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Arthur Greville Collins
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PALM SPRINGS (Paramount, 1936), directed by Aubrey Scotto, features brunette vocalist Frances Langford in her third Paramount musical assignment, and the first to offer her top-billing. Lightweight "B" musical stars her as Joan Smith (pronounced Smyth), a popular girl and expert horse rider expelled from boarding school for gambling. She then comes to Palm Springs to accompany her rich widowed father, Captain Smith (Sir Guy Standing) and his servant, Stocky (Ernest Cossart), only to learn that Dad has gambled away all his funds. Later, she meets two young men and must choose between marrying a wealthy one (David Niven) help her father financially, or a poor cowboy horse-breeder named Slim (Smith Ballew).
The movie itself is predictable but not bad. However, the reprising of the same songs becomes tiresome after awhile. The songs by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger include: "Will I Ever Know?" (sung by Langford); the lively "I Don't Want to Make History" (sung by Langford and co-eds); "The Hills of Old Wyoming" (a western ballad sung by Smith Ballew and cowboys); "I Don't Want to Make History" (briefly reprized by Langford); "The Hills of Old Wyoming" (reprized by Ballew and Langford); "Will I Ever Know?" (reprized by Langford) and "The Hills of Old Wyoming" (one last time) before the fadeout.
For those wondering who Smith Ballew is, he was a radio singer who later starred in several Saturday matinée westerns, but never achieved the popularity as Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. He is, however, tall enough to physically resemble Randolph Scott. One scene finds Langford telling Ballew, "Kiss me, you fool cowboy." And Spring Byington and Sterling Holloway (wearing glasses) in smaller roles make their humorous moments count.
PALM SPRINGS which hasn't been shown on commercial television since the mid to late 1970s (notably New York City's WPIX, Channel 11, prior to 1972, and Newark, New Jersey's WTVG, Channel 68, where it was televised between 1976 and 1978) is virtually forgotten today, but in spite of a predictable plot in western setting, particularly during it's second half, the movie gets by with the help of Langford's pleasing personality and smooth vocalizing. (*1/2)
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