Call of the Prairie (1936)

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Call of the Prairie (1936). 1h 3m | Approved

“In the late 1940s, William Boyd (the real name for Hopalong Cassidy) made a brilliant deal. He bought the rights to all his films and edited them down in order to make a weekly TV show…one that brought tons of marketing money for Hoppy merchandise and kids of the day loved him. But what about the original unedited films? Well, Cassidy apparently kept them and these newly restored originals were recently posted to YouTube. u0026quot;Call of the Prairieu0026quot; is just one of many I have found on this site.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAs I watched u0026quot;Call of the Prairieu0026quot;, I felt very confused. Johnny (James Ellison) is a jerk…much more than his usual not exactly bright persona in the Hopalong Cassidy films. But if that wasnu0026#39;t enough, I was shocked when I saw familiar Gabby Hayes….who made many Hopalong Cassidy films…playing a villain, not the lovable coot Windy!!! In fact, itu0026#39;s been a long time since I ever saw Hayes play a baddie. Now I know he did in his earlier westerns…such as a few of John Wayneu0026#39;s B-westerns. But in those earlier westerns, he wore his teeth and played rather dapper villains. In other words, in these pictures, George Hayes isnu0026#39;t playing his Gabby (or Windy) persona at all. By 1936 he was a dependable lovable coot sidekick sort….and casting him as this villain was quite shocking in u0026quot;Call of the Prairieu0026quot;! I mean…itu0026#39;s hard to imagine that Gabby had gone bad!u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe film begins as Hoppy arrives back at the ranch after selling his bossu0026#39; stock. Now the boss has a lot of money and Johnny begs him for some. But Buck refuses, as Johnny has been gambling and hanging with jerks….and behaving like a jerk himself. After storming off, Johnny tells his neu0026#39;er do well friends about this…and they get him drunk and pump him for information. With this information, they try to rob Buck and end up beating him up in the process AND framing Johnny for it! Now everyone seems to think Johnny is more than a big dummy but also a crook! Naturally, it comes to Hoppy investigating and learning the truth.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eI would imagine that many serial B-western fans would dislike u0026quot;Call of the Prairieu0026quot; because the trio of Boyd, Ellison and Hayes was familiar and beloved…but here the trio isnu0026#39;t exactly lovable. Hoppy is Hoppy, Johnny is even dumber and much more annoying than usual (he was often headstrong) and Windy (Gabby) is scum!! Of course, I could also imagine a few fans liking this as it prevented the films from all looking the same….and this certainly is a departure in style!u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eSo is it any good in my opinion? Yes, though having Johnny behave this foolishly seems a bit limp. And, despite being a Hopalong Cassidy film, heu0026#39;s really just a secondary character…and Johnny is the lead. Having a weak character playing the lead isnu0026#39;t a great thing…especially because repeatedly Johnny make really foolish choices…even AFTER he realizes his new friends are all crooks. Not a great film but still enjoyable and worth seeing if you like old B-westerns. More Hoppy and less Johnny would have probably made for a better story.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eBy the way, in an interesting bit of casting, Chester Conklin was cast as a sheriff. Conklin originally gained fame by being in many Mack Sennett films…including his Keystone Kops.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAnd, finally, early in the film someone calls Hayes u0026#39;an old Sour Doughu0026#39;. This term was used to denote that he was an old, experienced prospector…I looked it up, as I had no idea what it meant.”


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