Is it wrong to be attracted to the most evil villainess in the Sierras? The remastered release of Springtime in the Sierras (1947) sort of begs the question. The film stars Roy Rogers and his faithful horse Trigger. They are out to catch a gang of poachers led by Jean Loring (Stephanie Bachelor), the hottest bad girl west of the Mississippi. Jean is a true femme fatale. She leads a motley crew of poachers who hunt game in the Sierra Mountains out of season, which nets them big bucks on venison and other meats that are normally unavailable at that time of year.
When Roy’s game-warden pal catches them in the act, he pays with his life. The wily Jean makes his death appear to be accidental though. Roy is suspicious however, and comes up with a dangerous plan to bust the outlaws. They have recently moved into the area, and had a big freezer unit delivered to the ranch they are staying at. Roy investigates, and discovers that the room-sized meat-locker is full of out-of-season deer and elk.
Jean’s dim-witted, but brawny henchmen corner Roy, and a huge fight breaks out. The flying carcasses alone are enough to make this a battle for the ages. Finally they subdue him, and tie him up to freeze to death inside. But Matt Wilkes (Roy Barcroft) has a change of heart. He had been a friend of Roy’s, but was so beguiled by the sexy Jean Loring that he joined her gang. When he goes to save Roy, he gets tied up also. This works out well though, because together they are able to untie each other, and capture the gang.
Along the way, there are plenty of great Roy Rogers tunes, and Trigger is in fine form. The “good” Taffy Baker (Jane Frazee) has her own ranch, where our heroes plot their strategy. She obviously has a thing for Roy, but settles for a sing-along with him at the end of the movie. And the ever-reliable Andy Devine as Cookie Bullfincher is present for comic relief. As in all of the Roy Rogers movies, good triumphs over bad. But I’ll bet a lot more fun was had at Jean’s ranch than at Taffy’s.
The new Film Chest edition of Springtime in the Sierras also includes the one-hour Chevy Show Easter special, which was broadcast on April 2, 1961. Besides Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the variety show featured Charley Weaver, Eddie Arnold, George Maharis, and the beatnik-folk trio The Limeliters. The film is in digitally remastered “Trucolor,” while the TV show is in black and white.
The Roy Rogers “picture-shows” had a definite formula, and Springtime in the Sierras is a prime example of it. I wonder about one thing though. When it originally played back in 1947, did the guys in the audience feel the same way I did when I saw it? That is, did they root for the bad girl to win?