Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Along Came Jones (1945)

ALONG CAME JONES is an amiable Western comedy. Gary Cooper stars as Melody Jones, a slow-drawing cowboy who can't shoot straight yet is mistaken for a notorious outlaw with the same initials. Loretta Young co-stars as Cherry, a beautiful girl who's a great shot and might, or might not, be the outlaw's girlfriend.

Cooper's finely nuanced comic performance -- watch his facial expressions and body language! -- is a lot of fun, and he has great chemistry with Young's spunky Cherry. The role was a real change of pace from Cooper's usual can-do heroes, while Cherry was quite a strong female character for the times. Cherry isn't above being swept off her feet, though; her dazzled, thunderstruck "Thank you!" after Melody kisses her is the film's sweetest, funniest moment.

In addition to starring in the lead role, Gary Cooper also produced this film.

Dan Duryea plays the outlaw, Monte Jarrad, while William Demarest plays Melody's sidekick. Familiar Western faces including Ray Teal, Russell Simpson, Lane Chandler, Frank Sully, and Walter Sande fill out the supporting cast.

Although Lone Pine's Alabama Hills are clearly seen in the background of some shots, it doesn't appear the actors ever left the studio backlot -- the hills are seen in very bad back projections as Cooper and Demarest "ride" their horses. Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne whimsically theorized that maybe the back projections were to emphasize that the movie was a Western spoof, but I suspect it was more a matter of the budget!

(A side note, the Soda City sequence in last night's movie SABOTEUR was also shot in Lone Pine. Another interesting connection with last night's film is that Gary Cooper had been Hitchcock's first choice for the lead in SABOTEUR.)

ALONG CAME JONES was directed by Stuart Heisler; his film THE GLASS KEY was reviewed here a year ago. The script was by Nunnally Johnson, whose credits include JESSE JAMES, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, and Cooper's CASANOVA BROWN. Johnson's wife, Dorris Bowdon, had memorable supporting roles in three John Ford films, including playing Rosasharn in THE GRAPES OF WRATH.

Some sections of ALONG CAME JONES, which I taped from TCM, are quite dark. I have been told the DVD copy is fairly dark in spots too, so that might be as good as this print gets. The movie runs 90 minutes.

It's available on DVD and VHS. It next airs on TCM March 21, 2008.

The trailer can be seen here.

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