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Image Entertainment presents
Ridin' on a Rainbow (1941)

Sheriff Mason: Easy, Gene. They mean business.
Gene: So do I!

- Guy Usher, Gene Autry

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: October 06, 2006

Stars: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Mary Lee, Carol Adams
Other Stars: Ferris Taylor, Georgia Caine, Byron Foulger, Guy Usher, Burr Caruth
Director: Lew Landers

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild western violence)
Run Time: 01h:15m:10s
Release Date: July 25, 2006
UPC: 014381240122
Genre: western

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+BA- B

DVD Review

Although Gene Autry's Republic westerns have a reputation for being cut from the same cloth, every now and then there's one that breaks the mold to some extent. This popular and bigger-budget effort takes some elements from Show Boat and melds them with the Autry formula to good effect. Supporting teen songbird Mary Lee also gets one of her best roles in her eighth Autry western musical.

Gene is once again a ranchhand and convinces his compadres, including Frog (Smiley Burnette), to put their earnings in the bank instead of blowing them as usual. But he doesn't count on desperate and washed-up showboat performer Pop Evans (character actor Byron Foulger), attempting to try for a new start by helping several thugs rob that bank. Gene tracks the evidence back to the showboat, although Pop goes into hiding, telling daughter Patsy (Lee) to bring him a certain life preserver when the boat reaches a particular town. Patsy is torn between her sympathy for Autry and love for her father and a desire to do the right thing. Gene gets distracted by leggy hoofer Sally Bartlett (Carol Adams) and the ranchhands start to agitate for something to happen, or they may just take the law into their own hands.

Longer by a quarter than many of Autry's Republic pictures, this one is packed with songs, including the Best Song-nominated Be Honest with Me and adventure. To be honest, not all of the songs are good. What's Your Favorite Holiday? is an embarrassing clunker but Lee gamely puts on a happy face about it. She does have a nice duet with Autry on the cleaned-up folk song Carry Me Back to the Lone Prairie. Burnette and Autry share a fun novelty tune, Hunky Dunky Dory that really sticks in the head. Adams also gets a couple nice tap dance numbers. Though she's ostensibly the romantic female lead, the interesting relationship is really the one between Autry and Lee. Adams feels rather plopped in at the last minute and could have been written out without affecting the story one whit.

Rainbow also features one of the best and most unusual action sequences in any of Autry's films. As he questions a recalcitrant Lee about the steamboat, he watches in horror as she falls overboard and plunges in after her, desperately trying to keep the two of them from being swept into the paddle wheel. It's a memorable stunt that has a higher suspense level than anything I've seen in this long-running series. There are of course the requisite rides to the rescue on dry land too.

Although the Autry pictures all have a strong moral streak, Patsy's moral dilemma is a difficult one and the filmmakers don't exactly take the easy way out. Even when the characters try to do the right thing, people end up getting killed and the pat universe that many such pictures portray just isn't here. As a result, it's probably more accessible to modern viewers than many other B-westerns, while still offering plenty of nostalgia value.

Songs include:

Hunky Dunky Dory
Sing a Song of Laughter
What's Your Favorite Holiday
Be Honest with Me
Steamboat Bill
Ridin' on a Rainbow
Carry Me Back to the Lone Prairie
I'm the Only Lonely One

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture generally looks decent, with minimal speckling and no serious damage to the source print. Contrast levels do seem a little high at times, but at others the greyscale is excellent (Foulger's satin clown costume looks particularly stunning). The finely-patterned shirts that Gene and Smiley wear are more problematic in the shimmer department than usual; perhaps because of the added length in the main feature, Image might have been well served to go to a dual layer disc and allow a higher bitrate. It's a little disappointing after so many first-rate transfers in this series.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono English track is quite a step above the usual early 1940s Autry quality. It's quite clean, with very little hiss or noise. Dialogue is very crisp and clear, and the singing voices come across marvelously well. The orchestral music is a bit on the shrill side and lacking in bass, but that's clearly an issue with the original and this sounds just about as good as one can reasonably expect.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 8 cues and remote access
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Still, poster and lobby card galleries
  2. Production documents
  3. Presskit
Extras Review: The extras on the Gene Autry Collection are getting pretty predictable, though that's understandable considering how many have been released thus far. The Melody Ranch Theatre introduction this time out is fairly generic, with very little reference to the actual film. Instead, Pat Buttram and Gene talk about their favorite cowboy stars and how to make a running jump into the saddle, so it's pretty interesting nonetheless. The Melody Ranch radio show is the episode from March 23, 1941, featuring Mary Lee, with a murder mystery tacked on. There are production notes and some brief notes about the song Be Honest with Me. Galleries include about three dozen stills and a dozen various posters and lobby cards, set to songs from the movie. A British presskit shows how the picture was ballyhooed in the UK. Finally, there are some production documents including call sheets (with the actors' home addresses and phone numbers!) and a short contract for the use of the trained dog that plays Lee's hammy pup.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

An entertaining and solid entry in the Autry canon, with the usual high-quality restoration and pile of extras.


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