Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Speaking of Bogart and Cagney

I mentioned both Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney in my post yesterday, and they starred in a strange movie together: The Oklahoma Kid, which TCM is showing tonight at 8:00 PM ET. What's so strange about it? As you might be able to guess from the name, the two made a western together.

Cagney plays the title character, the "Oklahoma Kid". He is a bandit who comes into town at just the right time: he's able to stop Whip McCord (Bogart) and his gang from committing a stagecoach hold-up. This bothers Whip, but he's got other things on his mind, such as running all the vice in town. Of course, he's got adversaries in the form of the local judge (Donald Crisp) and his daughter (Rosemary Lane), as well as the Kincaids; father (Hugh Sothern) is running for mayor, and the son (Harvey Stephens) is running for sheriff. Whip is going to have to get them out of the way, so he gets the Kincaids framed on murder charges. This is a big mistake though: nobody realizes that the Oklahoma Kid's real name is Jim Kincaid, and that he's the brother and son of the other Kincaids. Jim's finding out about the nefarious business is bound to lead to a western-style showdown, as well as Jim's getting the girl....

Truth be told, it's strange seeing both Cagney and Bogart in a western, even if it is one with a plot that would fit in with any of the gangster movies they were making in the 1930s. Bogart tries hard and doesn't do all that badly, but Cagney, for all his trying, always looks like the proverbial sore thumb, to the point that the movie is almost laughable. Surely, the folks at Warner Bros. knew that Cagney was miscast; legend has it that Humphrey Bogart saw Cagney in his ten-gallon hat and said Cagney looked like a mushroom! If the movie had been made as a straight-up gangster movie, it would be competent, if not as memorable as the other movies Cagney and Bogart were making in the 30s; as a western, though, it's a sight to behold, just to wonder what the suits were thinking.

Surprisingly, The Oklahoma Kid seems not to have been released to DVD. So, you'll have to watch it on TCM tonight.

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