Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Law and Order (1953)

I thought the Universal Western LAW AND ORDER was terrific. This film may have been considered standard fare in the '50s, but for me this is "movie comfort food" at its finest. I enjoyed it from start to finish.

The movie's got a wonderful cast, starting with Ronald Reagan as Frame Johnson, the sheriff of Tombstone, who has tamed the town and is now tired of violence and the rigors of a tough job. Frame decides to settle down with his true love, Jeannie (Dorothy Malone), on a ranch outside the town of Cottonwood.

When Frame and his brothers Lute (Alex Nicol) and Jimmy (Russell Johnson) arrive in Cottonwood, they discover it's even more violent than Tombstone once was, with the bad guys in Cottonwood led by Preston Foster, Dennis Weaver, and Jack Kelly. (Now that's a cast!) Lute takes a job as Marshal of Cottonwood but finds it may be more than he bargained for. Meanwhile headstrong Jimmy falls passionately in love with beautiful Maria (Ruth Hampton), sister of one of the town villains (Weaver).

This is just a good old-fashioned Western, filled with saloons, shootouts, romances, and a barn burner of a brawl near the end between Reagan and Foster. For good measure, there are familiar Western character actors Chubby Johnson (BEND OF THE RIVER) and Barry Kelley prominent in the supporting cast.

Reagan plays his role with an easy charm and confidence, including an excellent scene early on where he stands down a lynch mob led by his own brother. Malone doesn't have much more to do than look pretty as Reagan's understanding fiancee, but she's appealing in her limited role.

I especially enjoyed the subplot of the Romeo and Juliet love between Jimmy and Maria, which was pretty steamy for the early '50s. It was also a bit of a revelation seeing the "Professor," Russell Johnson, as a romantic young hothead; this was filmed a decade before he was stranded with GILLIGAN. Ruth Hampton, who played Maria, was only in half a dozen films in the early '50s.

LAW AND ORDER was directed by Nathan Juran. It was filmed in Technicolor by Clifford Stine. The opening and closing action sequences were filmed at Red Rock Canyon, California.

LAW AND ORDER is available on DVD as part of the Universal Western Collection. It also had a release on VHS under the same series title.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I like "Law and Order". It's no "Tennessee's Partner", but I like it.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad to know you like it too! I have to say I think I liked it even better than TENNESSEE'S PARTNER (which I enjoyed very much). For some reason -- I'm still trying to analyze all the reasons why -- this one especially appealed to me. :)

Best wishes,

9:47 AM  

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