Starring: James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Winninger,
Director: George Marshall
In the small town of Bottleneck, crime is at an all time high, until the local drunk is made sherriff. To everyone’s surprise, he takes his role seriously, and immediately cleans himself up and hires the son of famous lawman Destry. But Destry Jr (Stewart) is the opposite of what you’d expect. He likes milk instead of spirits and he refuses to carry a gun. However, he’s a lot tougher than you think, and while cleaning up the town, he gains the respect of Frenchy (Dietrich), the local saloon singer of dubious reputation.
While classic Westerns are all about masculinity, this film makes fun of all those conventions, with a lawman who is peaceful and very sweet, and just goes to show that goodness does not mean weakness. Stewart is adorable in this film, playing with the persona that he often played, of a kind of innocent, intelligent gentleman, but showing that just because he doesn’t curl his lip and pose, or carry a gun, like John Wayne, he’s still a manly man at heart. Marlene Dietrich also shines, with her bedroom eyes and neatly waisted, low necked oufits and sultry singing voice. They’re quite an odd couple, but they work well together, and the ending makes it all the more poignant.
The film is structured like a lot of Westerns are, with a town threatened by bad guys, and a good guy has to come in from out of town to clean it up, while a prostitute with a heart of gold saves his life in the last scenes. I like the way it kind of satisfies the genre, but also has fun with it. The story that it’s based on was written as a serious Western and was made and remade a few times, but it wasn’t written as sweet and funny as this. I like how refreshing this film is.
See It If: a great performance from both Stewart and Dietrich, it’s worth seeing for them, but will also be great if you usually don’t like Westerns.