DESTRY RIDES AGAIN—-the last year before war with Hitler began brought about an unprecedented, still unsurpassed wave of creative and popular success from the studios. Among the stellar lineup were several notable westerns. Along with Stagecoach, Jesse James, Dodge City and Union Pacific came this dad-blamed, gal-darned classic, chocked with chuckles, full of shootin’ and brawling, played to the hilt by a wonderful cast.
James Stewart is perfect as Tom Destry, a mild-mannered but rock-willed lawman who can shoot straight but opts for unarmed justice. “You shoot it out with ’em and for some reason or other, I don’t know why, they get to look like heroes. But you put ’em behind bars and they look little and cheap, the way they oughta look“.
One of the great Marlene Dietrich roles here, the saloon siren bad-girl heroine of the piece, ‘Frenchy’, singing “See What The Boys In The Back Room Will Have” and “You’ve Got That Look”, setting up a marvelous characterization for Madeline Kahn to camp out with 35 years later in Blazing Saddles. Her wild catfight with Una Merkle is a wingdinger. Nearly two minutes long, the battle royale had the admirably game actresses eschew stuntwomen. With the proviso that they wouldn’t really yank each others hair out, they went at it. Merkel’s comment: “Neither of us knew what we were doing. We just plunged in and punched and slapped and kicked for all we were worth. They never did call in the stunt girls. Marlene stepped on my feet with her French heels. The toenails never grew back. I was bruised from head to foot when it was over. I looked like an old peach, green with brown spots. And I felt like one too.”
Great supporting work from Brian Donlevy (a strong year with six films including Jesse James, Union Pacific and his Oscar-nominated bad guy in Beau Geste), Charles Winninger and Samuel S. Hinds, all directed vigorously by George Marshall (his best work).
94 minutes, with Mischa Auer, Irene Hervey, Jack Carson, Allen Jenkins, Warren Hymer and Billy Gilbert. It lassoed $2,900,000. “Welcome to Bottleneck”