The Film (3.5/5)
Freddie Jones (Betty Grable) is the best shot in town, which is bad news because she is also a very temperamental lady. While working at a saloon, she spots her boyfriend Blackie (Cesar Romero) with another woman. After her musical number, she runs upstairs to shoot him. This just happens to be the one time she misses, and instead shoots a famous Judge (Porter Hall) in the butt. With the heat on to put Freddie in jail, she runs away with her friend (Olga San Juan) and the two make their way into a new town where they must pose as school teachers.
What an odd surprise this movie turned out to be. Preston Sturges made his next to last film with BEAUTIFUL BLONDE FROM BASHFUL BEND (1949), and while it can’t match some of his best films like THE LADY EVE, he manages to fill this comic western with plenty on wit and unfilmable today un PC jokes. Going into the movie, I was aware of the film’s notorious status as one of the big missteps in a comedy director’s career. While some of the movie is a little too broad and over simplified, the humor is still there and the ending shoot out is one of the most under rated slapstick scenes in film history.
The biggest issues are some of the little bits, which considering recent events make parts uncomfortable like a fake school teacher shooting at two adult students. It’s a funny scene, but I’m sure it will alienate some viewers. The racist humor is also a big hiccup that hasn’t aged well, but it was a sign of the times in the 1940’s, and it is a period piece.
The amount of verbal wit is pure Sturges. We also get strong women who more than mange the sexist slurs coming their way. The middle section of the movie takes a huge nose dive, but catches back up in the slapstick gun fight. At 77 minutes, the film flies by and is pure escapist fun that we don’t see any more these days. There’s even a catchy theme tune by Lionel Newman and Don George that will buzz in your head after the film is over. It’s the kind of silly and wholesome song that would make Roy Rogers proud. So, for someone new to musical B Westerns it’s an odd treat.
The cast is spot on all around. Betty Grable (HOW TO MARRY A MILLONAIRE) is a bullwhip in this movie, her dialogue is quick and sharp, and skills with a pistol add to her comic timing. Cesar Romero (The Joker in the 60’s Batman TV show) is a likable weasel of a man with plenty of class. It’s nice to see some of his more outlandish expressions during the wilder moments of the movie. Porter Hall (HIS GIRL FRIDAY) delivers some the movie’s best bits and his loud drowning voice makes up for his lack of screen time. Sterling Holloway, who is famous for his many voices in Disney films, including Winnie the Pooh in THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH, is highly enjoyable as one of the two drunk brothers with a fondness for Native American feathers. Rounding out the cast are some highly entertaining cameos for cult movie fans. Margaret Hamilton (The wicked witch in WIZARD OF OZ (1939)) shows up as the judge’s wife. We also have a quick performance by film noir queen Marie Windsor (THE KILLING and Roger Corman’s SWAMP WOMEN) as the French girlfriend of Blackie and a quick spot it or miss it appearance of B western and serial star Tom Tyler (THE MUMMY’S HAND, ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN MARVEL).
The movie comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Track. The audio is clear and smooth and sounds like it was recorded yesterday. The opening theme song sounds like it came off a high-quality CD release. There’s no hiss or pops. The dialogue never gets muffled and the gun shot sound effects are loud and shining. There’s no subtitles included.
The 1080p HD transfer is near breath taking. The old three strip color technicolor glows off the screen. The colors are vivid and bright, with highly detailed textures. One of the huge highlights is some of the bigger flower hats at the end, where you can count all the different layers. There are a few minor hiccups, with the biggest one being a shot where the camera crew’s shadow is clearly seen for a few seconds. Overall a fantastic transfer.
Extras are limited to a trailer gallery which includes I WAKE UP SCREAMING, DADDY LONG LEGS, THE DEVIL’S DISCIPLE, and SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF.
I was completely surprised by how much fun BEAUTIFUL BLONDE FROM BASHFUL BEND was. Kino also gives the movie a gorgeous transfer that will not your socks off. While not a perfect film it’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of comic westerns. Recommended.