Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> GENE AUTRY
Gene Autry Stars in "Melody Ranch"
Republic Pictures 1940

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"MELODY RANCH"
Republic 1940

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Gene Autry, Ann Miller, Jimmy Durante (shown) and George "Gabby" Hayes star in "Melody Ranch" from Republic Pictures in 1940.

One place this film wasn't shot was the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Placerita Canyon. At the time, Melody Ranch wasn't a physical place; it was the fictional setting of Autry's radio show of the same name, which first broadcast on CBS Jan. 7, 1940. The show was initially titled "Double M Ranch" (because it was sponsored by Doublemint chewing gum), but the name was changed to "Melody Ranch" early in its first year.

This film, in which Autry plays — you guessed it — a radio show host, followed later in the year. Filming took place over three weeks from Sept. 16, 1940, to Oct. 5, 1940, in the Alabama Hills (US395 above Lone Pine), Mammoth Lakes, Red Rock Canyon State Park (Cantil/Mojave Desert) and at the Republic Studios in North Hollywood. The film was released Nov. 15, 1940, and cost $181,275 to make.

The radio show's theme song was "Back in the Saddle Again." The song isn't used in the eponymous film. One iconic song in the film is "Stake Your Claim on Melody Ranch," which you can hear performed by Autry and Miller, here:

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Autry purchased the old Monogram Ranch (known after 1941 as Placeritos Ranch) in late 1952 or January 1953 from the widow of owner Ernie Hickson, who died in January 1952. Autry renamed it for his strong "Melody Ranch" brand. (So, the radio show wasn't named for the ranch; the ranch was named for the radio show.) Except for a wartime interruption from Aug. 1, 1943, to Sept. 23, 1945, just after war's end, Autry's radio show continued to air on CBS until May 16, 1956.

"Melody Ranch" (the movie) also stars Barton MacLane, Barbara Jo Allen, Jerome Cowan, Mary Lee, Joe Sawyer, Horace McMahon, Clarence Wilson and William "Billy" Benedict.

Uncredited cast includes Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, musician Spade Cooley, and: Maxine Ardell, Billy Bletcher, Veda Ann Borg, Roy Bucko, Bob Card, George Chandler, George Chesebro, Edmund Cobb, Tex Cooper, Jim Corey, Carl Cotner, Curley Dresden, Tommy Duncan, Dick Elliott, O.K. Ford, Ruth Gifford, Herman Hack, Frank Hagney, Donald Haines, Chick Hannan, Lloyd Ingraham, Jack Ingram, Tiny Jones, Jane Keckley, Jack Kirk, Tom London, Harley Luse, Frankie Marvin, Leon McAuliffe, Frank McCarroll, Merrill McCormick, John Merton, Art Mix, Jack Montgomery, Horace Murphy, Bill Nestell, Post Park, Gene Roth, Tom Smith, Al Stricklin, Ray Teal, Wally West, Slim Whitaker, Bob Wills and Joe Yrigoyen (Autry's stunt double).

Additional stunt work was performed by Montgomery, West, Yakima Canutt and Bill Yrigoyen.

Trivia: Jimmy Durante might not have been here in 1940, but he was in Valencia 31 years later for the "Community Preview Night" of the brand-new Magic Mountain amusement park. He was the featured performer.


LW3178: 9600 dpi jpeg from original lobby card purchased 2017 by Leon Worden.
GENE AUTRY FILMS

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Tumbling Tumbleweeds 1935 x3

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Melody Ranch (Movie) 1940 x2

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The Singing Hill 1941 x2

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Cowboy Serenade 1942

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Strawberry Roan 1948 x3

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Rim of the Canyon 1949

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The Big Sombrero 1949/56 x2

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Apache Country
1952 x3

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Saginaw Trail 1953

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Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Pat Buttram 1988 (Video)

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