The Cowboy Sheik  
 
Will Rogers series
Production No. R-6
03 February 1924
Pathé Exchange
silent short
2-reels
 

Director: Jay A. Howe Cinematography: Robert Doran, Arthur Lloyd
Producer: Hal Roach Editor: T.J. Crizer
Titles/Dialogue: A.H. Giebler Sound recording: N/A

NOT AVAILABLE ON DVD

One of the few ranches that has saved its cowboys from the movies. Open on said ranch: a big man is seated in front of a fence, talking to three other men (three of them are Billy Engle, Martin Wolfkeil and Jack O'Brien): "The lucky guy gets to ask the teacher to the dance." They play a game with coins, which Engle seems to win. At this moment, Slickey Stebbins (Earl Mohan) -- the bully of the neighborhood--The other boys could be arrested for what they think of him -- rides up on a horse. He asks what the boys are doing, which prompts Engle to explain the game and the bargain. He kicks the game and yells, "I'll settle the argument!--She's goin' with me!" He shoves the big guy, gets back on his horse and rides away.
"Two Straw Bill"--As bashful as a boy with his first long pants. We cut to Bill (Will Rogers) and (what appears to be) another lady, with both backs turned to the camera. He is reading from a book on ballroom dancing; specifically about etiquette. The selection reads, "Having gained the lady's consent to dance, place the right arm, gently but firmly around her waist." Bill complies, and at this point both turn around, to reveal the lady is actually a log in a dress and hat. He continues to read as he gently spins around with the dolled-up piece of inanimate wood in his right arm. As he does so, he is noticed by Engle, peering around a corner, who calls attention to his fellow cowboys, who spy on Bill and his log.
A startled Bill notices them, and pushes the log down and moves out of sight and behind a shed. He puts the book in his shirt and grabs two pieces of straw, hence his nickname -- Willing to take a straw vote on any question. He decides to ask her (the teacher) if he gets the short straw of the two. The four rascals continue to spy on Bill, who draws the short straw and decides to ask her. The four cowboys laugh, as they come up to Bill and taunt him. Bill sulks away, as one ruffian says, "He ain't got a China-man's chance against Slickey and his Valentino hair." Bill sulks more, then realizes something: he takes out his pocketwatch and sees it's quarter to four (time for school to let out) as he dashes off.
Gussie, the cook--All gummed up with romance. Gussie (Helen Gilmore) rushes up to Bill, who looks resistant as she reads a poem called "Tongue Tied By Love": "He looked into my deep blue eyes / My heart was all a flutter / He tried to tell me of his love / But he could only stutter." As she reads, Bill sneaks away; this does not go unnoticed by Gussie, who looks around for Bill and pouts when she realizes he's gone. Bill lassoes a bouquet as school lets out.  The children exit, followed by the Teacher (Marie Mosquini) -- A good speller. She has cast a spell over the heart of every man in the neighborhood.
She notices Bill walk to a horse and the two act coy as she approaches him. "Reckon you're goin' to the dance?" Bill asks. "Yes, are you?" the Teacher asks back. Bill nods; "I'll bet you love dancin'," he says. She replies yes -- "with a good partner." Bill says that he has something for her, and proceeds to lasso some flowers -- unfortunately for him, Slickey rides up as he hands over the flowers. Slickey retrieves them and gives them to the Teacher, shoving off Bill as they walk off. A frustrated Bill plays another straw game, and decides he'll "foller 'em" if he draws the short straw. He does, and "follers" the two. "The view's fine, ain't it?--The air's full o' atmosphere an' everything--" Bill says, to not much avail. He tries another plan -- he unhitches Slickey's horse. This plan is even less successful, as Slickey retorts, "He'll follow right behind--and you might do the same." Bill tries again with "o new trick" [as the title card reads]. He lassoes and hitches onto a cow -- which runs off, forcing the rope-wielding Bill to chase behind him into a stable, where he eats it. The Teacher and Slickey talk by a stable, as the latter asks what time he should call to take her to the dance; the Teacher announces she intends to go "with the folks," to Slickey's dismay. The sulking Bill plays another straw game -- if the short straw, he'll "go down there and lick him." He doesn't ("It's mighty lucky for him," he brags to himself).
Finally, Slickey exits, as Gussie bothers Bill with another poetry recital. This time, Gussie holds onto his rope, with which Bill proceeds to release some slack and turn the barn corner. Gussie notices and drags back... to find it tied to a mule.
Bill is back at the ranch and is handed a few dollars by the boss. An excited Bill proceeds to pull a catalog from under his pillow (his bed also being in the room) and flips to a drawing of a man in a suit. He fills out an order and measures himself, comparing it to the picture - and has a misunderstanding when he wraps the spool around a pole and himself, prompting him to write down 47 inches for the waist. He measures his leg - 18 inches (form says "between 15 and 16").
The night of the dance. The four fellows from earlier are getting spiffed up as Bill rides his horse there and walks into their room. He carries a package - his suit - as the four ask him what it is; Bill replies, "It's a saddle--What'd you think it was?" as the others clear out. Bill opens the package, and finds a giant "Tonnage"-sized pair of pants. A confused Bill finds a note: "Dear Sir - We are sending you an extra pair of pants. We hope they fit, but if you really are built according to measurements in your order letter we advise you to get in touch with Barnum's circus at once. Resp'y yours, Morris and Co." Within the box, Bill finds a more manageable pair of pants. He struggles to sew on the tongue of his shoes and misbuttons his vest, but takes care of the latter by grabbing a pair of scissors snipping off the longer bottom piece.
As he puts on his jacket, he notices the lone unbuttoned button, and proceeds to fix the problem - this time the button at the bottom is lone. Snip, snip, go the scissors. He buttons up the jacket, puts on a bowtie, and slicks his hair back with some "Rose Bloom Hair Food." He dons the hat, and bends the brim in a few places (almost looking Jubilo-esque) before deciding to go unbent. He finally exits the room and attempts to mount his horse, but finds it difficult with his tight pants; he drags the horse along by rope, feeling discomfort and rubbing away shine-blocking dirt on his new shoes. He then grabs a milk cart and uses it as a stepping block, allowing him to mount his horse.
Cut to the dance. Everything is in full swing as Slickey enters, attracting the attention of Gussie, and makes his way over to the Teacher as Bill makes his way to a whole block of stacked milk carts ("Gee! it looks like everybody wore their tight fitting pants tonight," he observes). He adds his to the block, ties up his horse and enters the dance, prompting the four fellas to laugh at his slicked-up appearance. The band begins the play (with William Gillespie on the violin). Slickey and the Teacher dance, as Gussie makes her way over to the (perhaps understandably) ever-recalcitrant Bill. The Teacher seems to eyeball for Bill, who is stiffly held in Gussie's arms. Bill lightly steps on her toes, as Gussie proclaims, "I could just die dancing with you, Willie!" "No such luck!" Bill shoots (or perhaps thinks) back. The music finishes and the crowd applaudes (Charlie Hall front and center!). The Teacher and Slickey talk as a shady-looking fellow (Jack Ackroyd) sneaks by the door and motions for Slickey, who excuses himself, the Teacher remaining oblivious.
Bill stands by Gussie's left, and distracts her by pointing on her right shoulder, allowing him to make time with the Teacher. He acts shyly, but before he can get much of a chance, Slickey re-enters and steals her back onto the dance floor - and Gussie grabs the reluctant, stiff Bill once again. However, Bill storms (or rather, limps) off into another room after the stomping violinist (Gillespie) stomps on his foot - as does Slickey, unintentionally(?). The undeterred Gussie grabs another, short man (the unmistakable Sammy Brooks) standing on a chair; he jumps off, forcing Gussie to make due. Re-enter Slickey's shady accomplice, as Slickey excuses himself again. Sullen Bill, sitting in a chair, removes one of his shoes as the Teacher notices him and asks of him to dance "the Ladies' Choice" with her. Bill agrees, but stalls to retrieve his shoe -- which a dog runs off with. The Teacher asks what's wrong, and Bill replies "I'm kinda lame--think I've got a bone in my leg." He notices the dog and chases after it -- of course, Slickey re-enters here, snubbing an upset Gussie. Bill (couldn't tell if he retrieved his shoe) has a dialogue with Wolfkeil, Slickey talks to the band, as Bill asks another woman (Lyle Tayo) to dance -- but the Teacher assumes the lady's position once he gets his words out.
They start to dance, which does not go unnoticed by Slickey. He swipes the Teacher away and shoves off an indignant Bill, who tries to catch up with them as they move in circles. Upon finally doing so, Slickey punches Bill and continues to dance with the (presumably unwilling) Teacher. Upset, Bill does another straw match. He picks the short one, and marches over to Slickey. Slickey hits Bill, and the two proceed to square off (to the Teacher's delight). Gussie yells, "Chastise him good, Willie!" The two continue as the Teacher grabs onto a sash of hers; following a rather long shot of a bearded old man, Bill knocks Slickey down - to which Slickey returns the favor. Bill (with blood dripping from his mouth!) proceeds to land several punches on a dazed Slickey; as he sits down, Bill pulls the chair away, causing him to fall flat on his back. Bill puts Slickey out a window and shuts the shade, his clothes torn. The torn, dirty Bill pouts as the Teacher makes her way over to him and gushes, "Oh! You are wonderful--I want you to take me home." Gussie runs over: "I think so too, Willie. But take me--I need protection." Torn, Bill does another straw game, and if he gets the short one, he'll take Gussie -- who announces she'll pull her own straw! She suspensefully pulls a straw little by little -- and thankfully, it's the long one. She pouts as Bill and the Teacher smile at other. Fade to black.

