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When director Allan Dwan initially read the script, he thought the film was going to be a dramatic disaster, but he had the script rewritten as a spoof/parody with the co-operation of cast members, especially Broderick Crawford, Franchot Tone, Mischa Auer, and Andy Devine. The Universal front office didn't seem happy with the decision, and the film carries no producer credit. See more »
One of the mysteries of Allan Dwan's career as a director is that his lead actors frequently seemed to be having a good time. That pleasure of performance is fairly rare in the movies, even though it adds considerably to the pleasure of the audience. Georges Melies seemed to enjoy his movies; more recently, Annette Bening in THE American PRESIDENT is clearly enjoying herself as Sidney Wade. Yet in the fifty years of Dwan's career, again and again, performers clearly enjoy themselves: William Crane in David HARUM; Gloria Swanson in ZAZA; Bill Robinson in ONE MILE FROM HEAVEN; Dennis O'Keefe in BREWSTER'S MILLIONS; and, of course, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in their frequent collaborations.
Outside of Dwan projects, only the Barrymores and occasionally Fredric March showed that spark. Apparently it is an artifact of stage performances. Possibly it is the unworried understanding that if this performance is not successful, there can be another take. Judging by conversations with cast and crew, everyone had great confidence in Dwan's abilities and they could relax and let that enjoyment come through.
Franchot Tone is clearly enjoying himself here. He does things he never did elsewhere. He tries a couple of stunts. He is outright silly. As a result, he makes this very silly western a lot of fun. Broderick Crawford and Andy Devine as his sidekicks are enjoying themselves, too.
Back to Dwan: he had begun as a director of Westerns thirty years before, but hadn't made one for at least twenty years at this point and he pulls out all the stops. Universal was trying for a follow-up to the previous year's DESTRY RIDES AGAIN and although this one is not as amazing a result as that, Dwan plays with all the B-western conventions of the era with a clearly A budget. I expect you'll enjoy it.
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