WOMAN OF THE TOWN
(director: George Archainbaud; screenwriters: story by Norman Houston/Æneas MacKenzie; cinematographer: Russell Harlan; editor: Carrol Lewis; music: Miklós Rózsa; cast: Claire Trevor (Dora Hand), Albert Dekker (Bat Masterson), Barry Sullivan (King Kennedy), Henry Hull (Inky Wilkinson), Marion Martin (Daisy Davenport), Porter Hall (Mayor Dog Killey), Percy Kilbride (Rev. Samuel Small), Beryl Wallace (Louella Parsons), Clem Bevans (Buffalo Burns), Charlie Foy (Eddie Foy Jr.), Wade Crosby (Crockett), George Cleveland (Judge Blackburn), Russell Hicks (Publisher of the Kansas City Clarion), Marlene Mains (Annie Logan), Arthur Hohl (Robert Wright), Herb Rawlinson (Doc Sears); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Sherman; United American Video Corp; 1943)
“A good cast makes it worth watching despite all the sentimentality.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
French-born filmmaker George Archainbaud(“Hopalong Cassidy”/”The Range Rider”/”The Adventures of Jim Bowie”) does well directing this well-produced b/w Western. Paramount palmed the film over to United Artists due to its busy schedule, and the studio made it look Paramount-like first-class. It’s based on the story by Norman Houston and is written by Æneas MacKenzie. A good cast makes it worth watching despite all the sentimentality.
The film opens in NYC in 1919, where the elderly Bat Masterston (Albert Dekker) is the editor of the NY Telegraph. Asked by a gun collector for his guns when he was the legendary marshal of Dodge City fifty years ago, Bat recalls those days and why he buried them in Boot Hill. The young Bat, with a reputation as an Indian fighter, applies for a reporter’s job on the Daily Globe, the newspaper of Dodge City that’s published by straight-talker Inky Wilkinson (Henry Hull), but a cowboy rowdy guns down the frail marshal in the saloon and Bat guns down the killer. Though aspiring to work for the newspaper, the saloon owner/mayor, Dog Killey (Porter Hall), hires Bat on the spot as marshal and orders him to clean up the town for the decent folks and church crowd led by the cautious Reverend Small (Percy Kilbride). Bat does just that, but falls for newly arrived classy saloon singer, with a heart of gold, Dora Hand (Claire Trevor). But when the lawman won’t give up his ‘killing’ job for newspaper work, Dora turns to rival big-time Texas rancher bad boy King Kennedy (Barry Sullivan) as her love interest even though she loves the marshal.
The conflicted Bat, apologetic to his love interest for the forceful way he enforces the law, chases both his news writer dream and his dream girl, but in the climax a jealous King Kennedy returns to town with his cowhands and he plans to shoot up the town that humiliated him with an overnight jail sentence and to take the troubled Dora away with him. It results in tragic consequences and allows the honorable gun-slinging marshal to follow his newspaper dream but without his deceased lover.
The Western slightly veers from the old-fashioned formula, but probably not enough to matter that much for true Western fans.
The film’s funniest bit has the editor of the NY Telegraph advising an aspiring young woman reporter, Louella Parsons (Beryl Wallace), to stick to her gossip column.
REVIEWED ON 7/26/2014 GRADE: B-