Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Cowboy and the Blonde (1941)

THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE (1941) is a very enjoyable 20th Century-Fox "B" film starring George Montgomery and Mary Beth Hughes.

In a story which seems a bit inspired by Montgomery's real-life background living on a ranch, he plays Lank Garrett. Garrett is a rodeo champion invited to Hollywood by Phineas Johnson (Alan Mowbray), the owner of Consolidated Pictures. Johnson wants to screen test the handsome cowboy star, who was recently featured on the cover of Life magazine, to see if he could have a future in the movies.

Lank's screen tests are bombs -- until he's paired with the studio's big star, Crystal Wayne (Hughes). Lank has no trouble putting emotion into a romantic scene with Crystal! Lank and Crystal are taken with each other almost at first sight, but they must overcome her temperamental nature and the jealous Johnson's desire to keep the pair from developing a permanent relationship.

THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE does exactly what a "B" film should do, presenting a zippy, entertaining romantic comedy in a quick 68 minutes. Montgomery is a hoot in his "bad" screen tests, reading his lines without emotion and nervously pulling at his clothes.

What makes this film especially fun is the "inside look" at filmmaking, with the majority of the story set on the studio lot and in a soundstage. There's some very amusing stuff during the filming sequences, including the relay of progressively louder shouts of "QUIET!"

Mowbray is allowed to be a little smarter than some of his typical supporting characters, which makes him more interesting, and Richard Lane is also good as the head of production. The supporting cast also includes Fuzzy Knight, Minerva Urecal, Robert Conway, John Miljan, and Robert Emmett Keane.

THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE was directed by Ray McCarey, brother of Leo.

THE COWBOY AND THE BLONDE is available in a very nice print from the Fox Cinema Archives line. The print is so crisp one can make out a dent on Mary Beth Hughes' forehead that the makeup man and cinematographer Charles G. Clarke didn't bother to hide.

The movie can be rented from ClassicFlix.

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