Republic Pictures Corporation
Production Dates: Mid-July to late July, 1942
Release Date: 1942 09 14
Running time: 58 or 60 minutes (5,218 ft. or 6 reels)
Key book (production) number: 1128
Sunset Serenade is the first film in which the group was billed "Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers". An enjoyable movie, Sunset Serenade is filled with good music by Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer. The Sons of the Pioneers have substantial supporting roles with Pat Brady sharing the comedy with Gabby Hayes. It is obvious that the cast enjoyed itself and some delightful errors were deliberately left in or missed in the cutting room. This movie is available on DVD.
Helen Parrish as Sylvia Clark and Roy Rogers as himself. George Hayes as Gabby
Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers
Back: Tim Spencer, Karl Farr and Pat Brady
Front: Bob Nolan, Lloyd Perryman and Hugh Farr
(courtesy of Fred Sopher)
Left: Roy Barcroft as Bart Reynolds and Onslow Stevens as Gregg Jackson
Right: Joan Woodbury as Vera Martin (baby Rodney T. Blackton is uncredited)
Left: Frank M. Thomas as Clifford Sheldon
Centre: Dick Wessell as a bartender
Right: Jack Kirk as Sheriff Praskins
Others in the Cast:
Rex Lease as a Martin rider
Charles R. Moore as Sam, the cook
Karl Hackett as the rancher in the hotel bar
Fred Burns as Langdon, a rancher
Budd Buster as Martin, a cowhand
Jack Rockwell as Jim, the Bagley foreman
Jack O'Shea as Sylvia's driver
Edward Peil Sr as a party guest
Jack Ingram (as Jeff)
Monte Montague (as Monte)
Joe Yrigoyen for Roy Rogers
Nellie Walker for Helen Parrish
1. I'm a Cowboy Rockefeller (Roy Rogers / Tim Spencer)
The film opens at the Bagley Ranch where Vera Martin, who has been running the place for her employer, opens a letter that she expects will tell her that she has inherited it. Her employer had promised her the ranch on his death. The letter, instead, informs her that she has been bypassed in favor of the dead man's nephew who will be taking possession soon. She is numb with shock as she pays off her crew.
As the crew is leaving, Vera's neighbour and lover, Gregg Jackson, drives up with his foreman, Bart Reynolds. He seems to take Vera's bad news in stride until he hears that the inheritor is an Easterner and a plan begins to form in his handsome, crooked head. He checks out the map of the two ranches, decides to dam up the creek that feeds the Bagley Ranch, hops into his car and gets Bart to drive him there. The crew starts immediately to attempt to force the new owner out by building a temporary dam with sandbags, drying up the creek and driving off the cattle.
Gabby notices the cattle drive as he rises from where he was taking a drink from what was left of the creek. He rides back to where he left the hungry Sons of the Pioneers and waits until they finish the song they are singing - I'm a Cowboy Rockefeller. He asks them when he can expect supper and is greeted by a dead silence. Pat was supposed to sing for their supper but had an old boot thrown at him instead. He boiled the boot and ate it! Since there is no supper to prepare, the boys mount and ride.
As they reach the top of a hill, they watch driven cattle trot down the narrow road and meet a car in the dark, forcing it off the road. No one is hurt and the driver hands out a young woman with a baby. She asks him to walk to town for milk for the baby and then she notices a cow with a calf. She settles the baby down in the car again, grabs an empty baby bottle and heads for the cow, tangling herself in the barbed wire at the same time. Roy and the Pioneers ride up, extricate her from the wire and help her get milk from one of the wild cows after she challenges Gabby.
With Gabby feeding the baby and Sylvia riding in front of Roy, the whole crew walks their horses to the tune of A Sandman Lullaby, one of Bob Nolan's prettiest songs. (See the video clip on our Videos page.)
They start to take their leave of Sylvia at the Bagley Ranch house door and she begs Roy to come into the house with her and the baby. Gabby signals to Roy that they are all starving, so Roy invites them all in. They surprise Vera and Gregg finishing their supper. Vera believes Roy to be the inheritor and is surprised to see that he is a westerner, after all.
