The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949, Preston Sturges)

A late Sturges flop, co-written with Earl Felton (The Narrow Margin) and starring Betty Grable (How to Marry a Millionaire) at the height of her fame, declared the highest-paid star in America just two years earlier. And it’s not a bad movie, about as enjoyable as Lady of Burlesque, the best of Capra, even Unfaithfully Yours. The trouble comes when you compare it to earlier Sturges features – it lacks their humor, energy and perfect screenwriting.

As a little girl, grandpa taught young Betty Grable to shoot straight, then at some point en route to becoming a saloon singer she acquired a violent temper. Attempting to shoot her philandering man Blackie (Cesar Romero) she plugs a judge in the ass (twice), so grabs her friend Conchita (Olga San Juan), skips town, lands in a new place pretending to be a schoolteacher (named Hilda Swandumper, ha). She attracts the fond attention of upright local Rudy Vallee, helps tame the wild Basserman boys, and all is going well until Blackie tracks her down and apparently shoots and kills the Bassermans (somehow they’re fine at the end), leading their dad Richard Hale into a town-wide shooting spree, at the end of which he tries to hang Blackie and poor Rudy. Things settle down, Betty returns home and, despite Katy’s protests, the movie ends with her shooting the judge in the ass a third time.

Betty Grable is no Betty Hutton when it comes to comedy, but she always looks good in a dress, and acquits herself nicely in the lead. A few of the ol’ Sturges players show up (besides Rudy Vallee, of course), including Esther Howard (mayor’s wife in Hail the Conquering Hero) and Porter Hall (The Great Moment) as the bullet-magnet judge. I wouldn’t have guessed that Margaret Hamilton (also of The Sin of Harold Diddlebock), the judge’s jealous wife, was the Wicked Witch of the West, but there you have it. I didn’t recognize Sheriff Al Bridge, though he’s been in more Sturges films than anybody. We especially liked Hugh Herbert (Hellzapoppin’) as a nearly blind doctor who attends to the judge, but best were the two brothers, bursting with energy and stupidity, played by Sterling Holloway (Remember the Night) and Dan Jackson, who looked so remarkably like his movie-brother, I’d figured they were actually related.

From the original Times review:

Apparently Mr. Sturges, devoted to the old-time slapstick school, tried to do as they did in the old days to the point of shooting his picture “off the cuff.” That is the kindest explanation for the feebleness of story in this film and the jerkiness of the continuity.

Related posts