Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Frontier Gal (1945)

Yvonne DeCarlo and Rod Cameron star in FRONTIER GAL (1945), a colorful and entertaining Western comedy from Universal Pictures.

Cameron plays Jonathan Hart, on the run from the law after being framed for his partner's murder. The murder was actually committed by Blackie (Sheldon Leonard) -- though it takes Jonathan a few years to figure that out!

While hiding from the law Jonathan meets up with saloon gal Lorena (DeCarlo), and to say they have a tempestuous relationship would be an understatement. There are arguments and misunderstandings aplenty but underneath it all there's always a burning attraction.

Lorena ends up forcing Jonathan to marry her at gunpoint, after which he insists on a wedding night...and then ends up being taken to jail the next morning. (Lorena tells a character she can't decide if they were interrupted "too early or too late.") Flash forward six years and Jonathan returns...and boy, is he surprised to find he's the father of five-year-old Mary Ann (Beverly Sue Simmons).

More problems and misunderstandings ensue, but all's well that ends well!

This is sort of a Western TAMING OF THE SHREW, and it's played in such a light fashion that none of the problems actually come across as that traumatic. For that matter, I should perhaps mention that this film is quite unpolitically correct and sure to scandalize those who care about such things, but I took it all in good fun in the spirit in which it was intended, and I had a very enjoyable time watching it. I found the sequence where Jonathan keeps kissing Lorena, and she keeps slapping him, increasingly weakly, especially amusing.

The movie is almost a musical, with DeCarlo singing a few numbers; it sounds like she's singing herself at least part of the time, but IMDb credits the dubbing of one song to Doreen Tryden. I found the early sequence where Cameron first enters DeCarlo's saloon to almost feel like a musical number itself, in the amusing way the blocking is choreographed. The capper is when Jonathan makes friends with Big Ben (Andy Devine), who has a VERY big beer glass!

The genial Cameron is just right in the lead, simultaneously confident and befuddled, if a little too prone to take Lorena for granted. I found DeCarlo not only fun but touching as she keeps hoping for a loving relationship with Jonathan yet is regularly disappointed as he has his sights set on a "real lady." And if there was a more beautiful actress in Technicolor than DeCarlo in the 1940s, I'm not sure who it would be! Jonathan seems a little crazy for being so reluctant to form a permanent relationship, even if she is a saloon gal.

Devine, Fuzzy Knight, and Andrew Tombes form a sort of Greek chorus who are always there to advise Jonathan and Lorena -- often with unintended results! Jan Wiley and Clara Blandick play Jonathan's schoolteacher ex-fiancee and her very proper aunt, and their characters are unpredictable enough that I felt a little bad for Wiley's character being jilted.

FRONTIER GAL was directed by Charles Lamont and filmed by Charles P. Boyle and George Robinson. It runs 85 minutes.

The only really weak spot in the film is some exceptionally terrible process photography near the end of the movie. Obviously they weren't going to put a little girl in jeopardy over a waterfall for real, so I wish they'd found another way to end the story, as these shots are so poorly done they pull the viewer out of the movie.

The beautiful location filming took place around Mammoth Lakes and Kernville, California.

This film is available on DVD in a beautiful print from the Universal Vault Series.


Blogger Margot Shelby said...

This is a great movie. I agree, for the PC crowd there should be a warning in the beginning: Please bring smelling salts. Otherwise a serious case of the vapors might ensue.

I'm a big De Carlo fan. She was truly one of Hollywood's most beautiful actresses. I also love her in The Gal Who Took the West.

Nothing against Cameron, he was good, but I would have loved it if his role had been played by Steve Cochran or Rory Calhoun.

4:45 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I saw Yvonne on stage in Follies, and she was definitely musical. More than effective. Brought the house down.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Margo, LOL re the smelling salts. True!

Great to hear you're also a DeCarlo fan. THE GAL WHO TOOK THE WEST is one of my favorite DeCarlo movies. She's absolutely charming! I'm considering writing about her Westerns for Classic Movie Hub sometime this year.

Barrylane, how I envy you the chance to have seen her perform live! Wonderful. Thanks for sharing that!

Best wishes,

11:45 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I've been considering this for a while and now I will definitely make the effort to enjoy it.

7:22 AM  
Blogger john k said...

FRONTIER GAL is fine but my favorite of the De Carlo/Cameron pairings is RIVER LADY.
I like the way the initially "knockabout" tone of the film develops into something
darker and of course RIVER LADY has the added bonus of the great Dan Duryea.
I like Margot's suggestion of the De Carlo/Cochran pairing...wouldn't it have been
sensational if they appeared in a Noir together.
Yes Margo I was surprised that you are a Mamie Van Doren admirer and it's also cool that
you like Diana Dors.Regarding the latter I suggest that you track down THE LONG HAUL
where Diana is teamed with Victor Mature a most interesting combo.
THE LONG HAUL is a very intriguing mix of Noir,Kitchen Sink Drama and Trucker/Thriller.
Regarding THE BEAT GENERATION which we discussed on a previous thread there is a very
good review on the "Where Danger Lives" blog.
The film is all over the shop and does confront serious social issues which really belong
in another movie but it's fascinating all the same.
Laura, sorry to go off-topic but I guess you are used to my antics by now.
BTW a De Carlo Westerns feature in your Movie Hub series would be great,especially as it's
bound to include titles like RAW EDGE and SHOTGUN.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

Yes, River Lady is very good. Certainly a bit deeper than just a fun movie. The Long Haul sounds quite good. I'll try to find it.

I'll mosey over to Where Danger Lives which is a really good blog. It hasn't been updated in a while unfortunately.

4:40 PM  
Blogger mel said...

FRONTIER GAL is on YouTube but it's a washed-out copy recorded from Encore. I'm looking forward to seeing the new DVD print from Universal Vault.

12:03 AM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Well, boy howdy, this sounds like a fun movie and I'll have to add it to my TBW list!

7:56 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, please let me know what you think or if you write a post on it! :)

John, I liked RIVER LADY a lot. :) Also agree that THE LONG HAUL was interesting (though pretty grim as I recall!). Always enjoy your tips and discussions, John! I would definitely mention both RAW EDGE and SHOTGUN in a DeCarlo piece. Fascinating films in different ways.

Margot, like you I wish WHERE DANGER LIVES was regularly updated, it's a fantastic blog!

Mel, if the YouTube print is washed out you'll definitely want to watch the pretty Universal DVD. :)

Hamlette, LOL, it's definitely fun and I hope you enjoy it!

Best wishes,

10:19 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Can’t say I agree with everybody. I found the script and characters annoying, a waste of Yvonne and Rod and the rest of the cast. Odd too that Yvonne starts off with a foreign accent which then disappears! Also I think she does her own singing except for the first number. Again, very odd.
Rod comes back from six years in prison as if he has been away a few weeks .
Sorry, Laura, cant agree on this one.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks much for your feedback, Vienna! I’m sorry the movie didn’t work for you, yet I can kind of see how the film could be looked at in a different way, despite my own enjoyment.

I’d love to know what you think of Yvonne’s other Westerns as you have the opportunity to watch them!

Best wishes,

7:54 PM  

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