Cast & Crew
As cattle rustler Jim "Legs" Barton lays dying in his ranch after a shootout with lawmen, he makes childhood friend Gene Autry, the local sheriff, promise to take care of things for him. The next day, Barton's attorney, Arthur Dean, informs Gene that, as executor of the estate, he must also look after Barton's three motherless boys. Gene sends his pal Frog Milhouse East to bring the children back and then prepares the ranch for their homecoming, with the help of Peggy, the local schoolteacher. Frog finds the feisty boys, William "Brain," Clarence "Nails," and Hector "Slick" Barton more than he can handle. Upon their arrival at the ranch, the boys have trouble adjusting to life in the West and yearn for the city. At a barn dance, while the boys are spying on Gene proposing to Peggy, general store owner Frank Welch, Legs's secret partner, leads a cattle rustling raid. Although the local men chase after the rustlers, the cattle seem to disappear and Welch is not uncovered as the culprit. When the boys see Welch riding out from behind a waterfall on their ranch, however, they realize what has happened. Welch tries to make friends with them by saying that their father was his pal, and, when the boys tell him about Gene's plan to adopt them, he comes up with a plan of his own. At the adoption hearing, Welch and his wife offer to adopt the boys. Because Gene is unmarried and the boys say that they want to go with Welch, he is given custody of them. One of the boys has a change of heart later, though, and when he tells Gene what has happened, Gene produces a phony "Mrs. Barton" and her three children. The judge then rules that Slick, Nails and Brains are imposters, but Welch detects that the plan is a trick. He plans to do away with the boys and secretly remove the rustled cattle from their ranch, but Gene intervenes and Welch and his gang are captured. Finally, Gene and Peggy plan to marry and adopt the boys, but Frog still thinks that they will be getting more than they bargained for with these kids.
The pre-production title of this film was Pony Boy. Sources conflict in crediting the films songs. Although no song credits were listed on the film, news items in Hollywood Reporter credited Eddie Cherkose with all of the songs. Film Daily Year Book credited Cherkose and Walter Kent with "Welcome Song," "Trigger Joe" and "The Girl in the Middle of My Heart," and Johnny Marvin and Fred Rose with "Rhythm of the Hoofbeats." Variety does not list any songwriters in its review of the film, but lists the songs as "Trigger Joe," "Hoofbeats on the Prairie," "The Girl in the Middle of my Heart," and "The West, a Nest, and You," the last title of which Variety called "an oldtimer." Reviews noted that David Gorcey, who played "Slick" in the film was the brother of juvenile actor Leo Gorcey, who had become a popular "little tough guy" actor himself in William Wylers Dead End and other films. According to modern sources, Fred Burns, Al Taylor, Dan White, Chuck Baldra, Frankie Marvin, Buster Slavin and Mira McKinney were also in the cast.