“Stealin' what's yours ain't stealin'.”
Gene Tierney is one of my favorite classic actresses. Not only was she outrageously gorgeous she was incredibly talented. I have watched a lot of her films and up until Belle Starr I had yet to see her in a bad film where her acting was horrendous. But that the entire blame for this film being bad cannot be placed upon Tierney it was not a good film in general.
The story takes place after the Civil War. Since her father was killed by Yankees and her brother was fighting Belle (Tierney) ran her family home herself along with her mammy. Her brother Ed comes home as well as his friend Maj. Thomas Crail (Dana Andrews) who fought for the north. Thomas likes Belle and she likes him but she cannot forgive the Yankees for what they did to her father.
In town she sees Thomas has put up a notice for the capture of a bandit named Sam Starr (Randolph Scott). Belle sticks up for him saying that he is protecting Missouri from Yankees and carpetbaggers who are undesirable to the south. A man sitting by hears this, he is one of the men in Sam Starr’s gang and he relays what Belle has said to the leader. That night Sam comes to Belle and Ed’s house while Thomas is there. He and his gang tie up Thomas but before they can get away from the chase by the soldiers Sam is shot. Belle takes him into the house to take care of him. When Thomas finds out he has to bring Ed to jail and burn their house down.
Along with one of the men Belle gets her brother and Sam out of jail. She has had enough of the Yankees and the carpetbaggers so she joins with Sam to keep them out. As time goes on they marry and there is a manhunt and reward out for them. Belle does not care about what they do just as long as she feels she is doing something right for her state and the south. Ed comes to try to talk some sense into her. He gets through to her even though she does not want to hear it. On his way back to town he is shot by two men who did not know that Ed was Belle’s sister. Belle takes Ed’s words to heart now that he is gone.
Sam wants to hold a raid on the town when he finds out the governor is coming. Belle’s mammy finds out that the notice is fake and that the town’s people are planning to capture Sam. She warns Belle and Belle tries to warn Sam but he will not listen. He goes into town anyway and she tries to stop him.
So the plot is not too bad if the lead had been acted by someone else and the Technicolor was not so god awful it would not have been bad. As I said I adore Gene Tierney she was a great actress but in Belle Starr she was twenty-one and just really starting out. She overacted so horribly to the point where it was embarrassing to watch sometimes. The Technicolor did not help any with the look and feel of the film. Tierney’s close up were ghastly they made her look like she had way too much cover-up on her face giving her an orange tint. The copy that I saw looked like it was not restored so that could possibly be the problem but still it looked terrible.
Dana Andrews and Randolph Scott were not bad they were the only good actors in the whole film. Andrews did look pretty ridiculous though with his mustache and did not look good in a Civil War uniform at all.
Belle Starr felt like it wanted to be a shorter version of Gone with the Wind: they had a tough chick who wanted to get back at the Yankees for ruining her way of life, the girl was very pretty, and two men were in love with her and neither was good for her. The film falls flat in so many ways it is not worth watching unless you are a big Gene Tierney fan.