Cast & Crew
While patroling a remote section of forest, U.S. Conservation agent Roy Rogers notices two men stealing trees from a piece of land belonging to his friend, retired Western star Jack Holt. Roy follows the men to the camp of J. Corwin Aldridge, Jack's rival in the seasonal Christmas tree business. Roy accuses them of stealing, but they explain that they recently leased the property adjacent to Jack's and cannot be blamed for crossing an unmarked property line. At Jack's camp, Roy meets handyman Splinters McGonigle and his sister "Sis." Later, Sis enters the town turkey shoot and wins first prize: a turkey named Sir Gallahad. Aldridge then learns that Jack is planning to sell his trees wholesale and tells his daughter Toby that he may be forced out of business. Toby goes over to Jack's camp to discuss the matter, but is star-struck as soon as she recognizes him from his films. Later, Roy saves Splinters when Whitey Channing, an employee of Aldridge's camp, tries to run him over with a burning wagon. Later, Roy returns to Aldridge's camp with Channing in custody, but Mitch McCall, the scheming camp foreman, claims that Channing was asked to leave the camp several days earlier. After Roy leaves, Mitch instructs Channing to break into Roy's office. That night, Splinters notices the light on in Roy's office and enters just as Channing is stabbed to death by an unseen assailant. When Jack learns of the murder, he decides to apply for a job at Aldridge's camp using a phony name. After a short time, Mitch discovers Jack's true identity and takes him hostage. Meanwhile, at Jack's camp, Roy and the gang settle down to watch a silent film featuring Jack. Suddenly, the screening is interrupted when the camp somehow catches on fire. The men quickly move the wagons, while Sis rushes into the burning storehouse to rescue Gallahad. After Jack escapes from Mitch, he returns to his camp to try to rescue Sis from the storehouse, but ends up in a coma. When Jack revives shortly thereafter, Roy and the gang tell him that he has been comatose for months and that it is now Christmas. To complete the ruse, Sis prepares a Christmas dinner, but balks at slaughtering Gallahad. After Splinters volunteers to slaughter Gallahad, he returns with a dead turkey, which Toby sorrowfully dresses and cooks. When the turkey is served, Toby's long face spoils the guests' appetite. Just then, Toby glances out the window and notices Gallahad hopping around in the yard, and everyone happily digs in. Later, Toby is thrilled to meet Jack's friends, Western stars Rex Allen, Allan "Rocky" Lane, Monte Hale, William Farnum, Tom Tyler, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Kermit Maynard and Tom Keene, all of whom lend a hand in loading the wagons. Meanwhile, Aldridge learns of Mitch's plan to dynamite the Red River Bridge as Jack's wagons are crossing it to get to market and rushes to warn Jack. At the bridge, Roy and Mitch begin fighting inside a mill, and Mitch finally falls onto a thresher and is killed. After Roy saves the convoy, he returns to Jack's camp, where he is pleased to learn that Jack and Aldridge have decided to become partners.
Allan "rocky" Lane
The Riders Of The Purple Sage
T. A. Carman
C. B. Lawrence
John Mccarthy Jr.
Edward J. White
Trail of Robin Hood
For all of Roy's charisma as a singing cowboy, he surely appreciated the efforts of his director, William Witney, in creating those filmic qualities. Witney had directed all of Rogers' films for the previous four years, and before that, he had established himself as a superb director of serials, including The Lone Ranger (1938), Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941), and Spy Smasher (1942). Notwithstanding their silliness, those serials are expertly made and paced, with crescendos of action that culminate with the hero trapped in a seemingly impossible situation...until he miraculously extricates himself at the last moment (always in next week's chapter, of course). In Trail of Robin Hood, Witney applies the same skills to a film that's only 67 minutes long, constructing serial-like action set pieces every ten or fifteen minutes.
The story centers on a Christmas tree rancher, played by old silent Western star Jack Holt as a version of himself, who plans to sell his trees at cost as a way of giving back to his fans. A rival tree rancher isn't happy about this and henceforth rustles Holt's trees, which brings in Roy Rogers as a government agent to get to the bottom of the subterfuge. Along the way there are Christmas songs ("Get a Christmas Tree for Johnny," "Every Day is Christmas in the West") led by the Riders of the Purple Sage; Christmas parties; holiday decorations; a classic-movie screening; a turkey dinner; and an entertaining turkey named Sir Galahad who may or may not be an unfortunate part of that dinner. Other animals on hand--of course--are Roy's trusty dog, Bullet, and horse, Trigger.
When nine other old and new Republic Western stars (such as Tom Keene, Kermit Maynard, Monte Hale, and George Chesebro) pop up as themselves to come to Roy's aid, they are each given a proper moment of introduction that must have thrilled the kids in 1950. Even today, it's a given they'll bring smiles to audiences' faces. And they don't just appear for a moment--they get chances to show off their gunmanship, charm and long-established screen personas (which they even discuss). Another source of delight comes from the movie's offbeat time period. It looks like a standard period Western for almost 10 minutes before suddenly it reveals telephones, modern clothes, houses and cars. It's simply Roy Rogers' own unique Western dimension, a quirky mix of period and modern.
Trail of Robin Hood (which has nothing to do with the Robin Hood legend despite the head-scratching title) was shot in Republic's Trucolor process, a system that used just two strips of colors, red and blue. Despite the restricted palette, Trucolor could look quite beautiful. The only problem was that it faded badly over time. In the mid-2010s, Paramount Pictures began restoring some Trucolor titles in its Republic library, including this picture.
The movie was well received, with Variety noting "It is good to see Jack Holt in a substantial role again," and praising kid star Carol Nugent and leading lady Penny Edwards, who took the part in place of Rogers's real wife Dale Evans because Evans was pregnant.
In the end, Roy Rogers and his endearing speaking, singing, and riding are the main attraction. Director William Witney, who wound up directing 28 Roy Rogers films, was certainly impressed. He later said, "I'd have to give Roy a perfect 10 in horsemanship."
By Jeremy Arnold
Trail of Robin Hood
Former Western star Tom Keene, who was one of the film's "guest stars," changed his name to Richard Powers in 1944. Trail of Robin Hood is the only film released after that date in which the actor used the name Tom Keene.