Review: King of the Rodeo

This past Saturday was once again the Music Box’s Silent Second Saturday. Every second Saturday, there is a showing of a different silent film at noon with live organ accompaniment. This month, the movie was King of the Rodeo (1929) with Hoot Gibson.

The story is about a young man who loves the rodeo despite the objections of his father. He goes off to Chicago for the big rodeo in Soldier Field, where he may find fame and happiness. The plot isn’t terribly complicated; it’s boy finds success and love in the big city. It’s a bit of a silly film. A major plot point is centered on the main character’s obsession with his clean shirts.

The best parts are the scenes of the rodeo and old Chicago. The rodeo scenes were incredible. There were scenes of bucking broncos, calf wrestling, and more. And the scenes did not look like they were staged, it looked like they just filmed a rodeo. It was intense, watching men try to stay on their horses. Many of them were flipped off; one imagines that several broken bones resulted. The cowboys also rode steers, which was even more terrifying than the bucking broncos! And there was trick riding, which was basically acrobatics on a horse. It was really freaking cool. I’ve never been to a rodeo. Part of me wants to go now but part of me is terrified I’m going to watch someone break their neck.

The scenes of Old Chicago were magnificent too. At one point, there was a skyline shot that’s so different from today. Everything is so much shorter! Of course, many tall buildings on the skyline weren’t built until 40-50+ years later. It also was neat to see Soldier Field before it became the flying spaceship that we know it as today. Apparently, Soldier Field held this event annually! There is even a wonderful car chase through the Loop. You can see the El peeking out at various points. And there was a point when they go over tracks in the middle of the road. I forgot we had a trolley system! I think they were racing down Randolph Street.

One interesting aspect to the plot was the helpers of the hero. They were Slim and Shorty; Slim was really tall and lanky while Shorty was well…very short. The presenter said they were a bit like a precursor to Laurel and Hardy. They were the comedic bit but it was awkward. Slim was a bit of a bully and would pull and push Shorty out of the way. However, there is a great series of bits where the hero has charged them to take his stolen shirt off the man who stole it. Well, they start stealing shirts off of any man in button up white shirt. It’s kinda amazing.

Anyway, that’s all for now!

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