Man of the Frontier (1936)

Directed by: B. Reeves Eason

Before we go any further it is important that you recite aloud Gene Autrey’s ‘The Cowboy Code’.
1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

Autrey is a triple threat, in the all singing, all dancing, all action sense. He is kind of like an olden day’s version of Channing Tatum (or would a better example be Justin Timberlake?). ‘Man of The Frontier’ was a great vehicle to carry Autrey’s talent. He rides horses like a boss. He sings like a mournful Irish fisherman. He is a hit with the ladies. He fights like a WWF wrestler from the mid-eighties.

The story starts when some dastardly villain blows up a damn with some explosives. Everyone in this small little town gets flustered, because it is likely to affect the crops. The irrigation company is informed by a 1930’s black man. I don’t need to describe this character any further, because doing so would make me a racist. He does perform a marvelous dance routine though.

We are introduced to our hero, Mr Autrey, as a runaway bull bolts towards two children playing in the middle of a dusty street. Autrey leaps from his horse and wrestles the bull to the ground. This impresses his future love interest, and this films damsel, the enchanting Frances Grant. Autrey after proving himself not just as a man, but to be the man, gets offered a position guarding the local waterways, he accepts and becomes a ‘ditch rider’. Working alongside Smiley Burnette, Gene risks life and limb.

The film is interesting because it displays how important irrigation is to a farming community, and there is also real solidarity shown by the director towards the working man. The workers bond together at the saloon, they converse animatedly their rights, and they fight like double hard bastards when these discussions inevitably break down.

Before watching ‘Man of the Frontier’ I was unfamiliar with Gene Autrey. His performance, full of endearing charm and nobility strikes a chord. It’s difficult to understand the true motivation of the bad guys, they want to fudge up the dam operation, but to what end? From what I could gather the farmer’s property would be vulnerable after a flood, and the baddies would therefore capitalize.


Man of the Frontier on IMDB


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