(From left) Gene Autry, Ann Miller, Jimmy Durante and (at far right) George "Gabby" Hayes star in "Melody Ranch" from Republic Pictures in 1940.
One place this film wasn't shot was the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio in Placerita Canyon. At the time, Melody Ranch wasn't a physical place; it was the fictional setting of Autry's radio show of the
same name, which first broadcast
on CBS Jan. 7, 1940. The show was initially titled "Double M Ranch" (because it was sponsored by Doublemint chewing gum), but the name was changed to "Melody Ranch" early in its first year.
This film, in which Autry plays — you guessed it — a radio show host, followed later in the year. Filming
took place over three weeks from Sept. 16, 1940, to Oct. 5, 1940, in the Alabama Hills (US395 above Lone Pine), Mammoth Lakes, Red Rock Canyon State Park (Cantil/Mojave Desert) and at the Republic Studios
in North Hollywood. The film was released Nov. 15, 1940, and cost $181,275 to make.
The radio show's theme song was "Back in the Saddle Again." The song isn't used in the eponymous film. One iconic song in the film is "Stake Your Claim on Melody Ranch," which
you can hear performed by Autry and Miller, here:
Autry purchased the old Monogram Ranch (known after 1941 as Placeritos Ranch) in late 1952 or January 1953 from the widow of owner Ernie Hickson, who died in January 1952. Autry renamed it
for his strong "Melody Ranch" brand. (So, the radio show wasn't named for the ranch; the ranch was named for the radio show.) Except for a wartime interruption from Aug. 1, 1943, to Sept. 23, 1945, just after war's end, Autry's radio show continued to air on CBS until May 16, 1956.
"Melody Ranch" (the movie) also stars Barton MacLane, Barbara Jo Allen,
Mary Lee, Joe Sawyer,
Clarence Wilson and
William "Billy" Benedict.
Uncredited cast includes Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, musician Spade Cooley, and: Maxine Ardell,
Veda Ann Borg,
Bob Wills and
Joe Yrigoyen (Autry's stunt double).
Additional stunt work was performed by Montgomery, West, Yakima Canutt and Bill Yrigoyen.
Trivia: Jimmy Durante might not have been here in 1940, but he was in Valencia 31 years later for the "Community Preview Night" of the brand-new Magic Mountain amusement park.
He was the featured performer.