Favourite bit
Although you know there is something behind the wall, you have to wait to see what exactly Will Rogers has tied the rope to in order to avoid being held by the cook....

Facts
Production R-6 - Will Rogers series.
Copyrighted January 26, 1924.

Filming dates
October 18-26, 1923, with added scenes October 29, 1923.

Trivia
The time on Will Rogers' pocket watch is 3:46pm
The name of the poem which the cook reads to Bill is "Tongue Tied By Love".  After she reads it to him she grabs a big handful of her breast!
The intertitle card which refers to the character with "Valentino hair" is a reference to silent screen star Rudolph Valentino.
The Rose Bloom Hair Food is made in Chicago, USA.
Will Rogers decks Earl Mohan with a left-handed punch.

Will Rogers
'Two Straw' Bill
Marie Mosquini
School teacher
Earl Mohan
Slickey Stebbins
Helen Gilmore
Gussie, the cook
Billy Engle
Ranch hand
'Tonnage' Martin Wolfkeil
Ranch hand
Jack O'Brien
Ranch hand
Jack Ackroyd
Shady man at dance
William Gillespie
Fiddler at party
Sammy Brooks
Small man at dance
Lyle Tayo
Woman at dance
Charlie Hall
Party guest
   
? UNIDENTIFIED CAST ?

CREDITS POSTERS & LOBBY CARDS

INTERTITLE CARDS + CAPTIONS

Acknowledgements:
Jesse Brisson (review)

This page was last updated on: 17 May 2016