days, and he just added a couple of letters to illustrate his displeasure. Now the town of Tombstone liked the name also, and they have an annual Helldorado event that began years before the Vegas event. But hey, would you rather film a movie in Tombstone or Vegas? I get it.
Next, everyone knows about the stuck-at-the-hips love affair between Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans, but in this flick they do their best to convince us that they don't like each other on any level. Sure, I'll buy that . . . maybe . . . maybe if the beverage I'm enjoying with my bowl of hot buttered white kernel popcorn is actually an adult beverage . . . and I've had a couple already . . . maybe.
And then there is the nub of the plot. Now today we are familiar with cops chasing down drug money - stacks of hundred dollar bills that gangsters try to 'launder' through various means. But here in 1946 we are presented with a gangster that is trying to launder black market money . . . and it is stacks of Thousand Dollar Bills. The U.S. stopped making anything larger than a hudred dollar bill in 1945, but I imagine that there may have been some thousand dollar bills still around in 1946. But come on . . . a quarter of a million in thousand dollar bills, and our bad guys are spending them around town just to get the change in laundered fresh money? Vegas is Vegas, and maybe local merchants had lots of change and didn't blink an eye at small purchases made with thousand dollar bills, but I kinda doubt it. The McDonald's restaurant near me still has a sign on it that they will not even take a hundred dollar bill, some 70 years later, when the hundred isn't worth as much as it was back then.
But the thing that gets my goat . . . I just cannot get it out of my mind . . . movies have the opportunity to not only entertain us, but to also educate us on things that we cannot learn anywhere else. This movie walked right up to the edge of a scientific discovery that has baffled us for almost a hundred years now, and they tempted us with the answer, but then moved on without telling us the truth. What a travesty! I feel betrayed! Well into the story, Dale Evans hides from the gangsters in a refrigerator . . . now first kiddies, never try this at home . . . Dale Evans is a professional, and there were many support people around her that day of filming to insure her safety. But back to my gripe. When Roy Rogers rushes to her rescue, and opens the door to let her escape, he asks her the question that has bothered us for generations now. And she certainly knew the answer, but refused to tell us. He asked her if the light really goes off when the door is shut, and she gave hime a 'you are sleeping in the dog house tonight' look and the story moved on without her revealing that age old mystery. Oh well, it was still a great movie to make you happy, or keep you happy, on a quiet afternoon. If you cannot make it to the annual event in Las Vegas that happens in May, just watch this adventure and enjoy vicariously.