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TENNESSEE’S PARTNER (director: Allan Dwan; screenwriters: based on a Bret Harte story/Milton Krims/D. D. Beauchamp/ Graham Baker/Teddi Sherman; cinematographer: John Alton; editor: James Leicester; music: Louis Forbes; cast: John Payne (Tennessee), Rhonda Fleming (Elizabeth ‘Duchess’ Farnham), Ronald Reagan (Cowpoke), Coleen Gray (Goldie Slater), Tony Caruso (Turner), Leo Gordon (Sheriff), Angie Dickinson (Abby Dean, Saloon Girl), Morris Ankrum (Judge Parker), John Mansfield (Clifford), Chubby Johnson (Grubstake McNiven); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Benedict Bogeaus; RKO; 1955)
A fair B-western directed by the prolific Allan Dwan.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A fair B-western directed by the prolific Allan Dwan (“Robin Hood”/”Sands of Iwo Jima”/”Cattle Queen of Montana”), who said this was his favorite film of the ten he made for producer Benedict Bogeaus. It’s based on a Bret Harte story and is written byMilton Krims, D. D. Beauchamp, Graham Baker and Teddi Sherman. John Payne, a former pro wrestler, stars. Future president of the United States Ronald Reagan costars and is a bit more lively than he usually is, as Dwan gets the best performance ever from the stiff performer.

The story revolves around a strange friendship between slick gambler Tennessee (John Payne) and a straight-arrow prospector known only as Cowpoke (Ronald Reagan). They’re in the gold rush town of Sandy Bar, California,where gambler Tennessee partners with fancy bordello madam and saloon owner of a place called ‘The Marriage Market,’ Elizabeth ‘Duchess’ Farnham (Rhonda Fleming). When one evening oily businessman Turner (Tony Caruso) loses big to Tennessee at the saloon’s poker game, he sends a contract killer (John Mansfield) to kill the gambler. But a stranger in town, known only as Cowpoke, intervenes and instead kills the gunslinger. Tennessee puts Cowpoke up in the Duchess’s swell place and learns that Cowpoke came here to marry tomorrow. When Tennessee learns he wants to marry gold-digger Goldie Slater (Coleen Gray), a discard of his, he tries to warn the headstrong cowboy but is told to mind his own business. Unable to stand by doing nothing, Tennessee lures Goldie to go with him to San Francisco by offering more than the $5,000 Cowpoke gave her as a wedding gift and she jilts a humiliated Cowpoke at the altar. When Tennessee gets her out of town, he dumps her and steals back Cowpoke’s money. Tennessee returns to find that Cowpoke is gunning for him and the old prospector Grubstake (Chubby Johnson), his partner in a mine, has been killed in his room and he’s been framed for the murder.

The heavily plotted western is helped considerably by the sumptuous Technicolor of cinematographer John Alton.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”