Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Last of the Pony Riders (1953)
Last of the Pony Riders is an aptly named movie, not only is the story about the last days of the legendary Pony Express, its also the last of Gene Autrys movies, marking the final screen appearances of Smiley Burnette, and Champion the Worlds Wonder Horse too. After a series of fifty-six films for Republic Pictures, Gene moved his franchise over to Columbia Pictures where he made an additional thirty-two oaters. Overall the popular singing cowboy enjoyed a movie career that found him starring in no-less than ninety films. Plus, his television series ran for five years, and left a legacy of ninety-one episodes.
Although obviously getting up there in the years, Gene manages to use his maturity to his advantage in this piece (much like the characters played by Randolph Scott in his late 1950s films), and he doesnt let it slow him down when its time for an action scene either. Even though the movie does come across as more than slightly formulaic, that formula was one that both the director (George Archainbaud), and Autry had tread so many times before, that they had pretty much perfected it. Smiley Burnettes presence is unfortunately not used enough, but what makes it even worse is that when he does get screen time, its painfully un-funny, and with the exception of one duet with Gene, I cant think of any other songs he performs in the movie.
The story deals with the last days of the Pony Express, when the overland telegraph was connecting the communication lines from one end of America to the other, and the mail was increasingly being delivered via stagecoach. Gene plays an Express employee that can see the changes that are coming. When he tries to convince his boss that it might not be a bad idea for the two of them to enter into a partnership and invest in stagecoach line, his hot-headed employer rewards his suggestion by firing Autry.
Despite being dismissed from his position, Gene cant help himself, and he still hangs around the operation anyway. Thats a good thing though, because almost immediately after being fired, Gene notices that someone is trying to sabotage the Pony Express. Autry takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of the situation and save his friends business in the process.
The writing is really good on this one, it seems a little more sophisticated than the usual singing cowboy oater, and the acting is better than usual too. One really bright spot in the movie is Dickie Jones as a determined young pony rider that will stop at nothing to get his job done. The script places high merits on attributes like honor and dedication, making this a bit of morality tale, some people may find certain aspects of the writing as heavy-handed. But, personally, I found it to be very charming.
-William J. White
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8