A Tribute: Jack "Buck" Benny Rides Again

A Tribute: Buck Benny Rides Again (1940)

Review 1997 by Teddy Blue, Old West Reenactor.

Jack Benny, born Benjamin Kubelsky Feb. 14, 1894 in Waukegan, Illionois, is best known for his many years on radio and television. He occasionally appeared in films, such as To Be or Not To Be (1942) and Charlie's Aunt (1941). However, I must be honest here--although I have seen most of his movies, I justifiably feel that only one of his films shows him as he really was--a seasoned man of the west . I may not have any real proof, but I can read between the lines--the western stars of the period, Gary "Coop" Cooper, William "Hoppy" Boyd , John "Duke" Wayne, and, yes, even Joel "Joel" McCrea, were a little shaken when they saw Buck Benny Rides Again (1940) on the big screen. They realized that now they would have to share with Jack "Buck" Benny the adulation of millions of men, women, and children when it came to broncobusting, sharpshooting, and rounding up all the rustlers on the range. The goal of this section of my Teddy Blue's Bunkhouse is to correct something overlooked by most movie historians--that Buck Benny rightfully belongs in the Pantheon of Great Western Heroes.

The film begins on the right note. Don Wilson, Jack's radio announcer, says before the title, "We bring you that rugged hero of the great outdoors, the silent sphinx of the prairie, that man among men where men are men...." Thus is established the fact that Buck Benny is someone to recken with in the untamed west. Much of the first part of the movie is devoted to a romantic subplot (Ellen Drew never looked lovelier) as well the creation of an excuse to return Buck to his western roots. I'm sure that the audiences of the day, familiar with the Benny radio persona, needed this preliminary material before actually seeing the film's hero astride his faithful steed as he watches the horizon for danger with his cool, steely eyes, his hand but a few inches from his trusty Colt six-shooter.

Anyone have some stampede strings?

The "feel" of the film changes almost immediately once it leaves New York to go to Buck's ranch in Nevada. No longer does one see the miles of concrete and overreaching skyscrapers. The air is clean and fresh, and the viewer can almost feel the wide open spaces, even when in the modest hotel that Buck first stops off in before heading out to his ranch, managed in his absence by Andy Devine. Two tough outlaws have been harrassing Andy--no problem when fast-drawing Buck Benny appears in his trail-dust covered cowboy gear, ably backed up by his sidekick, Eddie Anderson. Being a low-key hero, Buck doesn't plan to show off his riding skills, but he is forced to do so when a young woman's horse is spooked on the desert--I suspect that the likes of Randolph "Randy" Scott learned something about horsemanship when he saw that scene. As for trick roping, a short scene (too short!) reminds one of the roping skills exhibited by Will Rogers in his prime. (A whole feature could have been built around Buck's roping talent, but alas, no such project was undertaken.)

I don't want to discuss all the thrilling scenes of Buck Benny Rides Again. I should leave some surprises--just in case you have yet to see it. But the final fight scene is a corker--in it Jack "Buck" Benny shows not only his skill with two revolvers, but his fist-fighting ability when he has to deal with the two outlaws again. Of course, he is the ultimate western hero who single-handedly rids the West of two of its worst bad guys!

I suspect that this tribute has gone too long--but I can't help but wax poetic about one of my all time favorite western movie heroes--Buck Benny! I've saved perhaps the best for last: at a barbeque Buck succinctly states his philosophy about the living in the West.
For a few sound clips and a printed version of his salute to the West, go

here.Buck's Finest Moment!

Click on for larger animated gifs:

Buck Benny Riding! (222 kb) Buck Benny Roping! ( 262 kb)
Buck Benny Shooting!(207 kb)

Buck Benny Rides Again (1940)

Distributed by Paramount Pictures

Produced and Directed by Mark Sandrich

Screenplay by William Morrow, Edmund Beloin

Principal Cast: Jack Benny, Ellen Drew, Andy Devine, Phil Harris, Eddie Anderson,
Virginia Dale, Ward Bond, Morris Ankrum, Dennis Day

Well! Why use a costly new counter when this pre-owned one USUALLY does just fine? Yipes! That genuine Maxwell counter that Jack is lending me (for only $1.00 a week!) is broken AGAIN!

Hands off my gunbelt, pardner !

Buck Benny's Celebration of the West

Recommended Movies and Books

Main Section of Teddy Blue's Bunkhouse.