|Index||5 reviews in total|
One of those unusual westerns with two women as the central characters... such as in "Johnny Guitar" and "Jubilee Trail," among others. During the Civil War in a town run by ruthless people, bad Kate has it in for darling Sally but stay tuned to the climactic ending to see how this all works out. Definitely a cheap oater with few production values, but it does have lively performances from Joan Leslie and Audrey Totter. If you know these actresses, then you know who plays whom. Fourth-billed Leslie is actually the star of this dopey-titled film and is always a joy to watch. For those who love women fight scenes, this has one of the fun ones. So glad I have it on my homemade VHS as this little-seen film is unlikely to ever be on DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On a gray line between a comedy and a drama this film is a delight to see for western lovers like me who used to thrive on just hearing the names Jesse James, Cole Younger etc. they sure meant a lot of action. Just the scene where Jesse's identity is revealed is worth the movie. Allan Dwann, the director made films as far back as 1911 and his expert touch is here. The conventional is broken by making the women the most important characters. There is Sally (Joan Leslie), the good girl who is forced to run the saloon after her brother is killed, Kate Quantrill (Audrey Totter), wife of the famous raider (Brian Donlevy) and Mayor Delilah Courtney (Nina Varela) who rules the town with a strong hand. The good guy, Lance Horton (John Lund), does not have much of a chance to show his skills, surrounded by such a strong trio. The town is divided between Confederates and the Union, and the Mayor handles the situation by not allowing uniformed soldiers to enter. Worth seeing.
WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED (1953) opens with a bang and never lets up
for its entire running time. I don't think I've ever seen a Republic
western as good as this one, packed with incident, filled with a great
cast of performers, several of them playing famous outlaws, smoothly
directed and expertly edited, and boasting an array of powerful female
characters like you've never seen in one western before. I would say
that Audrey Totter as bloodthirsty Kate Quantrill steals the show but
then I'd be giving short shrift to Joan Leslie who more than holds her
own against Totter right up to the end. The two characters start out as
fierce antagonists who get into a shouting match at the scene of a
massacre of Union soldiers and it only gets worse from there,
descending into a spectacular barroom catfight and eventually into a
gun duel on the town's main street that doesn't resolve things at all.
It gets even more interesting as it goes along and we learn more about
both women and watch as the anger subsides and they come to more than
one level of understanding. Totter even gets to sing two lovely songs
in the film, although I can't confirm that she did her own singing.
And they're not the only strong women in the cast. The mayor of the town is a big woman named Delilah Courtney (stage singer Nina Varela), who owns the local lead mines and rules over things with an iron hand, resorting to hangings when anyone breaks the rules of neutrality. Then there are the saloon girls at the Lead Dollar Saloon, who worked for Leslie's brother (Reed Hadley) and then for Leslie's character, Sally Maris, and give her all sorts of advice and assistance throughout the film. One of them is none other than Ann Savage, most famous as Vera, the hard-bitten femme fatale from Edgar G. Ulmer's B-noir classic, DETOUR (1945). Fans of that film will be pleasantly surprised at how charming and attractive Savage could be in other roles. Also on hand is Virginia Christine, a veteran character actress who usually played housewives and suburban moms, but handles herself quite adequately in her saloon role.
The setting of the film is quite unusual. The time is 1863, at the height of the Civil War, and the locale is a little town in the Ozarks that straddles the border between Missouri and Arkansas, one Union state and one Confederate state. Mayor Courtney declares strict neutrality and orders the Union and Confederate troops to stay at least five miles away from town. One of her lead mines supplies the North and the other supplies the South. John Lund, top billed, plays a Confederate officer working undercover as a mine foreman. Brian Donlevy plays Colonel Quantrill, who leads a renegade force of rebel fighters working chiefly on their own and violates the neutrality rules when he brings his men into town. These men include Frank James (James Brown), Jesse James (Ben Cooper) and Cole Younger (Jim Davis). The town is full of men from both sides of the war and the slightest provocation could trigger a violent confrontation on the spot. In fact, the catfight between Kate and Sally begins because Sally is adamant about preventing Kate from singing "Dixie" in the saloon.
