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The western town of Headstone is being besieged by the outlaw Killer Pete and his gang. Arriving on the same stagecoach are the new Sheriff and easterner Belinda Pendergast, known as Bill. The new Sheirff is unable to catch Pete and Pete now sends him and the posse out of town where Indians wait in ambush while he and his men ride into town for a big raid. Bill, however, learns who Pete really is and has the townswomen ready to surprise them when they arrive. Written by
Maurice VanAuken <firstname.lastname@example.org>
GO WEST, YOUNG LADY (Columbia, 1941), directed by Frank R. Strayer, is a western spoof starring the one and only Penny Singleton, in a rare opportunity taking time off from her then popular "Blondie" movie series, also then directed by Frank R. Strayer, which played in theaters from 1938 and ending after 28 theatrical episodes in 1950. As with the "Blondie" series, GO WEST, YOUNG LADY is a 70 minute "B" movie that concentrates on comedy, whether it be physical or verbal. It also reunites Singleton with the up-and-coming Glenn Ford, who earlier appeared in one of her "Blondie" comedies, BLONDIE PLAYS CUPID (Columbia, 1940).
Set in a frontier town of Headstone, Jim Pendergast (Charles Ruggles), owner of the Crystal Palace saloon, learns that his nephew, Bill, is arriving on the next stagecoach. Since Headstone is in need of law and order, considering it is being terrorized by a masked bandit named "Pecos Pete," Pendergast believes Bill will become the town's new sheriff. After the stagecoach arrives, Pendergast mistakes Tex Miller (Glenn Ford) as his nephew, and is stunned to learn that Bill is actually an attractive young gal named Belinda Pendergast (Penny Singleton). In spite of her being a female, she is quick on the draw and can do anything a cowboy can do, even better. Later Belinda encounters Lola (Ann Miller), entertainer of the Crystal Palace, who becomes jealous over her encounter with Tex, whom she loves. Eventually with Belinda's help, she succeeds in taming the west.
GO WEST, YOUNG LADY may seem overly familiar in plot mainly because portions of it borrows from other westerns, such as DESTRY RIDES AGAIN (Universal, 1939), starring Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart, where the central character is mistaken for a stronger and more forceful hero, unaware that the least likely individual turns out to be otherwise, along with a knockout fight between the two women (Singleton and Miller), but not as memorable as when Dietrich battled wits with Una Merkel; and MY LITTLE CHICKADEE (Universal, 1940), starring Mae West and WC Fields, where the hero, being
Belinda, riding in a stagecoach with a rugged hero named Tex, becomes part of an Indian massacre where the Redskins riding on their horses are attacking the stagecoach with bows and arrows. As Tex tries to shoot them off, he becomes very much surprised to find Belinda with her pistols disposing the Indians shooting gallery style from their horses one by one (as did Mae West in the earlier film). Another borrowed element from MY LITTLE CHICKADEE is a masked man terrorizing the town, who becomes the least likely suspect from the citizens but known only to dance hall girl Lola and the movie audience.
Besides its broad comedy, and a couple of pies that are accidentally tossed at Glenn Ford's face, compliments of Penny Singleton (in a role that might have gone to other slapstick queens as Joan Davis, Judy Canova or even Lucille Ball), the movie takes time off for some musical numbers, songs by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin, including: "Go West, Young Lady" (sung and tap danced by Ann Miller); "Somewhere Along the Trail," "Little Doggie, Take Your Time," "I Wish I Could Be a Singing Cowboy" (sung and performed by Allen Jenkins and Ann Miller); "Gentlemen Don't Prefer a Lady" (sung by Penny Singleton); and "Ida Red" performed by Bob Wills and his Texas Cowboys.
Featured in the supporting cast are: Jed Prouty as Judge Harmon; Edith Meiser as Mrs. Hinkle; Bill Hazlet as Chief Big Thunder; and Waffles, the dog (filling in for the Blondie pooch, Daisy), among others.
Watching GO WEST, YOUNG LADY, makes one wonder how this movie in a similar situation would have played as a "Blondie" episode, possibly titled BLONDIE OUT WEST, with Penny Singleton as Blondie, along with series regulars Arthur Lake as her husband, Dagwood Bumstead, and Larry Simms as their son, Baby Dumpling (Larry Simms), going west on vacation where Dagwood is elected sheriff to fight off cattle rustlers, shooting 'em up with cowboy villains, etc. Anyway, that never happened, but it was just a thought.
GO WEST, YOUNG LADY, which was once a frequently revived movie that could be found on any given afternoon on commercial television back in the 1960s and '70s, is a very hard movie to find these days. However, it is not lost and gone forever, for it has been revived on cable television's The Westerns Channel (2003) and Turner Classic Movies (August 22, 2007). Other than watching Penny Singleton in a non-Blondie performance, providing her comedic and vocalizing talents, GO WEST YOUNG LADY does have its quota of laughs to make this one an enjoyable outing and a worthy time filler for classic movie fans. (**1/2)
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