DODGE CITY

(1939)
With Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sheridan, Bruce Cabot, Alan Hale, Frank McHugh, John Litel

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Reviewed by JB

     It may not be often ranked with the greatest westerns of all time, and there are certainly other films that show off the talents and chemistry of Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in a better light, but for a rip-snorting good old-fashioned western that has everything, you can't go wrong with DODGE CITY.  

    Flynn plays a cattle man who reluctantly steps in as sheriff in order to wrest control of the city from the local "black hat" (Bruce Cabot) while finding time to woo Olivia de Havilland and have some wacky fun with his two sidekicks Alan Hale ("Rusty") and Gwinn "Big Boy" Williams ("Tex").  The film features, among other things, a cattle stampede, a shootout on a burning train, several dance hall numbers, and one of the largest barroom brawls ever staged for a movie.  As in most Warner movies of the era, much of the fun is in the cast - Frank McHugh shows up as the local newspaper editor, Ward Bond suddenly appears as a member of Bruce Cabot's gang, Henry Travers plays Olivia de Havilland's kindly uncle.  In fact, there is so much character business to attend to in order to show off the cast members, it is almost an hour before the actual plot starts gaining momentum.

    Aside from being a superb, colorful movie (there were many of those in 1939), DODGE CITY was also influential in several ways.  Most notably, barroom brawls were never the same after this film (Mel Brooks had lots of fun parodying this scene in his BLAZING SADDLES).  Preceding the brawl, the business where one faction of a saloon crowd begins singing a song to drown out the other faction was repeated several years later in CASBLANCA, also directed by Michael Curtiz.  The Marx Brothers and writer Irving Brecher must have had their eyes on the train sequence, for their gagged-up runaway train climax of 1940's GO WEST seems like a direct takeoff of DODGE CITY, and may even have been filmed on the same train sets.

    But the film most obviously influenced by DODGE CITY was the sequel in spirit onlly VIRGINIA CITY of the followiing year, which starred most of the same cast, but with Miriam Hopkins standing in for Olivia de Havilland and Humphrey Bogart taking the place of Bruce Cabot. 4 - JB

Action/Adventure    Errol Flynn   The Stuff You Gotta Watch


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