Meanwhile, back at the ranch
In the good old days many of my Saturday afternoons was spent in a movie theater enjoying western cowboy movies. Those movies were commonly called “B” westerns. Those type westerns were popular during the 1930s through the mid-1950s. After that few of that type of western was produced. Those made after that period actually made fun of the hero or main star. Not the type of hero little boys could admire.
The transfer from “B” westerns to what many referred to as Sunday westerns began about the time John Wayne starred in the movie Stagecoach in 1939; prior to that he made several “B” westerns. He was one of first singing cowboys in “B” westerns as "Singin' Sandy Saunders.” Ken Maynard was actually the first of those singing cowboys. Other singing cowboys in the movies of that era included: Eddie Dean, Gene Autry, Roy Roger, and Rex Allen.
“Meanwhile, back at the ranch” was a phrase frequently used in those old westerns. It was used to quickly change scenes during a movie. This was evidently done to keep wondering what was going to happen next. It was first used in the silent movies of the early 1900s (The "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson, New York, 1997). In that silent movies had no sound it was necessary for what the actors said be posted as a narrative in printed form on the screen. The only sound was someone playing a piano during the movie or music on a cylinder or disc played on a phonograph.
The phrase “Meanwhile, back at the ranch” is often used now days to mean: “Let’s get back on the subject at hand.” Or, “We’ve talked about the past, we need to now concentrate on the present.”