Synopsis by Hans J. Wollstein
Produced in 1938 at the N.B. Murray dude ranch near Victorville, California, Harlem Rides the Range was the last of three all-black Westerns starring troubadour Herb Jeffries (billed for the occasion Herbert Jeffrey) as cowboy Bob Blake. Blake, on his horse "Stardusk" (!), obtains a job on the ranch belonging to Watson (Spencer Williams of Amos 'n Andy fame). Meanwhile, a neighbor, Dennison (Leonard Christmas), is threatened by Bradley (Clarence Brooks) and his thug Connors (Tom Southern) who want to get their hands of the man's secret radium mine. Leaving Dennison for dead, Bradley schemes to kidnap his daughter Margaret (Artie Young), who is arriving with $6,000 for the mortgage and presumably knows where the secret mine is located. The talkative Connors is killed by his boss, who puts the blame on Blake. Arrested by the sheriff (Wade Dumas), Blake uses his dexterity to break out of jail and arrives just in time to save Margaret from Bradley and his gang. Returning to the Dennison spread, Blake and his sidekick Dusty (Lucius Brooks) find the owner, who has stayed alive by hiding in his underground mine. Jeffries, whose singing was better than his acting, warbled his own I'm a Happy Cowboy (over the opening credits) and Prairie Flower, the latter accompanied by the singing group The Four Tones. Lucius Brooks and Flournoy E. Miller (who wrote his own dialogue) provided the same kind of demeaning comedy that almost all African-Americans were subjected to in the 1930s. Following his brief movie career, Jeffries sang with the Duke Ellington orchestra and ran a nightclub in Paris, France.
con/scam, cowboy, mine, robbery