Life Begins at 40 (1935)
Destry Rides Again (1939) looks like a parody of western-film stereotypes.
The film opens like a musical with chanteuse Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich) singing
a song in the saloon and then making her way through the raucous crowd of drunk
A saloon owner and professional gambler, Kent, is playing poker with a gullable
ranch owner. When the ranch owner gets a good hand and bets his whole ranch,
Frenchy pretends to spill a drink on him so that Kent's men can change his
cards. Then Kent's men kick out the ranch owner and celebrate their new ranch.
The ranch owner is ready to take revenge with a gun but the sheriff stops him
before he gets hurt. The sheriff walks into the saloon to demand an explanation
but is killed in cold blood.
People in the saloon are so accustomed to violence that they don't even pay
attention to the shots.
After another Dietrich song, Kent has the town's mayor (who is in cahoots with
him) announced that the new sheriff is a drunk, Wash
(who is currently lying on the floor after playing the banjo).
It's supposed to be a joke but Wash takes it seriously: he immediately
announces that he is sending for the son of a legendary sheriff, Tom Destry,
to come to town and help clean it up.
Tom (James Stewart) arrives on the stagecoach. Wash is disappointed to see
a fine gentleman in a nice suit and with no gun instead of the rotten
gunfighter he was hoping for. At the saloon Kent is hardly intimidated by the
gun-less new deputy and the whole saloon erupts in hysterical laughter.
Frenchy is attacked by the wife of a Russian drunk, Boris, who has just lost his pants
(literally) to her in another crooked poker game. The saloon crowd watches
amused their catfight. Tom stops them by pouring a bucket of water on Frenchy.
Frenchy shows her violent temper by turning the fight on him, sparing no
object of the saloon. Eventually Tom has to run away. Wash is ashamed.
Tom tries to explain that he believes in restoring order without using guns.
it turns out that Tom is not bluffing: he is a hardcore pacifist in a land
where people are killed like flies. Nonetheless, the first time he confronts
people shooting in the street he gives a demonstration of his amazing
The rancher's son calls for help: Kent's men are attacking the ranch,
claiming ownership after the crooked poker game. Destry calmly inspects
the contract and states that Kent has a legitimate claim on the ranch.
Tom promises he can see what he can do for them. To start with, he visits
Frenchy, who hardly accepts his offer of friendship but is touched when
he pays her a compliment, something that men don't do in that part of the
Another rancher wants to take justice into his hands against Kent.
The only person in town who screams openly against Kent is Boris'
hot-tempered wife. Tom decides to hire Boris (unusually sober, although
still with no pants) to investigate the murder of the old sheriff.
Tom is determined to bring the killers to justice.
In the meantime Frenchy makes Kent jealous by praising Tom's manners.
At the saloon Tom bluffs like a good poker gambler: he tells Kent that he
knows where the body of the old sheriff lies. Kent sends one of his men
to check it out, and Boris follows him. Tom announces to the saloon
(the clearly works as the town's meeting hall!)
that Kent's man is under arrest for the murder of the old sheriff.
The mayor fixes the problem by offering to preside the trial (i.e.
to let Kent's man loose) but Tom secretely sends for a respectable judge
to come to town.
When Kent's men hear of the judge, they decide to free their friend from
the jail. Frenchy calls Tom to tell him that she's leaving town and tries to
seduce him. But she's actually trying to keep him out of trouble. She basically
saves his life because the sheriff is killed. Tom grabs a gun, his father's
gun. Frenchy and Boris' wife ally to stir up emotions against Kent.
The town's men join Tom in the massive shootout against Kent's gangsters,
while the women lead a march against Kent's gangsters and eventually chase
them away. Kent is aiming at Tom, Frenchy, now truly in love, runs to shield
him. Kent shoots at Tom but kills Frenchy, Tom kills Kent. It's the women who
restored order to the town. Now Tom can walk around town without carrying
a gun. And a good girl is interested in his stories...
Valley Of The Sun (1942)
His best comedy was Murder He Says (1945).
Blue Dahlia (1946): a veteran has to prove he didn't kill his cheating wife.
Never A Dull Moment (1950) is a tedious domestic comedy with a few songs.
A New York composer, Kay, organizes a benefit rodeo. There she meets
a widower, Chris, whose petulant helper is determined to get him married again.
They eventually fall in love and Kay leaves her city life to take care of
Chris' ranch. She has to face the rude manners of a neighbor, but easily
conquers the hearts of Chris' daughters. The difficult (and comic) part is
learning how to run a ranch. The rude neighbor controls their
water and threatens to shut them off, but Kay outsmarts him and gets the
water back, letting Chris believe it was his doing.
When they argue, Kay tries to return to her city life, but eventually they
come to pick her up and bring her back to happy life in the ranch.
Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number (1966) is a Bob Hope farce.
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