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Mamie Van Doren,
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Howard W. Koch
Mamie Van Doren,
In 1880, Osawkie, Kansas is feuding with rival town Mandaroon over which will be county seat, keeping the town's men away from home most of the time. The last straw is when Matt Davis feels compelled to go on a new foray on his wedding night; his bride Liza (just call her Lysistrata) takes teacher Cassie's advice and organizes a marital strike to make the men-folk stop their nonsense. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
THE SECOND GREATEST SEX is a weird yet endearing comedy/musical that despite being part of a cycle of western musicals in the mid 1950's is one of a kind film. An unusual story and setting, the movie also boasts the most scatter-shot casting of the decade, truly a once-in-a-lifetime cast.
Universal rarely made musicals in the 1950's so when they got around to making this one they didn't have much talent under contract to play the supporting roles, so they hired people from all over the place: pop singer Kitty Kallen, teen novelty singer Jimmy Boyd ("I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"), ballet dancer Tommy Rall, and radio hillbilly vocalist Cousin Emmy, most of them making a very rare appearance in motion pictures. And to that vaudeville/Broadway legend Bert Lahr in one of his few film appearances since THE WIZARD OF OZ in 1939. And that's even not counting forgotten stage musical performer Paul Gilbert (future father of Melissa Gilbert) and one Mary Marlo, making her film debut at age 60 (her only other appearance was an unbilled bit the next year) as Lahr's wife. The only Universal contractees in this film are Mamie Van Doren and (an obviously dubbed) George Nader.
Jeanne Crain has the lead in this film an 1880's beauty who resents fiancée Nader's obsession with the long-standing feud between two rival counties for a bank safe full of documents (didn't make sense to me either.) The men of the three counties spend years on end stealing and recapturing the vault from each other (with nary a gunshot heard). When Nader goes traipsing after the safe now stolen yet again on their wedding night, Jeanne has had enough and leads the women of the town into a sex strike on the men until they vow to give up this "war" after hearing a school teacher's tale of Lysistrata.
Most of the songs are full cast numbers although Nader "sings" a love song to Crain. Kallen also gets a solo which is danced to by Rall. Neither Boyd nor Cousin Emmy get a song of their own despite being cast presumably because they were singers. There's quite a bit of dancing in this and one may be taken aback a bit by seeing these western numbers danced to in mostly ballet fashion by the male dancers.
The billing is almost as strange as the movie. Studio contractee Van Doren is surprisingly pushed back to seventh billing, I would say she deserved at least fifth but perhaps Gilbert and Keith Andes contracts required them to be in the top six. Kathleen Case, on the other hand, has only a line or two and is billed over several players who have major roles.
Although this movie makes good use of Universal's well-used western locales it is no closer to reality than Paramount's stylized RED GARTERS. It is however, more fun, with a cast jumping into it with gusto and good humor. Too silly to be really good, nevertheless it's entertaining and worth a look if you can find it.
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