Archive for the ‘Comic Western’ Category

The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas

24 Oct


The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas — Directed by Colin Higgins.  Musical. The Madame and the local sheriff  and the football team and the girls of the night in a great big tumble. 114 minutes Color 1982.

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Dolly Parton’s bosom is a national treasure because such a big heart lies behind it. Wonderful to behold in all her amplitude and fun, she sashays through the piece with rare good humor, and in the end turns down Burt Reynolds proposal with simple and complete conviction. Reynolds is perfect as the good ol’ boy who can’t grow up, and his scene with Charles Durning as the Governor is staunch acting indeed. Durning does a delicious song-and-dance as a side-stepping politico. Jim Nabors does his yokel goon just fine. Dom De Luise is insufficient as the pesky puritanical scandal-monger TV personality. The piece is richly produced and shot and imaginatively directed. The songs are patter songs and specialty songs, and are jolly good, but none of them are up to, let’s say, the songs from Good News or The Bandwagon. Dolly Parton has brought in two of her own pieces, the “Sneaking Around With You” duet, which is witty and fun, and “I’ll Always Love You” in which she is very moving. Because the direction is so imaginative, and the costuming so right, the movie is perhaps more of a dance musical, which is just fine. The scene where the football team start in the locker room after the game and get undressed and are bare-assed in the shower, and get dressed again and get on their bus and head out to The Chicken Ranch and do a hoedown with the ladies in prom gowns who in turn strip down and they all end up naked in bed upstairs is an example of musical movie direction at its best and just one of several such sequences, all brilliantly edited. Colin Higgins deserves that feather he is wearing in his cap. The movie is a strawberry ice-cream sundae, enthusiastic, friendly, frank, and satisfying. A fine way to spend time without wasting it.



The Texas Rangers

05 May

The Texas Rangers – Directed by King Vidor. Western Comedy/Drama. Two inept bandits join up only to find themselves assigned to take down an old buddy. 98 minutes Black and White 1936.

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Vidor also wrote and produced it, thank goodness, for otherwise it would have been a routine oater. What he achieved instead was almost a satire of a routine oater, achieved it by casting that old sly-boots Fred MacMurray, aged 28, and Jack Oakie as the two inept drifter-hold-up men. The result is that Oakie is allowed to make every scene he is in funny, and MacMurray plays the straight man, which, goodness known, he was. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis might have done a remake with not much changed. Oakie is in virtually every scene and transforms all he touches. He plays The Braggart Soldier and MacMurray the dedicated virgin. The dialogue is not written for comedy, but Vidor directs it for comedy, including the proposal scene with Jean Parker as the girl who can’t keep her hands off him, and the travesty trial scene with George “Gabby” Hayes as the drunken toothless judge. As soon as force of circumstances separate Oakie and MacMurray, the film becomes a full swing action Western, with Lloyd Nolan, in a quite smart performance as the old crony they try to track down. The film falls into the tradition of the comic western, a bastard genre which George Marshall had had hand in, in Destry Rides Again. Little Big Man is a version of it, so, perhaps, is Josey Wales. Check it out.



When The Daltons Rode

30 Mar

When The Daltons Rode – Directed by George Marshall. Comedy Western. Will our hero remain faithful to his friends, the wronged Dalton boys, or will he not?  81 minutes Black and White 1940

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And rode and rode and rode.  This is one of George Marshall’s comedy/romance/westerns, a genre at which he was a master. Destry Rides Again and Texas are two notable examples of his craft and sense of fun. Here the fun is supplied by the jalopy-voiced Edgar Buchanan once again and the heaviness once again by George Bancroft. The inestimable castrati-voiced Andy Devine gives us a wonderful town silly to whom all the females in the movie are drawn. He himself is stretched between his love of food, his love of the Dalton boys, and his love of these giggling females. Marshall’s style is in full play here: during a daring escape from a lunch counter, Brian Donlevy steals a pie, and during the ensuing daring stage-coach chase, he gives it to Andy Devine, the driver, to eat, but after one bite, it is shaken from Devine’s hand, and he nearly goes overboard after it. Marshall had a genius for comic set-ups; it is one of his most endearing gifts. But watch how brilliantly he stages crowds in violent motion, and groups in mayhem. The stars are bashed around like mad. The gunfights and chases are remarkable for their conviction. Also take in, if you like, the range of stunts performed here. The gang actually does jump from a cliff onto the top of a moving train. No joke, that. Randolph Scott is the lead as a man caught up in the bandit gang, as he also is in The Stranger Wore A Gun. He exhibits a fine sense of humor, just right for Marshall’s shenanigans and set in perfect balance by the script, which, as is usual in Marshall films, is better than you might expect. It gives forceful and realistic love scenes for him to play with the elegant Kay Francis, who herself is a game gal in a dustup. Mary Gordon does the minute Irish mom of the Dalton boys to a T. The picture has brilliant passages of horses in motion, and color does not interfere here with the beautiful spectacle of black and white photography. Marshall’s cast is deep on talent: Broderick Crawford is super as Kay Francis’s love interest and pal of Scott. This is a film the whole family can watch together with pleasure.




01 Mar

Texas – directed by George Marshall – Western. A pair of ex Confederate soldiers drifts west where one goes wild and one goes good. 93 minutes black and white 1941.

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What a trip to see William Holden young.  He was never young. He was always the drained, middle aged, bourgeois-hearted one, without zest, without joie de vivre, without spontaneity and bounce, often cast in parts he was too old and inwardly defeated to deliver (Picnic, Sabrina), although, to tell the truth, these very qualities led to parts in which he was very successful, such as Sunset Boulevard. Yet here he is, before the war, in his early twenties, almost unrecognizable, full of the ready improvisation of the actor and the fluid responsiveness, full of inherent hope. Hope?  Can you believe William Holden ever knew such a thing?  But here it is. Lovely. Here he is with a young Glenn Ford, a couple of years older, and with his puppydom in full display and also his earnestness, as the lesser of the two points of interest —  the real point of interest in this picture being the style of the director George Marshall, which you can also see in full display with When The Dalton’s Rode, and that style is both romantic and humorous and comedic and cowboy. So all the story moves are worked out in terms that are commented on with humorous asides. For instance, the spectacle of a terrible stampede through town is given a momentary aside by a cow walking into a room with a man taking a bath. Marshall directed Destry Rides Again his most famous of these cowboy/comedy larks. He has strong supporting people headed by the jalopy-voiced Edgar Buchanan and the massed authority of George Bancroft. Claire Trevor is present as the love interest in an underwritten role and an over-written hair-do. When such movies came out, parents could not afford baby sitters, so they brought their kids along. We kids stayed awake or not, but if we watched the picture, we saw a show that offered entertainment without sordidness — nothing wrong with sordidness but we kids wouldn’t have known what we’e looking at. Likewise, families today can sit down together and watch this tip-top, beautifully produced and written western. It’s in black and white which spares us the color of blood, but affords us the greater color of George Marshall’s fun.


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