A not-too-exciting Marlene Dietrich/John Wayne western. Boring ol’ Randolph Scott (Roberta, Ride Lonesome) rides into town claiming to represent the law of the country but really planning to steal land from local miners. John Wayne is seduced by Scott’s uneasy companion Margaret Lindsay (Jezebel, Fog Over Frisco) until he catches onto their scheme. Dietrich is wise from the beginning. She and third-wheel Richard Barthelmess (that guy from Only Angels Have Wings who looks like a cross between Buster Keaton and Peter Lorre) help Wayne foil the plan, and the mines are saved, yay.

But most notably: John Wayne in blackface!

Set in Paris but I don’t think there’s a single Parisian (character or actor). Stiff lunkhead footballer Randolph Scott (Ride Lonesome), looking convincingly awkward on the delicate Paris sets, is tagging along for some reason with Fred Astaire (here winningly named Huck Haines) and Fred’s band of musical entertainers.

Randolph looks to his rich aunt Roberta (Helen Westley, who also appeared with Irene Dunne in Show Boat) for a place to stay while Fred negotiates with blustery “Russian” Luis Alberni (hotel owner in Easy Living, chef in The Lady Eve) for a place to work.

Enter Fred’s love interest Ginger Rogers. Where did she come from again? I don’t remember, but she’s somewhat hindered here by her awful fake accent and by Fred’s fancy for solo tapdances. Fred’s got no humility – this was only his third film (between Gay Divorcee and Top Hat) and something like Ginger’s 30th. The two dances she participates in are wonderful, especially the first where she wears pants so we can see what she’s up to.

Aaand enter Irene Dunne (pre-Awful Truth, same year she was in John Stahl’s Magnificent Obsession) as Randolph’s love interest. I hate to see a dumb American dude being fought over by a European princess (Dunne, who has also been secretly designing Roberta’s all-the-rage fashions) and an aggressively rich American (Claire Dodd), but maybe Randy is more handsome than I realize. Irene is also secretly (?) the sister of the building’s doorman (Victor Varconi: Pontius Pilate in DeMille’s King of Kings), which leads to misunderstandings. Hmmm. Ultimately what matters is we get some oscar-nominated songs, some Fred/Ginger dances, and some comedic running-around. I like Irene Dunne whenever she’s not singing (she’s fond of the piercing Jeanette MacDonald style, which would thankfully die after the 30’s).

Remade in the 50’s with Red Skelton and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Lucille Ball appears in a fashion montage at the end. IMDB trivia gives clues how to spot her, but I guess my laptop DVD drive is dying so I can’t get screenshots.

Two of Budd B.’s lately acclaimed late-50’s westerns starring Randolph Scott. Scott is around 60 in these, but not an Eastwood-like figure, kind of a big face and a game-show-host voice. All smiley in the first movie, darker and more serious in the second. I watched both on TCM, so all screenshots are stolen from elsewhere online.

The Tall T (1957)
Randolph Scott (“Randy” to Robert Osborne – they’re close) is kind of a stupid rancher, who loses his horse in a humiliating bet and has to hitch a ride home. Too bad the coach he hitches with is hijacked by bad men. The coach’s other passengers are a just-married couple, rich woman Maureen O’Sullivan and opportunistic accountant John Hubbard. Scott is just caught in the crossfire here, but since the bad men murdered his friend and the friend’s young son and tossed ’em in the well before Scott arrived, he is gonna get himself some revenge.

Randolph, 16 years after Fritz Lang’s Western Union, and Maureen, who started out in Frank Borzage’s Song o’ My Heart:

Our head bad guy is Arthur Hunnicutt (Big Sky, The Lusty Men), and he’s got two sidekicks – not so bright Billy Jack (Skip Homeier of Fixed Bayonets) and sharpshooter Chink (Henry Silva!). Arthur sends the husband to make a ransom deal with the girl’s father, then kills the husband. Scott gets philosophical with Maureen over the death, then when Arthur rides off to collect payment, the prisoners wipe out Billy Jack and Henry Silva (awful lot of blood for the 50’s), wait for Arthur to return then kill him too.

John Hubbard as the traitorous coward husband:

I liked it, but didn’t see what’s the big deal. Osborne points out that Randolph and Arthur seem like similar men, and their roles could just as easily have been switched – I guess I can buy that.

The great Henry Silva, forty years before Ghost Dog, in his first credited film role:

Ride Lonesome (1959)

This one I liked better. We’ve got a younger, prettier, tougher dame (Karen Steele), a less smiley Randolph Scott, James Coburn in the Henry Silva slot (a fair trade), and a bonus appearance by Lee Van Cleef.

TV’s Karen Steele was also in Boetticher’s earlier Decision at Sundown and John Turturro’s favorite film of 1955, Marty.

Scott is a bounty hunter who captures wanted killer Billy John (star of Fuller’s Verboten!) then runs into two other guys – smart guy Pernell Roberts (184 episodes of Bonanza) and dumb sidekick Coburn – who were out for BJ, not for the money but for an amnesty deal so they can live decent lives. These are obviously Good Guys, though the movie plays up the tension between them and Scott, having Pernell rave on about how he’ll have to kill Scott before they get to town.

James Coburn’s first film role! He’d become a regular for Sam Peckinpah, who also cast Randolph Scott in his final film role three years later.

But Scott isn’t out for the money after all. He knows BJ’s dangerous brother Frank will follow them, and wants revenge for Frank’s killing Scott’s wife some years ago. Revenge taken, he surrenders the prisoner to his buddies for a happy ending. Oh yeah, and Karen Steele tags along for the whole movie but I missed exactly why because I was in the kitchen getting some ice cream during that scene. There’s a standoff with some indians who just killed her husband – I think it’s mostly an excuse for another fight scene.

Lee Van Cleef, recently of Sam Fuller’s China Gate, 25 years before Master Ninja:

Good movie, gets a lot done in 90 minutes. Also the music doesn’t telegraph everything that’s gonna happen 20 seconds beforehand like in The Tall T.

Thrilling finale at the hangin’ tree: