Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dodge City

A couple days ago I mentioned having watched the DVD of Dodge City which I got as part of an Errol Flynn box set. I didn't do a full-length post on it then, instead waiting for a day where less was going on to do the full-length post. Now is as good a time as any to do it.

The movie opens with a prologue set just after the Civil War. Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn), an Irish immigrant who fought for the North, is now working for a railroad along with friend Rusty (Alan Hale) keeping the buffalo away while the railroadmen build. The railroad is finished, to Wade and Rusty are going to go back to cattle driving, except that they frist have to stop the evil Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) from poaching buffalo.

Fast forward several years. Wade and Rusty are driving cattle north from Texas, but included in the drive are some pioneers heading to Dodge City, notably Abbie Irving (Olivia de Havilland) and her obnoxious brother Lee (a very young William Lundigan). He's obnoxious enough that he causes a stampede that kills him, and Abbie hates Wade as a result. Oh, you know that the two are going to meet again, and that Abbie is going to fall in love with Wade, because this is a movie starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. How could things be any different.

Of course, there are going to be issues along the way. First is the growing town of Dodge City. Jeff Surrett has become a cattle broker, buying from the drivers. Or more accurately, he's obtaining the cattle by hook or by crook, even willing to have his henchman Yancey (Victor Jory) shoot people who won't sell to him. A lot of the town' more respectable citizens, including Abbie's uncle (Henry Travers), don't like this, but what are they going to do? Surrett has become the boss of the town by driving out one sheriff after another.

So the town fathers have the brilliant idea of asking Wade to become sheriff. After all, this is Errol Flynn. Surely he can maintain law and order. (Well, when he's not carousing and possibly engaging in statutory rape, but that's another subject.) Of course Wade eventually takes the job, and starts out on making the town peaceful, which is of course going to mean coming into conflict with Surrett for the climax.

There's really nothing groundbreaking in this one, but it still has so much to recommend it. First and foremost is the lead performance by Errol Flynn, who really was a better actor than he's generally given credit for, and was a natural for all these action movies (even if I don't think they used that term back then). Olivia de Havilland actually has less to do here, but any shortcomings in her performance are strictly the result of the script. Warner Bros. used a bunch of character actors to good effect, from the ones already mentioned to Frank McHugh as a newspaper publisher (even if that sounds like ridiculous miscasting), or young Bobs Watson as a kid whose father gets killed by Surrett's men.

The story, as I mentioned, is nothing groundbreaking, but it's still more than entertaining enough, offering enough action for anybody who could want it. Even better is the film's Technicolor photography. A few of the western town shots look like the print could use a bit of a restoration, but a lot of the print is lovely to look at, especially in the climax, which is set on a burning train.

Dodge City is a winner in every way, and well worth a watch.

1 comment:

joel65913 said...

I love this film, it's a tie between this and The Adventures of Robin Hood for favorite pairing of Errol and Olivia. Even though this has some heavy dramatics woven in it's for the most part a fun adventure with Olivia getting a role that allows her to showcase her spunky nature.