DAKOTA —-“And speaking of politics, where we’re going, there are only two parties: the quick and the dead.” So says ‘John Devlin’ (John Wayne), the amiable gambler fleeced by rascals of the seed money he and his fiancee plan to invest in a railroad around Fargo in 1871. The line about politics ding-dongs with showbiz history irony as the script (not a good one) came from a story conceived by lefty Carl Foreman, who later became a target of the conservative star when he wrote High Noon, which Wayne detested. Duke’s misplaced ire would’ve been better vented on the concoction of this 1945 turkey.
Herbert J. Yates, Wayne’s boss at Republic Studios, insisted on talent-shy Czech import Vera Hruba Ralston (coincidentally Yates mistress, eventually wife) as leading lady. Functioneer director Joseph Kane handled the 82 minutes, marred by overuse of process photography, some unfortunate racial stereotyping and all-round laziness in the story department. Helping make it just shy of tolerable are secondary veterans Walter Brennan, Ward Bond and Mike Mazurki. *
It trailed in 94th place for the year, but it still managed to cover its outlay of $843,545 by grossing $3,200,000. With Ona Munson, Hugo Haas, Grant Withers and Robert Blake (all of 11).
* Director Kane was generous about Miss Ralston: “She was very nice to work with. She was in the same sort of position with Yates as Marion Davies was with William Randolph Hearst. So, if she’d been that sort of person, she could have made it rough for everybody. Naturally, when you’re in that kind of position with the boss, you can do anything you want. She never took advantage of that situation. She was always very cooperative, worked very hard, tried very hard. But you know, the public is a very funny thing. The public either accepts you or it doesn’t, and there’s nothing you can do about it. If they don’t go for you, that’s it.”