Also in the large and colorful cast are Minerva Urecal and Ellen Corby as outspoken town ladies; Richard Simmons ("Sergeant Preston of the Yukon") as a Union army captain whom Kate tries to charm; Gordon Jones (Mike the cop from "The Abbott and Costello Show") as a Union army sergeant; Richard Crane ("Rocky Jones, Space Ranger") as a Union Army lieutenant; and Reed Hadley ("Racket Squad") as Sally's brother, who still suffers heartache from losing Kate to Colonel Quantrill two years earlier. Donlevy had played Quantrill quite memorably three years earlier in KANSAS RAIDERS for Universal. Jim Davis went on to star in the Republic-produced TV series, "Stories of the Century," in which his character, railroad investigator Matt Clark, went after famous outlaws like the ones depicted here, in episodes that used stock footage from Republic westerns like this one. In fact, the opening montage of this film, showing Quantrill's murderous raid on Lawrence, Kansas, relies on footage taken from an earlier Republic western, DARK COMMAND (1940), in which Walter Pidgeon played a character based on Quantrill.
The direction is by Allan Dwan, who'd been directing by this point in his career for 42 years. The screenplay is by Steve Fisher, a specialist at different kinds of pulp genre films (LADY OF THE LAKE, DEAD RECKONING, THE MAN FROM THE ALAMO) and he juggles the different characters and plot elements so well that no one gets lost or cut from the action. Every major character, and I count at least a dozen of them, gets their share of great scenes. Only one is written out early on to pave the way for the bold actions required by another.
Republic brought over auteur favorite Nicholas Ray to direct JOHNNY GUITAR the following year, in lurid Trucolor, with Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge as dueling female antagonists and that film has always gotten extraordinary attention from western scholars and feminist film critics seeking to focus academic respectability on a film rich with Freudian themes and flamboyant theatricality. My sixth sense tells me that ordinary western fans would prefer WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED. I wish this film were better known and better appreciated.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a pre-Johnny Guitar battle of the bitches in this rather odd
Western of a catfight that takes 90 minutes to unleash any fur. Set in
a town where the woman owned saloon is built right on the Mason/Dixon
line where two flags of battling brothers reveals the hatred between a
once friendly public space became a political battleground. Joan
Leslie, billed lower than others, is a feisty saloon owner who puts up
with no nonsense with the still battling soldiers from the civil war
who haven't ended the feud with the flag of surrender. Along comes a
gang of the most famous bandits of the era, the most dangerous of them
being the vindictive Audrey Totter who resents Leslie for beating the
cheap out of her after she caused trouble by singing a confederate
song. A gun duel follows, leaving one of the two women at the mercy of
the other as a posse arrives to get ahold of the bandits, dead or
This feminist themed western has its admirers, but I found it a bit pretentious in spite of good intentions. Certainly, women gained social power during the times of war when men were away but were reluctant to give it up when the men returned. I was rather put off by Totter's masculine but jealous female who simply started the feud with the livelier Miss Leslie simply out of envy.
This is a case of mistaken identity mixed with female protection when a of a sudden Leslie disguises Totter as a saloon singer, all of a sudden bringing out her feminine side.
I am surprised that Republic producer Herbert Yates didn't cast Vera Grubs Ralston in Totter's part, making her resemble her with the strange close- ups which did nothing to accelerate her looks. The male characters are secondary here even though Brian Fonlevy is billed above both Totter and Leslie. Jim Davis of "Dallas" fame and John Lund are among the other men. I will single out Nina Varela as the town's imperious matron who steals every moment she is on screen, while Minerva Urecal and Ellen Colby are among the other town biddies. This is an interesting failure that at times seems to be unintentionally funny.
The movie is unusual because the ladies are the powerful ones in this movie. Audrie Totter is the cowgirl Emma Peel Because of her sexy leather pants and riding boots. Audrey is also the opposite of Emma because of her evil disposition. Warren O'Leary.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|