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ALONG CAME JONES (director: Stuart Heisler; screenwriters: Nunnally Johnson/novel by Alan Le May; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: Thomas Neff; music: Arthur Lange; cast: Gary Cooper (Melody Jones), Loretta Young (Cherry de Longpre), William Demarest (George Fury), Dan Duryea (Monte Jarrad), Frank Sully (Avery de Longpre), Don Costello (Leo Gledhill), Walter Sande (Ira Waggoner), Russell Simpson (Pop de Longpre), Willard Robertson (Luke Packard), Arthur Loft (Sheriff); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gary Cooper; MGM/UA Home Entertainment Inc.; 1945)
“Hamstrung by its mechanical plot devices.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Stuart Heisler (“The Glass Key”) directs this tepid Western comedy written by Nunnally Johnson and based on the novel by Alan Le May. It revolves around a case of mistaken identity. Cowhand partners Melody Jones (Gary Cooper) and George Fury (William Demarest) ride by mistake, after taking a wrong turn, into the town of Paynesville. Melody is a not too swift, laid-back, singing drifter who is mistaken for wanted killer/robber Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea), with a $1,000 reward for him. The locals take the initials MJ on Melody’s saddlebag as enough proof he’s Jarrad. To escape from the sheriff, Jarrad’s childhood girlfriend Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young) helps him escape and takes him to her ranch. She tells him she knows he’s not Jarrad, but gets him to leave town so he could steer the posse away from her man. But Melody liked the feeling of being held in “high-regard” for the hour he spent in town when everyone feared him and returns to Cherry’s ranch. Melody, who is not a good shot and slow on the draw, has other problems such as the sheriff and posse are gunning for him, so are the many relatives of a man Jarrad killed, the Express Company Jarrad robbed has sent an agent to recover their stolen money, the cavalry is soon expected because Jarrad took the mail, and finally Jarrad himself–he’s wounded and being hid in Cherry’s ranch, but growing increasingly jealous over Melody’s attention she shows the stranger.

Since Jarrad has been away four years, Cherry detects he’s now changed and become too mean-spirited for her and she falls instead for the goofy Melody.

The film is hamstrung by its mechanical plot devices, poor production values (an A team cast but a B film budget), a chaotic script and all the talk that ensues before the required action takes place. The cast does a good job with what they have to work with (a self-effacing Cooper is easy to take and a sweet Loretta Young gives the film some class), but the film is never convincing and saddled with a flatness that makes the characters just seem to be going through the motions.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”