Phoebe Titus is a tough, swaggering pioneer woman, but her ways become decidedly more feminine when she falls for California bound Peter Muncie. But Peter won't be distracted from his journey and Phoebe is left alone and plenty busy with villains Jefferson Carteret and Lazarus Ward plotting at every turn to destroy her freighting company. She has not seen the last of Peter, however.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Arizona" is a very enjoyable movie about pioneer settlement of the West. Without giving away the plot, let's just say that it has enough twists and angles to make it stand apart from the normal grind of Westerns. It gives us a little bit of all the various stock parts of Westerns – Indians, cowboys, cavalry, good guys, bad guys, guns and shootings, robbery and romance, sagebrush and scenery, horses and a stampede, a wagon train and cattle drive. But it's the way those bits are put together and woven into a nice story that sets "Arizona" apart and gives it the feel of an epic film.
Jean Arthur is excellent as Phoebe Titus. She's a self-assured, decent, hard-working, and tough Western gal with big dreams. We never learn why or how she got to Tucson on her own. But viewers are taken with her sincerity and toughness which has just a touch of humor. The men in the movie are also won over by her pies. I can't think of another Western that has a pie shop or stand in it.
William Holden is a delight as Peter Muncie. This is only the fifth movie in which he was listed in the credits. It's one of his early starring roles and his very first Western. Holden's character has a very likable, easy-going and pleasantness about him. A pity we didn't see more of that persona throughout his career. For most of his roles later on, Holden had a more straight or serious demeanor – even dour at times.
Another reviewer commented on Warren William's excellent role as Jefferson Carteret. He played the villain very well. William was a very accomplished actor who might have done some great films in the 1950s and 1960s. But he died in 1948 from cancer. He was just 53. He had played suave, sophisticated and intelligent leading men, and fiends and conniving crooks and scoundrels, equally well. I especially enjoy him as Perry Mason in the original movies about that fictional detective- lawyer.
A number of other character actors gave banner performances in this film. Edgar Buchanan, Porter Hall, Paul Harvey and Regis Toomey stand out. The direction and cinematography were excellent, and the musical score for this film was a delight. It received two Academy Award nominations, one for musical score.
Others have commented about the setting and feel of reality about the movie. "Arizona" was made in 1940, when it was possible to find space to shoot a film around Tucson that wasn't invaded by utility poles and lines, paved highways and other signs of modern times. The ramshackle settlement of the early town sure gives it a feel of reality. I'm not so sure, though, how accurate a picture that is of Tucson at the time of the story. It's taking place around the Civil War years. The town of Tucson wasn't incorporated until 1877, but the town got its start a hundred years earlier. Hugh Oconor is the founding father of Tucson. He was the military governor of northern Mexico and authorized a fort to be built there in 1775. Even before that, the very first development was the Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1700. The mission is still operating today and is a historic site south of Tucson.
Columbia Pictures built the set for the film, with a sound stage, a few miles west of present-day downtown Tucson. It sat idle for a number of years after the movie was made. Then, in 1960, it was fixed up and opened as an active movie set and tourist park. In time, more streets were added and some amusement events were staged – gunfights and bank robberies. Nearly 70 movies have been filmed in part or in whole in Old Tucson, as it is called. Most were Westerns, but a number of mysteries and dramas were made there – even a comedy or two. John Wayne filmed four of his Westerns in Old Tucson – "Rio Bravo," "McLintock," "El Dorado," and "Rio Lobo." A 1995 fire destroyed much of the set and sound stage; but the community rebuilt the movie set town and it is still open today.
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