Until a couple of weeks ago I'd never seen a Bill Elliott Western, so I started off by reviewing FARGO (1952) and THE HOMESTEADERS (1953) in the Warner Archive's Wild Bill Elliott Western Double Feature.
When it came time to open up the new eight-film collection tonight, I decided to start at the end, with THE FORTY-NINERS, due to the presence of Virginia Grey and Harry Morgan in the supporting cast.
Grey plays Doucette's alcoholic wife Stella, who was Alf's old flame. Alf starts to think about turning over a new leaf so he can take Stella away from her miserable husband, and his new conscience comes in handy when Sam runs into trouble dealing with the two bad men.
With Elliott's resonant voice providing ongoing narration -- right up to giving the date of a character's execution at movie's end -- the film feels a bit like a Western DRAGNET, which is pretty ironic given the presence of DRAGNET costar Morgan! It's interesting to also note that after THE FORTY-NINERS Elliott's last few films were detective movies.
I was amused, when I had finished writing this, to come across a review by Dan Stumpf at Mystery File which makes the very same DRAGNET comparison. Stumpf, incidentally, calls the film "a perfectly fine Western."
While I tend to prefer the more light-hearted and charming "B" Western heroes such as George O'Brien, Tim Holt, or even Dick Foran, the DRAGNET comparison made Elliott work for me in this as the "just the facts, ma'am" marshal. I think it's the strongest of the three Elliott Westerns I've seen to date, which also benefits from having the always-fine Morgan in a large role.
The script of this 71-minute film is by Daniel B. Ullman, who wrote countless Westerns for both "A" and "B" level films. It was roughly around this time that he started transitioning to bigger pictures, such as the excellent Joel McCrea film WICHITA (1955).
THE FORTY-NINERS was directed by Thomas Carr and shot by Ernest Miller.
There was at least one very mild little jump in the print, which could have been something that's been there for decades, but for the most part the widescreen print looked just fine. There are no extras.
It's a treat to have another great set of good-looking "B" Westerns to enjoy thanks to the Warner Archive!
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.