Monday, September 13, 2010

Olivia Rides the Wagon Train

This week, we're discussing Errol Flynn's first western, 1939's Dodge City. In it, Olivia plays Abbie Irving, a young woman who is forced to move to the godless Dodge City after the death of her father.  Unfortunately, she has to get there with her drunken brat of a brother (William Lundigan), who starts a cattle stampede with his gun-play, and ends up getting himself killed.  Of course, Abbie blames wagon master Wade Hatton (Flynn).  Wade meanwhile, enters Dodge City to find it being run by former adversary Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot), and after a horrible incident decides he is the one to bring law and order to Dodge.

This movie is full to the brim with wonderful character performances. We have the usual Flynn sidekick, Alan Hale as well as Guinn "Big Boy" Williams.  We have a rare character visit from the gorgeous Ann Sheridan (one wonders if Jack Warner was angry at her that week to give her such a small part), as well as the ever-wonderful Frank McHugh as newspaper publisher Joe Clemens. And the adorable Bobs Watson as Harry Cole, the reason that law comes to Dodge.  With a cast like this, (and these names are just the tip of the iceberg) can you really lose?

I have major problems with seeing Bruce Cabot in pretty much anything since I heard about his horrible actions to Errol Flynn later in their careers.  But one must admit he is truly loathsome here. Olivia is spunky, in all the best senses of the word, especially in the later portions of the movie (it is as though we get to watch Abbie grow up).  Here is one of their love scenes:




It is truly funny to see the screenwriters making an excuse for Flynn's presence in a Western (Wade is from Ireland, and has traveled the world).  Finally, we all adored Frank McHugh - he is funny and touching in this small, but important role. His performance in the film is well worth emphasizing.

Join us next week for another Olivia epic.