powered by AFI
Outside the western community of Sycamora, bands of roving Indians attack and rob wagon trains and stagecoaches. Unknown to the town residents, the head of the cattle organization, Art Selby, and the head of the mining organization, Clint Raybold, are behind the attacks. When print supplier Smiley Burnette relates that the attacks are being led by whites masquerading as Indians to publisher John Randolph, he declares he will publicly accuse Selby and Raybold, who have long been suspected of the reign of brutality and thefts. After John's life is threatened, Smiley requests more Rangers from the territorial governor and Capt. Tom Hickson arrives with new ranger Gene Autry. When Selby's gang attacks the town in search of John, Gene recognizes a gang member as his brother Jack, and despite a direct order from Hickson, refuses to fire on him. Jack recognizes Gene, but nevertheless shoots and kills John. Hickson takes Gene to Marshal Jim Hackett, but Gene refuses to explain his hesitation and Hickson strips him of his ranger badge, ordering him out of town. Determined to find out the truth about Jack, Gene takes a job as a stage line guard in a nearby town, which will allow him to return to Sycamora. On his first trip, the passengers include John's daughter Ann, who intends to take over the newspaper. Ann is unaware of the severity of the raids until the stagecoach is fired upon by Selby's gang. Gene saves the driver and brings the stage safely into Sycamora. Raybold accuses Jack of intentionally not firing on the stage because of Gene's presence. Jack, who has changed his last name to Austin to distance himself from Gene, dismisses the accusation. Later in town, some of Selby's gang mocks the Rangers in front of Gene and a brawl ensues. Jack comes to his brother's rescue when Gene is nearly shot, but the two argue when Gene suggests Jack turn himself in for John's murder. Later, Smiley advises Gene to turn in Jack despite their relationship, but Gene refuses. Meanwhile, one of Selby's scouts, Pete Littlewolf, reports that the cavalry will soon be making their customary pick up of gold from the local trading post to take to nearby Fort Ballard. When Pete leaves, Gene follows and convinces him that he is one of Selby's new men. Pete then reveals Selby's plot to steal the gold before the cavalry's arrival. Gene asks Smiley to ride to Fort Ballard and bring the cavalry as soon as possible and heads out to the trading post, which is run by Jules Brent, and is already under attack by Selby's "Indians." Gene helps Brent fight off the attack, but Brent acknowledges the gold has been taken when the cavalry arrives. Selby and Raybold wonder about Jack's restraint during the raid and suspect him of tipping Gene off to the attack. Selby orders Jack to get rid of Gene and later in town, Jack arranges to meet Gene out in the desert. At the meeting, however, Jack hesitates to shoot Gene and a fistfight breaks out. Raybold, who has secretly followed Jack to the meeting, tries to shoot Gene, but Jack intervenes and is slightly wounded. Gene kills Raybold and informs Jack he must arrest him, but Jack pleads for a chance to make amends. In town, Ann, previously unaware of Gene's involvement in her father's murder, reads an out-of-town paper describing the event and is outraged. When Gene returns she demands an explanation, but he refuses, and she goes to Hickson to swear out a warrant for his arrest. Before leaving town to avoid being served, Gene tells Smiley about Jack's admission that Selby ordered John's death. That night Smiley meets Gene in the desert, where they are ambushed by a group led by Jack, who takes them to Selby. Selby informs them they will be taken along with his gang when they leave Sycamora with their enormous stash of gold, silver and other plunder from their numerous robberies. Gene realizes if Selby's gang can be caught with the loot, it will prove John's accusations and provide a motive for his murder. That night Jack frees Gene and Smiley from the barn, then remains behind to hold off the gang and is killed by Selby. In town, Gene demands that Hackett form a posse to stop Selby's wagon train, and Ann, having learned the truth from Smiley, insists on going along. After a furious chase and shootout, the posse cuts off Selby's flight and he is arrested. Hickson reinstates Gene and speculates that Jack might have been a good Ranger too.