Melody Ranch

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Melody Ranch
Melody Ranch 1940 Poster.jpg
Australian film poster
Directed byJoseph Santley
Produced bySol C. Siegel
Screenplay by
Music byRaoul Kraushaar (supervisor)
CinematographyJoseph H. August
Edited byLester Orlebeck
Distributed byRepublic Pictures
Release date
  • November 15, 1940 (1940-11-15) (U.S.)
Running time
84 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

Melody Ranch is a 1940 Western musical film directed by Joseph Santley and starring Gene Autry, Jimmy Durante, and Ann Miller. Written by Jack Moffitt, F. Hugh Herbert, Bradford Ropes, and Betty Burbridge, the film is about a singing cowboy who returns to his hometown to restore order when his former childhood enemies take over the frontier town.[2] In 2002, the film was added to the National Film Registry by the National Film Preservation Board and selected for preservation as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."


Gene Autry (Gene Autry) returns to his hometown of Torpedo as guest of honor at the Frontier Days Celebration, where he meets his childhood enemies, the Wildhack brothers—Mark (Barton MacLane), Jasper (Joe Sawyer), and Bud (Horace McMahon)—who are now local gangsters. The Wildhacks own a saloon next door to the school, and when their shooting and brawling endangers the safety of the children, Gene protests and threatens to expose them during his next radio broadcast. The Wildhacks stop the broadcast and beat Gene up.

Realizing that Hollywood life has softened him to the extent that he can't hold his own against three assailants, Gene decides to remain in Torpedo and get into shape again. He is encouraged by his friend Cornelius J. "Corney" Courtney (Jimmy Durante) and Pop Laramie (George "Gabby" Hayes). Refusing to return to Hollywood, Gene now broadcasts his radio shows from Torpedo.

Julie Sheldon (Ann Miller), a debutante with theatrical aspirations, sees Gene in his natural setting and begins to take an interest in the cowboy she formerly scorned. Meanwhile, Gene rounds up the Wildhacks and fights them single-handed, forcing them to sing on his broadcast. When the brothers become determined to get revenge, Gene runs for sheriff so he will be in position to clean up the Wildhack political machine for good, and also make use of the "Vote for Autry" song. During the battles that ensue, one of Gene's friends is killed. Gene discovers evidence that identifies the Wildhacks as the killers.[3]


  • Gene Autry as Gene Autry
  • Jimmy Durante as Cornelius J. Courtney
  • Ann Miller as Julie Shelton
  • Barton MacLane as Mark Wildhack
  • Barbara Jo Allen as Veronica Whipple
  • George "Gabby" Hayes as Pop Laramie
  • Jerome Cowan as Tommy Summerville
  • Mary Lee as Penny Curtis
  • Joe Sawyer as Jasper Wildhack
  • Horace McMahon as Bud Wildhack
  • Clarence Wilson as Judge Henderson
  • William "Billy" Benedict as Slim
  • Maxine Ardell as Majorette (uncredited)
  • Billy Bletcher as Scarlet Shadow Radio Actor
  • Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys as Musicians (uncredited)
  • Dick Elliott as Sheriff Barstow (uncredited)
  • Slim Whitaker as Autry Voter on Trolley (uncredited)
  • Champion as Champion, Gene's Horse (uncredited)[2]



Melody Ranch marks the first romantic leading lady role for dancer Ann Miller. In one love scene Miller and Autry kiss. Negative advance publicity, however, led Republic Pictures to cut the kiss from the final print.[4] Autry later recalled,

Actually we kissed there at the telephone. There was a lot of (advance) publicity over that. The public relations department at republic put out a story I was going to be kissing Ann Miller in a picture. So they were flooded with a lot of letters from the kids saying 'Don't let Gene Autry kiss Ann Miller in the picture—that's sissy!' So finally at the last minute (Republic) said, 'You're taking a chance on it—why raise a controversy with the kids?' so they cut it all out.[4]

Miller would later claim incorrectly that she received Gene's first screen kiss, a distinction that belongs to Barbara Pepper and Ann Rutherford.[4]

Filming and budget[edit]

Melody Ranch was filmed September 16 to October 5, 1940. The film had an operating budget of $181,275 (equal to $3,241,851 today), and a negative cost of $177,520.[2]


  • Yakima Canutt
  • Wally West
  • Joe Yrigoyen (Gene Autry's stunt double)[2]

Filming locations[edit]


  • "Stake Your Claim on Melody Ranch" (Jule Styne, Eddie Cherkose) by Gene Autry and cowboys
  • "Stake Your Claim on Melody Ranch" (reprise) by Gene Autry and Ann Miller
  • "Rodeo Rose" (Jule Styne, Eddie Cherkose) by Gene Autry and musicians
  • "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" (Stephen Foster)
  • "Welcome Home" by the children
  • "Torpedo Joe" (Jule Styne, Eddie Cherkose) by Mary Lee with piano accompaniment
  • "We Never Dream the Same Dream Twice" (Gene Autry, Fred Rose) by Gene Autry and Ann Miller
  • "My Gal Sal" (Paul Dresser) by Ann Miller (vocals and tap dance) and male chorus
  • "William Tell Overture" (Gioachino Rossini)
  • "Back to the City Again" (Ray Whitley, Jule Styne, Eddie Cherkose) by Joe Sawyer and Horace McMahon
  • "Call of the Canyon" (Billy Hill) by Gene Autry
  • "What Are Cowboys Made Of" (Jule Styne, Eddie Cherkose) by Joe Sawyer and Horace McMahon
  • "Vote for Autry" (Jule Styne, Eddie Cherkose) by Jimmy Durante and Mary Lee
  • "Silver Threads Among the Gold" (H.P. Danks, Eben E. Rexford) by Barbara Jo Allen (a cappella)[5]

Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio[edit]

In 1953, Gene Autry purchased the 110-acre (0.45 km2) movie ranch, the Monogram Pictures Ranch property in Placerita Canyon State Park near Newhall, California and renamed it the Melody Ranch after this film.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b c Magers 2007, p. 174.
  2. ^ a b c d Magers 2007, p. 175.
  3. ^ Magers 2007, pp. 174–175.
  4. ^ a b c Magers 2007, p. 176.
  5. ^ Magers, pp. 173–174.
  6. ^ Worden, Leon. "Melody Ranch: Movie Magic in Placerita Canyon". SCV History. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
  7. ^ "Melody Ranch". Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
  • George-Warren, Holly (2007). Public Cowboy no. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195177466.
  • Green, Douglas B. (2002). Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 978-0826514127.
  • Magers, Boyd (2007). Gene Autry Westerns. Madison, NC: Empire Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-0944019498.

External links[edit]