AL JENNINGS OF OKLAHOMA(director: Ray Nazarro; screenwriters: from the book by Will Irwin & Al Jennings/George Bricker; cinematographer: Howard Greene; editor: Richard Fantl; cast: Dan Duryea (Al Jennings), Gale Storm (Margo St. Claire), Dick Foran (Frank Jennings), Gloria Henry (Alice Calhoun), Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams (Lon Tuttle), Raymond Greenleaf (Judge Jennings), Stanley Andrews (Marshal Ken Slattery), John Dehner (Tom Marsden), Harry Shannon (Fred Salter), Louis Jean Heydt (John Jennings), William “Bill” Phillips (Bill Mertz); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Rudolph C. Flothow; Columbia Pictures; 1951)
“A busy B-Western that turns increasingly more ridiculous by the minute.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A busy B-Western that turns increasingly more ridiculous by the minute. It tells the true story of lawyer turned lawbreaker Al Jennings (Dan Duryea). It’s directed by Ray Nazarro and based on the book by Will Irwin & Al Jennings. The real Jennings was alive when the film was released and evidently approved of his life story being altered. The real Jennings served jail time and came out a reformed man going on the lecture circuit preaching against crime, and in his old age helped Oklahoma gain statehood.
In the late 19th-century hot-tempered lawyer Al Jennings leaves Kansas with lawyer brother Frank (Dick Foran), after a dispute with his straightforward law-abiding judge father (Raymond Greenleaf) about a fistfight in his courtroom. The law partner brothers travel to the Oklahoma Territory to join their other law partner brothers Ed and John. On the way they rescue New Orleans beauty Margo (Gale Storm) from a runaway buggy, overtake highway robber Lon Tuttle (Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams), and Al gets into a courtroom fistfight with opposing lawyer Tom Marsden (John Dehner) who called Ed a thief. Marsden will later shoot down Ed in cold-blood, and because he runs things in town will be granted bail. Al visits him trying to force a confession, but when Marsden draws on him he’s gunned down. Marsden’s crony Mertz twists the story around and tells Marshal Slattery that Al gunned him down without giving him a chance. Rather than try and straighten out the story, Frank and Al leave town. Hungry and needing work they end up with rancher rustler Fred Salter (Harry Shannon), whose crooked foreman is Lon. The boys advance from rustlers to notorious stagecoach, bank and train robbers. After their arrest Al is sentenced to a life term, but eventually because of a procedural technicality President Teddy Roosevelt grants him a pardon.
Though watchable, the talents of Duryea are wasted as the film wanders too far from the truth to make an impact.
REVIEWED ON 12/6/2005 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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