Then she is astonished to learn that the baby is the new owner of the ranch, not Roy. Gregg rises and introduces himself and, responding to some very obvious hints, invites them to stay for supper.
After supper, Roy walks out onto the porch where he finds that Gregg and Vera have been trying to discourage Sylvia, hoping she would sell to Jackson. Vera tells her that most of the cattle have wandered off and that the drought will finish them. Gregg makes the mistake of asking Roy what he thinks about it. Roy, of course, thinks she should stay with it and he and the Pioneers will work for her. Gregg reaches into his pocket and brings out a note (forged) for $5,000, apparently owed to him by the previous owner. Roy continues to counsel Sylvia to wait and Gregg leaves in disgust.
On their way out, Roy and the Pioneers come across Bart and Jackson's men moving Sylvia's cattle again. Roy rides down among the cattle, identifies them as hers and then Jackson's men start firing on them. Roy and the Pioneers shoot back until Jackson's men roll boulders down the hill at them. Jackson, attracted by the shooting, orders his men to stop because the law is on Roy's side.
So Roy and the Pioneers catch up with the thirsty cattle at Jackson's water hole. They are about to cut the wire to let the cattle in to drink when Jackson and Bart ride up and forbid them to touch the wire or give orders without Sylvia's say-so. Sylvia and Vera ride up and Sylvia makes a deal with Gregg to add the price of the water onto what she owes him. They all leave for home but Vera is obviously worried that the forged note will be discovered. Gregg has another idea.
Roy calls on Sylvia in the morning and finds her working on the ranch accounts. He shows her a newspaper announcing the presence of a Government cattle buyer and, with her permission, goes to find him at the local hotel bar. The Pioneers wait outside on the street while Pat and Bob tease Gabby about his appetite.
Clifford Sheldon, cattle buyer, is at a table making a deal with Jackson who leaves when Roy arrives. Roy invites Sheldon to come out with him to see the cattle and, when Sheldon leaves to change into riding clothes, Roy walks out past Jackson who trips him. Pretending to apologize, he spills beer all over Roy's clothes. Bart gets in on it and before you know it, a real donnybrook is taking place because all the Sons of the Pioneers and Gabby come pouring in from outside to help Roy. Roy knocks Bart out and Jackson onto the player piano - which starts to play. The Pioneers clear the saloon and come around to join Roy and Gabby who are now sitting on the piano singing, "Mavourneen O'Shea". Pat can't resist doing a step dance over and around Bart's unconscious form.
When the Sheriff arrives, Jackson blames the whole mess on Roy but Sheldon and the bartender tell what really happened and Jackson is left with the bill. Sheldon and Roy go to check on the cattle and he agrees to pay $100 a head in advance.
Left: Frank M. Thomas, Karl Hackett, Tim Spencer and Roy Rogers
Right: Karl Farr behind Onslow Stevens, Roy Barcroft, Jack Kirk and unidentified deputies.
The next scene opens at the dinner table with Sylvia serving a pie to which Gabby helps himself liberally. There are eight at the table and, to Pat's disgust, Gabby takes one quarter of the pie. Bob openly plans to do something about this gluttony.
Vera brings in the baby and tells Sylvia that he's hungry. As Sylvia rises from the table to prepare his bottle, Gabby jumps up and insists on feeding him. He and the baby are chums, he exclaims, and then Gabby falls backwards in a dead faint, dragging the tablecloth and all the dishes with him. Bob picks him up and, aided by the rest of the Pioneers, takes him outside. Gabby comes to and asks for another helping of pie.
Just then the doorbell rings and Sylvia runs to answer it. Vera, putting the baby down in its crib, hears Sheldon discuss the sale of Sylvia's cattle and write her out a cheque. This takes care of the Bagley Ranch debt so Sylvia throws a party that night with the Sons of the Pioneers as entertainers. Pat Brady sings A No-Good Son-of-a-Gun which Bob had written for him to sing four years earlier in the Columbia film, Law of the Plains. (See the video clip on our Videos page.)
