Ride 'Em Cowboy

Ride 'Em Cowboy

Theatrical Poster
Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Alex Gottlieb
Written by True Boardman
John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Dick Foran
Anne Gwynne
Ella Fitzgerald
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Edited by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • February 20, 1942 (1942-02-20)
Running time
86 minutes
Language English
Box office $2 million (US rentals)[1]

Ride 'Em Cowboy is a 1942 film starring the comedy team of Abbott and Costello. The supporting cast features Dick Foran, Anne Gwynne, Johnny Mack Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Samuel S. Hinds, Douglas Dumbrille and Morris Ankrum, and the movie was directed by Arthur Lubin.


The author of best-selling western novels, Bronco Bob Mitchell (Dick Foran), has never set foot in the west. A newspaper article has exposed this fact to his fans, and his image is suffering because of it. He decides to make an appearance at a Long Island charity rodeo to bolster his image. When a steer escapes while he is riding a horse nearby, he is thrown. Not knowing what to do, a cowgirl, Anne Shaw (Anne Gwynne), comes to his rescue and saves his life by bulldogging the steer.

During the rescue, she is injured and cannot compete and loses her chance to obtain the $10,000 prize. Although Bob is grateful, she quickly becomes angry due to his city slicker hotshot personality and returns to her father's dude ranch in Arizona. Bob follows her with the hopes of making amends, and actually learns how to be a real cowboy.

Meanwhile, Willoughby (Lou Costello) and Duke (Bud Abbott) are vendors at the rodeo. They are not very good at their job, and soon cause enough havoc that they hide from their boss. Their hiding place winds up being a cattle car and they soon find themselves on their way out west. When they arrive, Willoughby accidentally shoots an arrow into an Indian tepee. Custom says that this is a proposal, but Willoughby and Duke soon run in fear when the Indian maiden inside the tent turns out to be plump and unattractive. They wind up at the same Dude ranch that Anne and Bob are at, and soon given jobs by the foreman, Alabam (Johnny Mack Brown).

Anne concedes and begins to instruct Bob on the ways of cowboy life, while Willoughby and Duke are still menaced by the Indians. Eventually Anne decides that Bob has improved enough to enter him on their team at the state rodeo championship. Unfortunately a gambler, Ace Henderson (Morris Ankrum), has made large bets against the ranch and has his gang kidnap Bob and Alabam. Willoughby and Duke unwittingly come to the rescue while they are running from the Indians, and everyone returns to the rodeo in time. Bob, finally a true cowboy, rides a bronco long enough to win the championship. The Indians catch up to Willoughby there, but as a joke, his bride turns out to be Duke.

Music and Dance

Ella Fitzgerald, in her first screen role, plays Ruby, who fills several roles as one of the employees of the ranch. At the opening rodeo, she is dressed as a rodeo clown, and comes to Anne's side when she is hurt. Later in the film, she can be seen removing an apron before singing. Ella sings "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" in the bus, as the ranch crew drives from the railway station to the ranch. Ruby and the other employees interact playfully during the song.

In the one dance scene in the film, a square dance is being held in a barn. The Merry Macs interrupt the square dance caller with the musical question, "What kind of old fashion jive is that you've got?" And end up telling him "Don't be a chump. Do a square dance, but make it jump." They then launch into an upbeat swing tune. The Macs sing "Ruby, Ruby. We want Ruby", and ask her to come out and sing jive. She takes off her apron and sings a few verses. Still singing, she introduces dancers who will "show you how they drop the square. You know. Back in Harlem up on Sugar Hill." Several couples come out and put on quite a display of Lindy Hop. Ruby and the Macs each take a turn with additional verses, and over a dozen couples take the floor doing swing. Well known swing dancers Dean Collins and Jewel McGowan dance alongside the other couples in this scene. Although Dean is known for a smooth style of Lindy, he and Jewel perform two "around the block" moves, as well as some energetic kicks during their short time on camera.

Most of the songs in the film are cowboy songs, which were very popular at the time. The presence of Ella Fizgerald and swing dancers demonstrates another popular music and dance of the early 1940s.

Don Raye and Gene de Paul are credited with writing the original songs: "Give me a Saddle", "Wake Up Jacob", "Beside the Rio Tonto Shore",the standard "I'll Remember April" (Oscar nomination for best song), and "Ride em Cowboy".

Musical numbers were staged by Nick Castle.[2]



Ride 'Em Cowboy was filmed from June 30-August 9, 1941 on location at both the B-Bar A and the Rancho Chihuahua dude ranches.[3] It was originally intended to be the third starring film for Abbott and Costello, but its production was delayed so that the team could make In the Navy, and then its release was delayed so that Keep 'Em Flying could be filmed and released.[4] Dorothy Dandridge appears in the film as a dancer (uncredited).The song "Cow Cow Boogie" (written by Bennie Carter) was cut from film, but it was later sung in a Dandridge short film of the same name.


The film was the eighth biggest hit of 1942.[5]

Ride 'Em Cowboy was re-released with Keep 'Em Flying in 1949, and Who Done It? in 1954.[6]

A 10 Minute segment of Ride 'Em Cowboy was released as "No Indians, Please" by Castle Films in the 1940s and 50s.

DVD release

This film has been released twice on DVD. The first time, on The Best of Abbott and Costello Volume One, on February 10, 2004, and again on October 28, 2008 as part of Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection.


  1. "101 Pix Gross in Millions" Variety 6 Jan 1943 p 58
  2. IMDB entry
  3. Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  4. Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0
  5. Furmanek p 76
  6. Furmanek, Bob and Ron Palumbo (1991). Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. New York: Perigee Books. ISBN 0-399-51605-0

External links

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