The Universal Western BLACK BART (1948) may have been released in the late '40s, but it has every element which makes the studio's '50s Westerns so popular. Great cast? Check. Candybox Technicolor? Check. Fast-paced, entertaining story? Check.
BLACK BART is quite a treat, at least until the Production Code mandated ending. It would be hard not to enjoy a movie which pulls together so many of my favorite actors!
Charismatic Dan Duryea stars as a seemingly respectable California rancher, Charlie Boles, who has a secret life as the title character, a legendary stagecoach robber.
Two people come to town who will change Bart's life: dancer Lola Montez (Yvonne DeCarlo), with whom he falls in love, and Lance Hardeen (Jeffrey Lynn), a former "colleague" who is now a friendly enemy of sorts.
Charlie conspires with Clark (John McIntire) to put Wells Fargo out of business and corner the banking market, but Wells Fargo man Mark Lorimer (Frank Lovejoy) is determined to find a way to stop Black Bart once and for all. Charlie, meanwhile, is also considering quitting his "side business" for love of the beautiful Lola.
BLACK BART is simply a wonderfully entertaining little Western, for at least the first 75 of its 80 minutes. (Alas, it's a given at the outset that a stagecoach robber in a '40s Western can't get away with it forever!) Duryea and DeCarlo are dynamite together, one year before they filmed the noir classic CRISS CROSS (1949). I loved their sparring over her jewels followed by their sincerely falling for one another.
DeCarlo also has the chance to show off her talent in two exciting dances scored by Frank Skinner. She's beautifully gowned by Yvonne Wood, who worked on many DeCarlo films.
Frank Lovejoy doesn't have a whole lot to do but look worried, while Jeffrey Lynn does well enough as the calculating Hardeen. The supporting cast includes Percy Kilbride, Don Beddoe, Lloyd Gough, and Ray Walker.
BLACK BART was energetically directed by George Sherman. It was filmed on Southern California movie ranches by Irving Glassberg, with some additional filming in Utah. There were definitely riding doubles used at various points, such as when Duryea takes DeCarlo out for a morning ride, so I'm not sure if the principal actors left California.
When BLACK BART was first released it received an enthused review from the New York Times, starting off "Just about everything that could possibly happen in a rip-snortin' Western happens, and in Technicolor, too..."
In the meantime, BLACK BART turns up from time to time on the Encore Westerns Channel.