Bob, Pat and Tim take a break after the song and walk outside to the porch with a small roll of wire. There is a screened cupboard there containing several pies for the guests and they know that Gabby, with his craving for pie, will be into them before too long. Bob wires the cupboard so that a bell will ring if the door is opened. Gabby, already headed for the pies but hiding in the shadows, hears them talking.
As soon as the men go back into the house, he opens the screened door and helps himself to a pie. He pauses for a moment when he sees that Sheldon's herd of cattle is being driven off and then someone in the shadows pistol whips him and he falls to the floor.
Meanwhile, the guests are dancing to one of the loveliest songs Roy Rogers and Tim Spencer have ever written, Song of the San Joaquin. As the song ends, the bell on the pie cupboard rings. Bob, Tim and Pat dash out to catch Gabby and, when they see the door open, they think they are too late. Gabby begins to come to and tells them that the herd has been taken. They sound the alarm and everyone rushes for their horses. Left alone on the porch, Gabby tips a whole pie out of its dish and eats it like a gigantic cookie.
Roy and the Pioneers thunder after the rustlers and Sheldon decides to join them. After all, they are his cattle now. Roy reaches the rustlers in time to see most of the cattle disappear into a huge cattle liner. They pursue on horseback, but once the truck reaches the pavement, there's no hope of catching it.
The next scene sees Vera with Sheldon where the truck was loaded. Vera tries to dissuade him when he prepares to go up the canyon to follow the truck's tracks to see where it came from. Ignoring her insistence, he decides to go and she rushes back to warn Gregg that Sheldon is going to find the dam.
Sylvia is saying goodbye to her guests and, when she returns to the kitchen, she overhears Vera tell Gregg about Sheldon and generally let the cat out of the bag. Vera tries to bluster her way out of it but Sylvia won't listen so she grabs a gun from a drawer and holds it on Sylvia. Fortunately, Gabby arrives about then and grabs Vera from behind, wrestling the gun away from her and getting bitten for his efforts. They lock Vera into the pantry and Sylvia leaves to warn Sheldon. Gabby calls the sheriff and then rides out to look for Roy to tell them that Gregg means to kill Sheldon up in Grace Canyon.
Gabby meets Roy and the Pioneers, delivers his message and the Sheriff and his posse join them in their race to Grace Canyon. They surround the rustlers and capture them while Roy leaves for Grace Canyon.
Meanwhile, Sylvia has arrived at Grace Canyon and is wandering around, calling Sheldon's name. Gregg and his men hear her, take her captive and, when Sheldon arrives on the scene, Gregg shoots him. He falls behind a boulder, unconscious.
Gregg puts Sylvia on a horse and rides off with her, Roy right behind them. Roy bulldogs Gregg of his horse, knocks him out, ties him up and they return to the top of the canyon. Bart and two of his henchmen blow the dam and Roy discovers the absence of Sheldon. He ties his rope to Trigger's saddle horn and the horse supports his weight as he rappels down the nearly-sheer crumbling face of the cliff. He loads Sheldon onto his back and begins the return climb, assisted by Trigger, just as the water boils down the canyon.
The final scene takes place back at the ranch house the next day. Roy shows Sylvia a message from Sheldon telling her that the cattle were found and everything is OK. Sylvia decides that she needs a less exciting job than looking after the affairs of a small baby.
Just then the Sons of the Pioneers prepare a surprise for Gabby who is walking around a pie, awaiting an opportunity to grab it when no one is looking. He doesn't realize that the pie is bait with a cherry bomb filling. As the Sons of the Pioneers sing "A Cowboy Has to Sing", they keep an eye on Gabby. Bob has the little detonator in his hands and, just as Gabby sits down in front of the pie, he pushes the lever and blows up the pie.
[This scene escaped the cutting room because Bob is supposed to be singing. He actually detonated a real little bomb and, when he saw Gabby's face, he started to laugh instead of lip sync the song he was supposed to be singing. So Bob is laughing heartily while his voice sings on without him to the end of the film. (See the video clip on our Videos page.)
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
(Karl E Farr Collection)
(Courtesy of Fred Sopher)
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
Courtesy of Buddy Bryant
Press Kit (courtesy of Les Adams)