(director: George Marshall; screenwriters: Michael Fessier/Frank Tashlin; cinematographer: Arthur E. Arling; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Joseph J. Lilley; cast: Rosemary Clooney (Calaveras Kate), Jack Carson (Jason Carberry), Guy Mitchell (Reb Randall), Pat Crowley (Susana Martinez De La Cruz), Joanne Gilbert (Shella Winthrop), Gene Barry (Rafael Moreno), Cass Daley (Minnie Redwing), Frank Faylen (Billy Buckett), Reginald Owen (Judge Winthrop), Buddy Ebsen (Ginger Pete), Richard Hale (Dr. J. Pott Troy); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pat Duggan; Paramount; 1954)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A bomb. George Marshall (“Destry Rides Again”/”The Blue Dahlia”/” The Mating Game“)directs thisstylized Technicolor Western musical comedy, that has gone down as a failed novelty film that got an animated performance from radio star Rosemary Clooney and little else that’s worth noting.The spoof tries hard to be funny by showing the “code of the West” in the movies is something laughable, but the laughs do not come easily. Red Garters gets lassoed with its Broadway theatrics, as its stilted narrative by writers Michael Fessier and Frank Tashlin, cornball humor and forgettable country songs can’t keep things hopping for a feature length movie. It might have worked better as a TV sketch on one of those innocuous popular 1950’s comedy hour shows, for those who can be sated just watching chorus girls dance and sing in scanty costumes.
It’s set in 1872, in fictionalizedLimbo County, California. The locals are attending a barbecue to celebrate the death of the scoundrel, Robin Randall, when a fast-draw stranger, Reb Randall (Guy Mitchell), rides to the event in a buggy with the pretty Susanna Martinez de la Cruz (Pat Crowley). She’s a love at first sight lass reb just picked-up in town on the cute. The sheltered Susanna is the ward of leading citizen Jason Carberry (Jack Carson), the blowhard wheeler-dealer lawyer who is dating saloon singer Calaveras Kate (Rosemary Clooney) and threatens to kill any man who looks at Susanna without his permission.
The silly, inconsequential plot concerns Reb’s efforts to find out who killed his brother. The one-note joke is that none of the traditional western cliches come true: the militia doesn’t arrive in the nick of time to save the damsel-in-distress and the hero doesn’t win the gun-fight. Saddled down with such a slight narrative, Red Garters tries to get by with pleasing color-coded stage sets, vivid Technicolor (something TV couldn’t match at the time), numerous songs, and Gene Barry using his dancing ability to play a Mexican who acts like Leo Carillo if he were on speed.
It has an artificial look, as it proudly intends to show that a new kind of Western has arrived. But is lacking in almost every department to hold this viewer’s attention. The only number I moderately liked was “Vaquero,” a lively jig danced Western style by the cowboy outfitted gents and ladies.
REVIEWED ON 4/5/2011 GRADE: C-