By Barb Godwin, HRL publisher
Cowboys and Kings, America and the Royals, romance and drama, kidnap and rescue, this film touches on a long list of genres, all in a 15 minute run time!
Cowboys and the Wild West are iconic in America and are often glamorized and given celebrity status, their humble beginnings buried in our history. While royals hold celebrity status, they have limited space in our past, with the exception of America’s beginnings. Still, Americans have long followed current events and closely watched the drama and unfolding lives of those holding royal titles.
In 1939 the first visit to the United States was made by a British Monarch. King George VI, the father of Princess Elizabeth the future Queen, responded to the invitation of President Franklin Roosevelt. In a Gaumont newsreel, the narrator states that the last time the British had gone to the US capital was to “burn the White House”.
This was the dangerous year when Hitler invaded Poland. World War II began when France and Britain declared war on Germany. America was still feeling the repercussions of the stock market crash in 1929 and the Great Depression but was slowly reviving.
During the command performance cowboy John Payne (as Bill Stevens) sings "That's the Way to Be a Buckaroo" to the young king (Scotty Beckett).
It was also considered one of the greatest years for Hollywood, with 365 films released and movie tickets sold at the rate of 80 million a week. Iconic films such as “Gone With The Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz” were among those released, as well as Roy Rogers starring as “The Wall Street Cowboy.”
But there was a short (and we mean short) musical film released by Warner Brothers entitled “The Royal Rodeo” that was a combination of music, cowboys, and royalty with a bit of romance thrown in.
Directed by George Amy, the film was produced solely for entertainment and based on an original story by Nate Gatzert. Owen Crump wrote the screenplay.
A very young monarch (actor Scotty Beckett) who is the king of a Balkan country, Avania, is bored with his responsibility of rule and becomes entranced by the idea of the American Cowboy. Luckily a rodeo led by cowboy Bill Stevens (John Payne) arrives in the kingdom. The King and Cowboy become friends and a rodeo is held at the castle.
The abduction of the king and his pretty blonde governess (Lucile Fairbanks) leads to a western chase, with the royal carriage being pursued by the Singing Cowboy and his Native American allies.
But treachery threatens the boy king and his beautiful governess Marianne, played by Lucille Fairbanks. They are abducted by the evil Regent in a conspiracy to overthrow the rule of the young royal.
Thankfully the cowboy star not only saves them both while putting on a Wild West show, he gives them all a taste of the American Way. With a fifteen-minute run time, this film royally promotes the American Cowboy!
With global chaos ensuing, a poverty-stricken America celebrated a way of life created as entertainment in the film industry and, along with the royals, reigned for decades. The American Cowboy on the big (and small) screen had just begun captivating audiences.
Whether Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne, or Scotty Beckett the genre “westerns” became a major attraction and money maker for Hollywood.