Friday, March 14, 2014

264 of 1001 Movies: Destry Rides Again (1939)

If I had to pick a favorite classic movie actor it would be James Stewart. So far of the main actors from that time he plays characters that have interesting personalities, and imperfections that seem to make them more like real people. Whether it be It's a Wonderful Life or Anatomy of a Murder, Stewart was starring in some of the best scripted movies of the time. Destry Rides Again falls a lot into the idea of how movies from the 30's were, but it does go a bit different as well with a more bold story line involving women and a lead who was opposed to using guns.

Summary: After the local sheriff disappears when going to investigate a rigged poker game, organized by Kent, a new sheriff has to be named. Kent basically is running the town because his rigged poker games are giving him a stronghold over the town residents and their cattle. The mayor who is on Kent's side, appoints a town drunk, Washington Dimsdale, to be the new sheriff. They view him nothing more as a dimwit, and don't believe that he at one time rode with Tom Destry, a famous lawman. Now he is able to enlist his son, Tom Destry Jr., to be his deputy, bringing more serious law to the town.

Acting: For a movie made in the 30's there are a lot of great performances in this movie. I know that statement may offend, but having just come out of silent films people were still learning to not be so over the top with their emotions. James Stewart stars as Tom Destry Jr., and he's honestly as likable as any other character you've come to know him as in other movies. Stewart was only just starting out as well, and had just hit the scene big the year before in 1938. Marlene Dietrich was around longer in the scene, and it's said that Destry Rides Again was a revival for her career. She does great at going from being the bad guy to getting us to feel for her character. She also performs a song that would be a hit for her. Charles Winninger also does a good job at portraying Washington. He is a bit of a goofball, but I like how he keeps the character from getting too into the slapstick humor, so we still can feel a bit for him. Brian Donlevy portrays Kent, the bad guy, and I think he does a good job at least of giving the movie a good villain.

Filming: I love how the stage setting of 1930 movies were. For some reason they feel much more grand, and blockbuster than some of the following black and white movies. It's like Jezebel from Billy Wilder. The stage production was just amazing of the scenery and vibe they created in the mid-30's. It's the same for Destry Rides Again. Of course it's obvious a screen is being used in some scenes, but for a time before Westerns could be like John Wayne movies I love how they created the bar scenes and outdoors to give us the Western vibe. George Marshall isn't a director I've become familiar with yet, but I enjoyed the set up.

Plot: The plot also gets us attached to the characters. For some reason black and white movies haven't proven to be as happy and go lucky as we think of older times as. Don't get me wrong, there are some that are a little bit too happy and unrealistic, but there are others that still are tainted in some sad events and obscure futures for the characters. Destry Rides Again gives an uplifting ending, but it isn't afraid of lost and giving the characters controversial perspectives that will make them memorable personalities. The most memorable scene of the whole movie is after Frenchy rounds up the women to stop the men from shooting each other down in the bar, and they march in with the weapons they have to fight by hand. It's a powerful scene.

Destry Rides Again is one of the few Westerns I've seen. So far the list has been lacking on the genre in comparison to others. There is a lot of action and adventure, and for a movie that is only an hour and a half they give you a lot to cover so you can get into the story, and also understand the characters. It almost feels like you just watched a 2 hour epic.

Rating 8.5 of 10.

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