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At the turn of the century Rose and ex-showbiz friend Molly get involved in selling steel. When they come unstuck with corsets they embark on the even more hazardous project of selling barbed wire to highly suspicious Texas cowboys. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
This film is an interesting time capsule. It was made in the late 1950s, and it shows some stars who are on their way up, and one who is on her way out. An unfair thing to say to Ginger Rogers, but this is not one of the films (like KITTY FOYLE, her movies with Fred Astaire, THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR, or ROXY HART) that people remember her for. Ginger would still be making films until 1965, her last one an Italian comedy with Ray Milland, but they were all lesser efforts - although she did deliver good performances.
But three (no, make it four) of the stars actually were on their way up
or seemed to be. They are Clint Eastwood, Carol Channing, James
Arness, and Barry Nelson. It was the sixth or seventh movie Eastwood had appeared in, and (I believe) the first one where he 1) had substantial dialog to give his film persona a real character, and 2) he was one of the male leads and was paired with the second female lead whom he romances, kisses, and marries. This is Ms Channing, playing "Molly", Rogers closest friend and partner in the saleslady business. Channing's character actually has better lines (at times) than Rogers did - funnier ones too. She is no budding feminist, but a rationalist (when she and Rogers are threatened for selling barbed wire in cattleman country, she suggests - reasonably - that they leave). It might strike a modern film lover as incongruous that Eastwood and Channing go off together at the end of this film, but in reality it's not so odd. Channing was always a greater Broadway star than Hollywood star (her best screen role would be in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, where she was Mary Tyler Moore's eccentric aunt who trounces Bea Lillie). She did not make more than a dozen or so films in her career. She is not more than five or six years older than Eastwood, and their pairing together is not so unlikely as it seems (the pairing of Nelson and Rogers is more unlikely). She too landed this role because her career (like Eastwood's) was on the rise - she just having won Broadway laurels in GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES as "Loralie Lee". Ironically, that performance was not captured by her on film, but Marilyn Monroe performed it. Also ironic is her pairing as Rogers' friend, as one of Channing's later hit performances was as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the original HELLO DOLLY, and she was replaced in it by Rogers.
James Arness had been in films since the late 1940s, appearing in several John Ford films like WAGON MASTER, John Wayne films like ISLAND IN THE SKY as well as THEM and some other science fiction movies. But in 1956, the U.S. public was getting used to Arness in the television western hit GUNSMOKE (as Marshall Matt Dillon). That role of a lifetime (literally) made his name and career - he was on the way to super stardom. So his performance as Joel Kingdom, ostensibly the villain of the film, is balanced by his sense of humor and his interest in possibly marrying Rogers.
The fourth figure was Barry Nelson. Nelson is an interesting person. He was a capable performer, and he did have one real good comic lead part in MARY, MARY. But while respected in the industry, Nelson never made it with the public. He was good looking but not striking (Arness has a more rugged handsome appearance, which stood him well in GUNSMOKE and other western roles).
Upon some reconsideration one can add a fifth figure - David Brian. A good looking man, who always looked like he had just left a hefty Board Room conference with fellow company directors, he gave some excellent performances in his career as good guy (he ends up with Joan Crawford in FLAMINGO ROAD) or bad guy. But like Nelson, while he was always employable he never caught on with the public. Here, he too is interested in Rogers. He reluctantly agrees to her selling the barbed wire in Texas, but he does so because when she fails he plans to marry her. All this does in the end is lead to him and Arness having a fistfight, but both discovering that Nelson has outmaneuvered them with another sigh of progress - Nelson's horseless carriage.
It is a sweet little film, but no more than that. My favorite moment comes in the hotel sequences. Rogers and Channing trick Arness into giving up his use of the PRINCE OF WALES suite in a cattle town hotel. They are looking forward, after dinner, to sleeping in this fancy room. They find a bald, bearded fat man snoring in the bed. It turns out it is Prince Albert Edward (the future King Edward VII) who has come to town after all, and has a running right to the use of the room.
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