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DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (director: George Marshall; screenwriters:Felix Jackson/Gertrude Purcell/Henry Myers/story by Max Brand; cinematographer: Hal Mohr; editor: Milton Carruth; music: Frank Skinner; cast: James Stewart (Tom Destry), Marlene Dietrich (Frenchy), Charles Winninger (Wash Dimsdale), Brian Donlevy (Kent), Una Merkel (Lily Belle Callahan), Mischa Auer (Boris Callahan); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Pasternak; Universal; 1939)
Hollywood at its hokum best.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

George Marshall’s Destry Rides Again hardly bares any resemblance to Max Brand’s novel it’s supposedly based on, Tom Mix’s 1932 version was more faithful to the book’s theme of the hero revenging himself on the twelve jurors who unjustly sentenced him. Producer Joe Pasternak shoots instead to relive the role that Marlene Dietrich made famous of the sexy bar room chanteuse of the 1930 The Blue Angel, in an effort to revive her waning career. It worked, as her career received a big shot in the arm. Marlene’s naughty rendition of “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have” is one of her better career moments, as she gets our attention standing on a bar in black net stockings while singing.

The altered script makes it into a comical Western. The pacifist, milk-drinking Stewart is the deputy sheriff, who signed on to assist the drunken sheriff (Winninger) in taming the town of Bottleneck. Stewart uses humor and words of wisdom instead of his guns, as he hides his real toughness. There’s a brilliant storytelling moment where Stewart relates a parable about a homicidal orphan. This was Stewart’s first role in a Western. Donlevy is the villainous gambler aiming to get control of the town by crooked means, and is always trying to provoke the lawman into a gunfight. Marlene is Donlevy’s squeeze who sings in his saloon, but gets romantic with Stewart and marvelously gets killed to save his life. She’s in a role that has long become a cliche–the bad girl with a heart of gold. This is really Marlene’s pic whether wisecracking, belting out a tune, or in a catfight with Una. Stewart, though, looked good in his comical role, as he eagerly offers sound anecdotes at the drop of a hat and proves to be a very likable character. Marshall’s easy going direction superbly combines comedy, horseplay, romance, tension, and action so matter of fact that it seems seamless. Mischa Auer has one of those unforgettable slapstick comedy moments where he loses his pants.

A very good spoof of the Old West, better than all the other Western spoofs. Hollywood at its hokum best.It was also a huge box office hit.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”