|Index||3 reviews in total|
It takes place in Texas after the Civil War, but we can not really
consider this little movie as a western. No many gunshots or fights of
any kind. But it is an amusing feature about a widow whom nearly
everyone suspects to be insane.
More comedy, oater, than action picture. Universal produced it, in color, with his usual stars such as Howard Duff, Mona Freeman, Gene Lockhart...
The scene in the court hall with the polecat is unforgettable. Very amusing.
In short, it's an unusual, weird little movie which remains to be shown more often.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I hadn't seen this movie in years and was fortunate enough to purchase
it online from someone who had taped it. I wasn't disappointed.
The movie starts out in the year 1888, with Dan Mason (Howard Duff) having a punch it out with another man. It seems Duff is a ranch hand with a hair trigger temper who has lost ten jobs in several months. He finds his way over to a ranch owned by Dan Blodgett (Ed Begley), whose daughter is married to an conniving character Cyril Guthrie, played by Craig Stevens(pre Peter Gunn fame).
Anyway, he seems to be taken with the ranch cook, Miss Bonnie (Mona Freeman) who has been secretly been supplying Ms. Birdie (Hull) with eggs through her worker Jose (Chris Pin Martin). She schemes to have Dan help out Ms. Birdie. The scheme is a bit convoluted, but by getting into a fight with Begley's son-in-law through something she's done, he quits. He meets Jose on the way, who claims that Miss Birdie is rich and will pay him handsomely if he signs on with her.
Ms. Birdie lives in a huge mansion on a huge swath of land. We learn that her husband, who was a Notherner, who is known as "The General" built it for her so she could be reminded of her former home in Virginia. However, looks are deceiving, as Dan finds out, as the house is in disrepair and is occupied by Miss Birdie and her menagerie of animals, all of whom are named after people.
Miss Birdie, to say the least, is "out there", She calls Dan "Mr. Jason" and doesn't seem to know what's going on from one minute to the next. She also has a pet skunk named Henrietta, who sprays when she gets nervous (plot point). She claims her husband "The General" is in New York on business.
Later, after a dinner of one egg, Ms. Bonnie comes to stay with Miss Birdie and tells Dan that Miss Birdie's husband was killed in the Civil War. Dan decides it's time to pack up and leave. He goes into town and makes friends with the Sheriff (Jay C. Flippen). We learn that the slimy son-in-law wants to have Miss Birdie declared incompetent so he can get her land as the railroad wants to come through it. Dan has a change of heart and sells his boots to the Sheriff and buys Ms. Birdie groceries. The son-in-law and his equally slimy lawyer come by and ask Ms. Birdie to sell. Dan comes back and tells them to leave.
Later that evening the group is having dinner, the son-in-law has some outlaws set fire to the barn. As Miss Birdie, Jose and Bonnie try to put the fire out, Dan chases after them to no avail. In the ensuing chaos, the son-in-law takes Ms. Birdie's album, that has a letter from President Lincoln.
The son-in-law files papers to have Ms. Birdie declared incompetent and to have him and his wife become her wards. Dan and Bonnie want to become her wards, but the law only allows married couples to be wards.
The trial starts and Judge George Jeffers (Gene Lockhart) presides. When Miss Birdie explains how she named all her animals after the people she thought they looked like, Jeffers finds it amusing until he finds out that her pig is named after him. The court erupts in a uproar and he begins to bang the gavel, which scares Henrietta (who is hiding in the folds of Ms. Birdie's skirt). You know what happens.
After a bath by Jeffers, he reconvenes the court outside. In the ensuing panic, Miss Bonnie and Dan decide to marry so they can take care of Miss Birdie. They come back to tell Jeffers that they had married, but he insists they continue with the hearing. The slimy lawyer shows the letter they stole from the house and Jeffers reads it. It is then that Ms. Birdie comes clean, by telling word for word what the letter says: that her husband was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. She stated that she knew he was dead, but wanted to keep his memory alive. Judge Jeffers declares miss Birdie sane and everyone in the town rallies around her, offering their help and returning her cattle and poultry.
The best part is when Dan clocks the slimy son-in-law.
It's a shame that this movie is not shown on TV anymore (thanks to Universal/MCA never showing any old movies in their library). I enjoyed seeing this rare gem again and it's a shame Ms. Hull made so few films in her lifetime.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You may not rate this movie a 10 after watching it, but I loved it. After "cutting the cable" and erecting an antenna for "free" (literally) television, I have been blessed with so many old gems like this one.! A previous review pretty much sums up the movie except for one observation I had. What I consider to be one of the most poignant moments in cinema I have witnessed takes place after Ms Birdie's competence hearing is moved outside to the courtyard. Remember, the storyline up to this point has been built entirely around the assumption by everyone around her that Ms Birdie is deranged due to her slightly irregular behavior and more importantly, that her husband, the General, was only "away" and would be returning to her. So, the judge is handed a rather lengthy letter written by the President of the U.S. expressing his personal sympathy for the General's death and his gratitude for his sacrifice to the nation. The crowd of townspeople start goading the judge to read the letter aloud for all to hear. Now, as the camera is squarely planted on the Judge's face, he reads only the first few words of the letter when, the camera still planted on the judge, we hear Ms Birdie's voice interrupt, speaking the very next word in the letter and as the camera moves from the face of an astonished judge to the now somber Ms Birdie, she is reciting the letter from memory in its' entirety without missing a word..!! Wow, it was so perfectly directed. Chill bumps..!!
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