(director/writer: Preston Sturges; screenwriter: Earl Felton/story by Earl Felton; cinematographer: Harry Jackson; editor: Robert Fritch; music: Cyril Mockridge; cast: Betty Grable (Winifred Jones), Cesar Romero (Blackie Jobero), Rudy Vallee (Charles Hingleman), Olga San Juan (Conchita), Porter Hall (Judge Alfalfa J. O’Toole), Hugh Herbert (Doctor), Sterling Holloway (Basserman Boy), Danny Jackson (Basserman Boy), Pati Behrs (Roulette), Alan Bridge (Sheriff Ambrose), Richard Hale (Gus Basserman), Marie Windsor (LaBelle Bergere), Russell Simpson (Grandpa), Harry Hayden (Train Conductor), El Brendel (Mr. Jorgensen), Emory Parnell (Mr. Julius Hingleman), Margaret Hamilton (Mrs. Elvira O’Toole); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Preston Sturges; Fox Video; 1949)

“Shoots itself in the arse once too many times for its prolonged spoof to work smoothly.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Preston Sturges’ (“The Sin of Harold Diddlebock”/”Sullivan’s Travels”/”The Great McGinty”) penultimate film and his final American film, is not as bad as most critics thought at the time. It seems to get better with age. It’s a wild western farce that abounds in energy, slapstick, lowbrow comedy and anarchy, but lacks a cutting edge on social commentary and the jokes too often go off as blanks. It’s based on a story by Earl Felton and cowritten by him and Sturges.

Saloon singer Freddie Jones (Betty Grable) was raised by her gramps (Russell Simpson) to be an Annie Oakley type of crack shot and grows up to be sexy, brassy, and with a hair-trigger temper. When her ladies man gambler boyfriend with roving eyes, Blackie (Cesar Romero), takes up with the French omelet LaBelle Bergere (Marie Windsor), Freddie goes gunning for him but instead hits Judge Alfalfa J. O’Toole (Porter Hall) in the rear-end. When the arrested Freddie returns with the sheriff to the hotel room of the shooting and tries to apologize and straighten things out with the irate judge, Blackie shows up and Freddie goes in a rage. While restrained by the sheriff, Freddie nevertheless lifts his six-shooter and accidentally hits the judge again in his buttock. With her spicy Mexican sidekick Conchita (Olga San Juan) in tow, Freddie avoids arrest as she skips out of Bashful Bend by rail and on the train is mistaken for the new schoolmarm for the frontier mining town of Snake City. There she gets over as an innocent virgin and falls for the nerdy Charles Hingleman (Rudy Vallee), who owns a prosperous gold mine. But Blackie tracks her down in Snake City and confusion reigns supreme, as the roughneck low-class miners think the town elites rubbed out outspoken miner Gus Basserman’s over-aged troublesome village idiot schoolboy twins and a very silly class war shoot-out takes place.

The film lacks any subtleties, moves too much into silliness and shoots itself in the arse once too many times for its prolonged spoof to work smoothly. But even a minor Sturges comedy is still better than most others, especially as the director’s usual repertory of players are on hand to add to the freewheeling chaos. Grable is properly cast and gives an uplifting raucous performance, as do some of the supporting characters; such as, the always reliable Sturges regulars Porter Hall and Hugh Herbert, as the giggling insanely myopic doctor. The suave Vallee is out of place in such a burlesque Western, yet there’s something charming about that casting decision.

Sterling Holloway, Hugh Herbert, Betty Grable, Cesar Romero, El Brendel, Porter Hall, and Rudy Vallee in The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949)