We’ve made it our life’s mission to watch and review — sans his twenty-plus westerns as a producer, writer and director — all of Ron Ormond’s secular and Christian films. (The westerns will get done, eventually.) And we’re almost there. We’re left with The Eternal Question (1956), a soft skin-flick of which we have yet to locate a copy — hard or streaming.
The two most recent, Ormond non-western secular flicks we’ve watched are the films headlined on this review. We spoke of Ron Ormond’s work in the jukebox musical format with Square Dance Jubilee (1949) and Kentucky Jubilee (1951), each which thread a dramatic-cum-comedy plot through the film’s many musical acts. While Varieties on Parade and Forty Acre Feud both end up on some critics’ jukebox musical lists, these two works are less plot-driven and more about capturing a variety stage show in its entirety.
Remember, at the time of the release of each of these films, the new, technical advancement of television was not as integrated into our lives as it is today. Not everyone owned a television to watch the variety show styling of Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan. So, films, such as these Ormond productions, brought the show to the silver screens in outdoor, rural America.
Forty Acre Feud
Back in the day, country music concerts incorporated comedy into their sets, and this jukeboxer is filled with a gaggle of country singers (each doing two songs), including George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson, Ray Price, Del Reeves, and Roy Drusky (each lip-sync their hit songs, but doing it so well, you can’t tell), while Minnie Pearl and Ferlin Husky bring on the comedy. Shot at Bradley’s Barn in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, the “plot,” of what little there is to keep the acts hitting the stage with some semblance of rhyme and reason, concerns local election shenanigans.
Ferlin Husky went on to star in two films Sam the Bossman and I really love: The Las Vegas Hillbillys (1966), and its sequel, Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967). Both are, in fact, jukebox musicals themselves, with plots about organized crime and an inherited casino, and a mad scientists hiding out in a haunted house.
By the close the decade, as televisions became more prevalent in homes, the jukebox musical format of the silver screen was rendered obsolete by the premier of CBS-TV’s “Kornfield Kounty” series Hee-Haw in 1969.
Varieties on Parade
The whole purpose of this film is to give you “60s minutes of Star-Studded Entertainment” by bringing a big-city, vaudeville stage show to the drive-in screens of rural America. Unlike Ron Ormond’s other jukebox musicals — outside of the film’s opening POV shot, as you walk up to the box office and get a ticket, then are taken to your seat by an usher — there’s no plot to speak of to thread the acts.
This time capsule gets right down to it with an endless stream of singers, dancers, and magicians. There’s a mother-daughter bicycle stunt team and a brother juggling act, while former kid actor Jackie Coogan spoofs a routine with fellow comedian and the evening’s emcee, Eddie Garr. Are you in the mood for two comedians coming out on stage dressed as a horse? A three-woman trampoline act? An aerobics routine along with slapstick interludes? Then buy a ticket for the show!
Jackie Coogan, who got his start as a child actor with Charlie Chaplin in The Kid (1932) — but since this is B&S About Movies: The Phantom of Hollywood (1974), Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), and the slasher The Prey (1980) — also appeared in Ron Ormond’s Outlaw Women (1952) and Mesa of Lost Women (1953).
You can get both of these films — and other Ron Ormond jukebox musicals (Yes Sir, Mr. Bones) — as part of VCI Entertainment’s “Showtime USA” DVD series. The restores on both are excellent and they also offer bonus commentary tracks with in-depth examinations on all of the films in the series.