Monday, January 18, 2016

The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend

For those of you with FXM Retro, you may have noted that one of the movies in heavy rotation on the channel for the time being is The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend. It's coming up again twice in the next couple of days, Tuesday 8:40 AM at and Wednesday at 7:20 AM.

Bette Grable stars at the titular blonde, named Freddie, although we see Freddie first as a young child, being taught by her grandfather how to handle firearms safely and be a good shot. Freddie's going to need that when she grows up, as we fairly quickly see once the action moves to Freddie's adulthood. She's living in the old west town of Bashful Bend, working as a saloon singer. She's got a boyfriend Blackie (Cesar Romero) and a servant Conchita (Olga San Juan). Blackie, however, has a roving eye, and when it roves too much for Freddie, she tries to shoot him. Unfortunately, she hits the posterior of Judge Alfalfa O'Toole (Porter Hall) instead, which causes serious legal ramifications. Fortunately, however, she's able to skip town before those ramifications can come down on her.

Conchita happens to find a woman who was passing through Bashful Bend and died there, enabling her to pick up the deceased's woman's baggage and identity. It's a convenient escape, since Freddie will have a disguise and train tickets to another town. That's the good news. The bad news is that this woman was travelling through Bashful Bend on her way to Snake City to become Snake City's new schoolteacher, something which Freddie is singularly unqualified to do. Still, she takes up her job at the one-room schoolhouse, teaching all of the town's children including those who are much too old to be in a one-room schoolhouse such as the Bassermans, played by twentysomething Dan Jackson and 43-year-old Sterling Holloway. Freddie uses her shooting skill to handle any discipline problems at the school

Elsewhere in Snake City, she's being pursued by mining engineer Charles Hingleman (Rudy Vallee). He's bought the local mine and has taken to wooing Freddie because who wouldn't want to woo Bette Grable at that stage of her career. Still, Freddie is a wanted woman, and eventually, Blackie shows up in Snake City, starts asking questions, and finds out that Freddie and Conchita are there.

The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend is generally remembered for being one of director Preston Sturges' worst films. Perhaps it wouldn't be viewed so badly if it had been directed by the sort of director who was assigned programmers. To be honest, however, I'm not so sure. The plot is just too zany, at least what plot there is, since there's even less here than in other Sturges movies. Making matters worse are those Basserman brothers. Freddie uses her guns in the way a circus sharpshooter would use them, but I found myself thinking it wouldn't be so bad if she shot the brothers in the head; the really are that irritating.

One thing the movie has going for it is its Technicolor photography, which is quite lovely. It's just too bad that it's in service of such an utter mess.

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