Pennsylvania, 1859. Railroad tycoon Brennan (Alan Hale) is muscling in on oil-drilling farmers, led by Peter Cortland (Randolph Scott). Cortland must try to save their oil business, while also saving his marriage to Sally (Irene Dunne).
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The setting is a small town in 1870s Pennsylvania. Sally Waterson and her father have stopped in town with their traveling medicine show, but when their wagon catches fire, they find themselves stranded. They're taken in by Mrs. Cortlandt and her grandson, Peter, who is trying to set up a pipeline that will supply oil throughout the state. Sally and Peter soon fall in love and marry. Neither their marriage nor Peter's pipe dreams flow too smoothly. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. Its New York City television premiere took place Saturday 1 August 1959 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »
HIGH HIDE AND HANDSOME is an big expensive Paramount musical directed by Rouben Mamoulian that tries to combine a MGMesque romantic musical production with a Cecil B. DeMille-sized dramatic epic with fairly successful results thanks to a lovely original Oscar Hammerstein III - Jerome Kern score and an excellent cast headed by Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Dorothy Lamour, Elizabeth Patterson, Alan Hale, Charles Bickford, Ben Blue, Raymond Walburn, and William Frawley.
Irene Dunne stars as a singer/dancer who travels the country as part of pop Raymond Walburn's medicine show. When the medicine show wagon burns up during a stint in Pennslyvania, Dunne, Walburn, and faux Indian entertainer William Frawley are stranded and put up for the night by farmer Randolph Scott and his grandmother Elizabeth Patterson. The trio works their way into Scott and Patterson's heart and stay on as help to earn their keep until Walburn can rebuild an old wagon Scott has given him. Irene and Randolph fall in love and she encourages him with his dream as he drills for oil on the family homestead. When the wagon is built and it's now time to go, the sheepish Scott can't bring himself to propose to Irene but as the wagon leaves and encouraged by grandma, Scott rides off to meet them and fetch Irene back.
At their wedding, the oil well hits a gusher and Scott and the local farmers are ecstatic about their potential fortunes. Alas, evil railroad magnate Alan Hale is out to milk them of every penny of profit by excessive fees to ship the oil on his railroad, hoping to make them sellout to him. Scott gets a brainstorm to build a pipeline to move the oil which Hale repeatedly attempts to thwart with his gang. Meanwhile, the Scott-Dunne union is crumbling due to his excessive devotion to the oil wells and when Irene is seen by Randolph singing in a saloon along with her poor friend Dorothy Lamour, a former shanty boat singer whom Irene is trying to help land a job, they have a big fight and Irene leaves to join her father in his current position with a traveling circus. Meanwhile, Hale continues his dastardly plans to ruin Scott's pipe dreams.
Irene Dunne is excellent as Sally, the rather elegant medicine show entertainer and Randolph Scott more than holds his own in a superb performance as her dashing bucolic white knight. Irene has several beautiful numbers including the classic "The Folks Who Live on the Hill". Dorothy Lamour is also excellent as the saloon singer who at one point is run out of town by the prudish "good people" of the area and sings the very lovely "The Things I Want". Elizabeth Patterson is always an asset to a movie and has one of her larger film roles here as the tough but loving grandmother and terrific comic support is supplied by William Frawley (who has also has a good song number at the wedding) and Ben Blue.
HIGH WIDE AND HANDSOME appears to have been only a modest success at the box office and is one of the least seen Irene Dunne films, as of early 2011 I don't believe it's ever aired on a cable network nor has it ever been released on video or DVD. While not a classic and not without it's flaws (the oil saga with good guys fighting powerful villains has perhaps been done in too many old films and the surprise heroes of the final reel give a rather absurd touch to the climax) it deserves to be seen and it's excellent songs and performances and beautiful set design and cinematography make it a quite memorable movie musical.
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