Sunday, June 07, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Bride Wore Boots (1946) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Cummings star in THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS (1946), one of three films in the Barbara Stanwyck Collection recently released by Kino Lorber.

The Blu-ray set also includes INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY (1937), which I reviewed a couple weeks ago, and THE GREAT MAN'S LADY (1942), which will be reviewed here at a future date. Joel McCrea costars with Stanwyck in both titles.

I first saw THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS in the summer of 2010, so it was fun to circle back to it after a decade. I see its strengths and weaknesses pretty much as I did then.

Stanwyck and Cummings play Sally and Jeff, who have been married a number of years and have two children (Natalie Wood and Gregory Muradian, later known as Gregory Marshall). It's unclear what brought Sally and Jeff together in the first place; Sally is an avid horsewoman, while Civil War historian Jeff is unhappy whenever he's near a horse.

Simmering tensions in Sally and Jeff's marriage are exacerbated by Sally's old flame Lance (Patric Knowles), who never misses a chance to put Jeff down, and by Mary Lou (Diana Lynn), who can only be described as a "groupie" of Jeff's who insinuates herself into his life and is out to wreck his marriage.

Sally and Jeff head for divorce court, but eventually the old flame begins burning again. Can this broken marriage be saved?

The movie's biggest problem is that Dwight Mitchell Wiley's screenplay initially spends so much time initially tearing down Sally and Jeff's relationship; it's done so that then the movie can focus on bringing them back together, but it means that a considerable chunk of the film isn't especially pleasant.

I found Lance's unkindness particularly noticeable this time around, and it's inescapable that if Sally and Jeff had simply been more forceful shooing both Lance and Mary Lou out of their lives, a number of their marital problems would have been solved. But in that case I suppose we wouldn't have had a movie!

Another noticeable issue is that Stanwyck and Cummings simply don't have much romantic chemistry, which makes it even harder to understand how the characters connected in the first place.

And yet, despite a less than scintillating romance, this is still a movie I enjoy spending time with. The cast is marvelous, with Peggy Wood as Sally's mother and Robert Benchley and Jeff's brother providing delightful comic relief.

Stanwyck was at her most beautiful in the mid '40s, and her Edith Head wardrobe is a visual treat, as are the gleaming sets; the black and white photography of this Paramount Pictures film was by Stuart C. Thompson.

There are also some cute bits here and there, such as the old horse Jeff is tricked into buying becoming so attached to him that no one else can ride him.

Sadly it appears from a surviving still that a final scene of Jeff and Sally remarrying -- what else did you expect?! -- was left on the cutting room floor. That seems particularly odd given the title; there's no actual "bride" to be seen anywhere in the movie!

All in all, don't expect a great deal from this film, but fans of the cast and the movie-making era will probably find it a pleasant enough 85 minutes for a weekend afternoon despite its deficiencies.

Familiar movie faces including Willie Best, James Millican, Richard Gaines, Frank Orth, Ida Moore, and Milton Kibbee are among the large cast. Director Irving Pichel calls the steeplechase near the end of the film.

The print and sound quality of the Kino Lorber Blu-ray are excellent. The disc also includes the trailer, along with trailers for two additional films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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