Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dodge City (1939)



“Dodge City... rolling in wealth from the great Texas trail-herds... the town that knew no ethics but cash and killing.”

            I believe I am beginning to like Westerns when for a long time I vehemently swore against them. I thought them cheesy… and to a certain extent I still do but sometimes I see a Western that has a good story and cast. There was no way I could pass up viewing Dodge City since one, this is the fifth of nine pairings of Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn and two, it  was made in the fabulous year of 1939 when over five hundred films were released. De Havilland would star in five films that year including this and Gone With the Wind (this is totally unfair I am the age she was at this time and I feel totally unaccomplished with my life. Just think to be twenty-three years old, starring in one of the greatest films of all time and being nominated for an Academy Award. Yes, this is something I think of jealously at night after watching one of her films). Dodge City has a good story and of course very good acting from the leads as well as the supporting cast.
            Wade Hatton (Flynn) and his two friends just helped to build a railroad out to Kansas. The railroad passes through the newly named town of Dodge City. The town is horrible with no morals or ethics and people running manic all over the place. Even on Sundays the streets are not safe. A cattle herder and seller makes the town very dangerous and corrupt. Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) and Wade are old enemies. Surrett is corrupt as the day is long and is not afraid to kill anyone to get what he wants. He and his cronies recently killed a man that wanted his money from them. The man had a wife and young son.
            Wade also helps a group of pioneers traveling to Kansas cross the Midwest. One of the travelers is Abbie Irving (de Havilland) and her brother Lee. Lee has been drunk and embarrassing most of the trip. When the travelers stop to rest Lee starts shooting off his gun scaring a herd of buffalo. Wade tells the guy to stop but he will not listen and has no choice once the buffalo start to run to shoot Lee in the knee. The buffalo come storming through the camp and crush Lee to death. Abbie is more than angry with Wade for what she feels he did to her brother.
            In Dodge City, Wad befriends the little boy who lost his father. Abbie was taking the boy and a group of children out for a wagon ride one Sunday when a gun fight erupted. The horse got scared and the boy tried to help but they got loose and he was killed. After this incident Wade is no longer reluctant to become the sheriff of Dodge City. He does a fantastic job the streets are safe to walk along and people are now moving back.
            The only person keeping Dodge City from being truly safe and sound is Surrett and his gang. Abbie’s life becomes threatened when she and the local newspaper man get dirt on Surrett that can send him away for life.
            Knowing that Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland were the stars it is not a shock that they end up together and the final moments of the film they live happily ever after.
            I truly enjoyed this western very much. Errol Flynn was a great action star and made a great cowboy. I found it funny that the two stars of the American west were not Americans: Flynn was Australian and de Havilland is British. Flynn made a much better cowboy than any American I have ever seen (well, ok, so no one throws anything at me John Wayne was the ultimate cowboy). De Havilland was adorable in the film. I love seeing her as feisty characters who talk back and get involved. I loved all her costumes too I think this was her best film as far as costumes go and looking good in them from the films I have seen her in as of now.

            Bruce Cabot as a bad guy was so weird to see!! I am so used to seeing him as Fay Wray’s rescuer Jack Driscoll in King Kong and the very sweet Mac in Finishing School that seeing him as a bad guy was nuts!
            Now the whole time I was watching this film I was going nuts wondering who the guy was who played Yancy one of Surrett’s cronies. His hard face and speech looked and sounded so familiar. Times like these I love have the iPhone and the IMDB app because I found out that the actor’s name was Victor Jory who just so happened to be Joans Wilkerson in Gone With the Wind.
            The rest of the supporting cast was great. They brought along much needed funniness and plenty of action.
            One of the scenes is fantastic. It is a brawl in a saloon Surrett owns which starts out over men who fought in the Civil War on both sides. The performer on stage sings the Yankee song then a group of men start singing the Confederate song. Pretty soon some punches are being thrown and the whole inside of the saloon comes tumbling down. Everyone goes to jail afterwards and new laws and rules are set forth about drinking, gambling, and fighting.

            Michael Curtiz, one of my favorite directors of all time, directed this film. The man made so many different genres of film and I am always impressed with whatever he does.
            Dodge City is a great Western film. This put Errol Flynn on the map for making action films and he deserved it. He was not the dirty, slimy, tough as nails cowboy he was a clean, handsome, quiet, and well respected one. Olivia de Havilland was adorable to no end; I can gush all day about how cute she was in her early films. This is one of the films that shows how great Flynn and de Havilland were as a screen couple they really did have so much chemistry between them. Dodge City is a fabulous Western film that when I eventually get it on DVD I will be watching plenty of times over