Tennessee’s Partner is very loosely based on a Bret Harte story. The story takes place in a gold mining town in California where gambler John Payne finds it easier to make money at the poker table than digging for gold. Payne’s who’s name is Tennessee is probably no better than he ought to be, but the place is full of rough characters.
One of them is Anthony Caruso, another gambler who’s got a bad case of jealousy. He eggs on another poker loser to bushwhack Payne, But a stranger riding into town played by Ronald Reagan saves Payne. He’s simply known as Cowpoke. And he becomes Tennessee’s partner.
Reagan is in town to marry Coleen Gray who’s name Goldie implies what she’s really after. Payne’s known her in the past and knows what Gray is all about. He romances her again and leaves her on a boat to San Francisco.
Of course that’s bitter medicine for Reagan and it puts a strain on the partnership.
Payne has another partner in town, Rhonda Fleming who’s the local madam. They’re partners in a combination bordello/gambling establishment. Payne takes the customer’s money downstairs at the poker table and Fleming’s girls do the same upstairs.
This marked the fourth film during the Fifties that Ronald Reagan and Rhonda Fleming appeared together in. They were good friends professionally and politically. Ms. Fleming’s politics were quite compatible with the 40th president of the United States.
Tennessee’s Partner is a nicely crafted B western and good entertainment even if we never do learn the real names of both Tennessee and Cowpoke.