Sunday, November 08, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The King and Four Queens (1956)

THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS is an oddball Western comedy-drama about an adventurer (Clark Gable) after $100,000 in gold.

The gold was stolen by the four McDade brothers, three of whom died in an explosion shortly thereafter; which son escaped is an open question. The gold has been guarded at a remote desert outpost for two years by Ma McDade (Jo Van Fleet) and her four daughters-in-law. Ma lives in the hope that her surviving son will come home to claim the gold and his wife.

Dan Kehoe (Gable) rides in, surviving Ma's welcoming gunshot, and gets to know the four possible widows as he hunts for the gold. Smart Sabina (Eleanor Parker) is standoffish but quietly interested in Dan. Ruby (Jean Willes) is a man-hungry tigress, Birdie (Barbara Nichols) is bird-brained, and Oralie (Sara Shane) is a sweet young thing who was in over her head when she married a McDade.

The film is basically a six-person character study as Gable and the women interact in varying combinations. It's probably not hard to guess which of the four ladies Gable decides he'd like to have along with the gold. The film's climax is handled in a surprisingly low-key manner, but perhaps the ending is in keeping with the film's meandering style. The movie is nothing particularly special, but Gable is charming, the ladies are beautiful, and it's a pleasant way to pass the time.

The supporting cast includes Arthur Shields as a priest and Jay C. Flippen as a bartender. Roy Roberts plays the sheriff.

THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS was directed by Raoul Walsh. It was filmed in CinemaScope and DeLuxe color by Lucien Ballard. The film runs 86 minutes.

THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS is available on DVD. It's an excellent print. There are no extras. A review by Glenn Erickson was posted at the TCM website.

It's also had a VHS release.


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