The Big Sombrero (1949) Poster

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One of the few opportunities to see Gene Autry in color
krorie7 August 2005
Gene Autry only made two movies in color and this is one of them, sort of a cheap-looking process known as cine color that actually takes away rather than adds to the total effect of this south of the border western. If Edison Et Al had had the technology to make the first movies in color then possibly we wouldn't know anything about black and white films. But since few movies were made in color until the 1950's because of the expense involved we have grown used to seeing the old Saturday matinée cowboy shoot 'em ups in black and white. Seeing the few that exist in color somehow causes the viewer to lose interest while watching. With a big budget John Ford was able to make color work for the classic "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," but this was not true for the B films of the day.

There is another problem with this Gene Autry western. Where is the comical sidekick? There is a lame attempt to provide a Mexican stand-in, but he is no Cisco Kid's Pancho or Tim Holt's Chito. I kept looking for a Smiley, a Pat Buttram, or a Pokie. Though Smiley is not present one of his songs is sung by Gene. Smiley, who was one of the most talented songwriters of his day, would sometimes sell his songs to Gene, but Gene would go ahead and put Smiley's name on the music with his, so it would be a 50/50 deal. There is an unintentionally funny opening. Gene is strumming his guitar and singing a love song to what appears to be a man behind a counter smoking a cigarette. No woman is present. It turns out that Gene is showing the guy how good his guitar sounds because he is pawning it for gas money.

There is a good performance by Estrellita Estrada. I don't recall seeing her in other films. I read that she was typecast to playing senorita-type roles and ultimately retired from the cinema.

The action is so-so and overall the film is not as good as many of Gene's earlier ones, still worthwhile for his many fans.
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Fudging the Matinée Mold
dougdoepke22 October 2013
Gene's got Columbia studio backing here, which means a bigger budget than usual. In fact the 80-minutes run-time, including Technicolor and good production values, puts this feature in a B-western category instead of Gene's usual matinée format.

The plot's more complex than usual, with Gene switching sides in a struggle over ranchero land in Mexico. At first, he's unknowingly on the side of the baddies until he finds out the true score. Then too, catch the climax with the guy just driving off (without my telling too much)—very unusual for Gene's movies. So, all in all, you can see Columbia was trying to stretch the matinée formula.

Not much fast shooting, but some good hard riding. Highlights include, an impressive cattle herd, lots of colorful desert scenery, and Gene warbling the catchy 'My Adobe Hacienda'. But most of all, a really spirited Elena Verdugo as Senorita Estelita who pretty much steals the show, unlike most matinée leading ladies. Anyway, it's not among Gene's best, but does have more than its share of compensations.
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Gene knows his man
bkoganbing13 December 2015
Gene Autry goes south of the border down Mexico way in The Big Sombrero. He recorded that song, but you'll not hear it sung in this film which does have a Latin flavored score for him to sing.

Possibly curiosity more than anything else compels Gene Autry to go south to check out an offer tendered him by Steve Dunne who is the Anglo manager of The Big Sombrero ranch. Dunne is a guy he used to know as a carnival barker with a fast line of patter and little character. Turns out Gene knows his man.

It's in Dunne's plans to woo and wed the owner Elena Verdugo and gain control in order to sell the ranch at a big price. First he has to kick off various tenants before his buyer will fork over the money. Of course Gene as a true cowboy hero isn't standing for that.

There's a bit more plot in this film than in a lot of what Autry was doing for Republic and Columbia Pictures even gave this film some color. They also did not give him a sidekick, one of the few Autry films without one.

I did miss Smiley Burnette and Pat Buttram though.
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Gene's second and final color feature!
JohnHowardReid31 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"The Big Sombrero" was Gene's second and final color movie and it should have been one of his best.

Alas, although it's not a total write-off, it's a rather mediocre offering, thanks to a script that has so many glaring faults, it's hard to believe it was written by Olive Cooper. A muddled, uninteresting story, loaded with so many characters they literally push Gene off the screen, and slackly directed by Frank McDonald, the movie's only redeeming feature is its excellent color photography by William Bradford.

True, the script has some novelty value in that Gene plays an impoverished rancher (!) and that the villain escapes at the end (!!), but maybe they just ran out of money.

Gene does have ONE really good song, but it's right at the beginning.

And as for Elena Verdugo, as far as I'm concerned, south of the border is where she should stay!
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