Madonna & W./E. Against Us!

DATELINE: Material Girl Directs!

Andrea Riseborough Andrea Riseborough as Duchess of Windsor!

If you are looking for Madonna in her 2011 movie W./E., you won’t see her. She was behind the camera, directing it.

The film is everything you might expect—and is also totally unexpected. It may seem like Downton Abbey in Material Girl terms, but it is really a solid case of Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam meeting Henry James and The Aspern Papers.

Two women named Wallis, 70 years apart, have what appears to be a paranormal encounter.  They are unsympathetic protagonists, but what the world hates, Madonna loves.

Back in 2011, the movie was widely castigated by critics as an overreach and under-achievement. Those tuning in to see the iconic woman will see only her stand-ins: the two Wallys.

Now with a few years passed, we can see W./E. as something far more interesting and poorly judged by audiences and the anti-Madonna contingent. The film is beautifully constructed and under-appreciated.

A modern 1998 woman is obsessed with Wallis Simpson and her husband, the one-time King of England.

Here the legendary singer stretched her wings to make a film about a woman researching the legendary love affair of the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Wallis advises her modern counterpart, as both women are rapacious and obsessive.

Madonna seems intent on showing the Duchess of Windsor sacrificed far more than her husband.

In Madonna’s hands, this tale becomes a curious parallel to the Henry James story called The Aspern Papers. The conceit is that Wallis Simpson has left some letters that explain the affair in more comprehensive terms of the 21st century. It seems the King may not have given up the throne for the woman he loved exactly as advertised. He made his wife a glamorous prisoner.

Madonna’s modern woman is flawed greatly, intense and refusing to be denied: much like the Duchess of Windsor and the Madonna of music.

Intriguing Abbie Cornish is the modern Wally, and Andrea Riseborough is the brilliant version of the Duchess Wally. This is a fascinating film on many levels. You need to re-discover it.

A Goodie UFO Doc from Timothy Good

DATELINE:  Kennedy & Nixon & UFOs

alien

Timothy Good is a retired British musician who has made a name for himself as a UFO researcher and prolific author (Above Top Secret).

The MUFON group produced a film of one of his lectures a few years ago called UFOs and Military Intelligence.

Like many of these filmed lectures before a hand-selected audience, they are not much cinematically. This one does have the advantage of many cuts to images and film clips as Good makes many of the usual points.

He did provide a bit of info we had never heard before:  In 1962, about a year before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy requested and received permission to view dead alien bodies collected from some unspecified crash site.

Good said the viewing occurred in Tyndall AFB, but that might be disinformation. Kennedy often went to Palm Beach where his family had a compound.

It would be far more likely he made one of his frequent trips to Homestead AFB. He did so shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis under the guise of viewing new weapons.

Indeed, President Richard Nixon reportedly took his pal, UFO fan and comedian actor Jackie Gleason to view alien bodies in “coke freezers,” as Gleason reported privately a decade later.

Gleason also said Nixon escaped his Secret Service protectors and drove them in a private car to the site. Nixon did often elude his secret service agents, and Homestead was about an hour drive from Key Biscayne and Lauderhill, Florida, where Gleason lived.

The drive to Tyndall was 8 hours and 600 miles. It is likely they went to Homestead, if the report is accurate, and it is likely the Air Force would have kept the frozen alien bodies in the same place between 1962 and February of 1973, when Nixon and Gleason visited.

In fact, nowadays, a fleet of presidential jets is kept at Homestead in case of nuclear attack, at the discretion of the President.

Homestead AFB is about an hour’s drive from Mar-a-Lago, the winter home of you-know-who. Whether Trump has been there is not known.

Timothy Good is now unable or unwilling to respond to email or letters (age being a factor), to see what more he can tell about the Kennedy visit in 1962.

Some theorists insist Kennedy’s assassination, one year later, was due to his attempts to reveal secret UFO files.

 

 

Listening to Marlon Brando

DATELINE:  Method Man

Marlon Brando Fires Point Blank.

With its odd title, you may have trouble discerning what exactly is being told to whom.  Yet, Listen to Me Marlon is an affecting and striking documentary Showtime documentary about the legendary star of The Godfather, Streetcar Named Desire, and Reflections in a Golden Eye.

We wrote extensively about Brandon in Troubles in a Golden Eye, our movie biography, done with Hollywood master, Jan Merlin.

Intensely private and hostile to the press in the second half of his life, Brando made dozens and dozens of audio tapes of his philosophy, problems, and feelings. He clearly wanted to be remembered.

At the last he even had a digital map of his talking head so that it could be used sometime in futuristic movies.

In the meantime, we find many unusual photos and recreations of his unpleasant childhood in Omaha that he idealized. Though you see photos of associates and workmates, there is no gossip talk of colleagues. He speaks most admirably of Stella Adler, his acting teacher.

He does discuss his tortured children:  one committed suicide after her half-brother murdered her boyfriend. Christian died of pneumonia a few years after his father died.

He is thoughtful and sensitive, clearly appalled more and more by the money, profits, and legalities of movie-making. He worked three months a year for enormous salaries—and grew increasingly difficult to work with (ask Francis Ford Coppola).

A mutual friend of ours once told that Marlon was not like his public image: he was much, much softer. And that clearly comes across in his tapes.

Brando even rehearses how to die, which is chilling. He calls life the real improvisation and acting merely a deception of truth.

If you are a fan of Brando, or ever wondered about him, there may never be a more accurate depiction of his life—if only through his own distorted vision of self.

Jan Merlin & William Russo wrote Troubles in a Golden Eye, nonfiction about making the John Huston movie version of Carson McCullers’ novella Reflections in a Golden Eye. Brando and Elizabeth Taylor starred.

 

Aspern Papers: Relief for Headache

 DATELINE: Henry James Tale of Scandal

Untitled 3 Not his Doppleganger!

French director Julien Landais brings his rococo style to the proceedings of the Henry James tale with his usual interest in Dopplegangers (Jonathan Rhys Meyers has the same blue eyes as Alain-Fabien Delon and the director himself). He seems obsessed with his own stunning looks.

The sly novella by the master of manners and psychology, Henry James, is well-played out in The Aspern Papers. As Morton Vint, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is suitably shady as a snooping researcher. He is anachronistic in posture and demeanor (going hatless and with bohemian friends of the 1880s in Venice). He seems to hang around with a bunch of lesbians (shades of the Bostonians).

He wants the love letters of an aging woman and will stop at nothing to put his hands on them. There is no kill-fee here, and he is the progenitor of National Enquirer dirty deeds even back in the 19th century.

Yes, this is a literary film in the Ivory-Merchant mode. Indeed, James Ivory is executive producer—and all the old style is brought back with a cutting edge of nastiness for the 21st century with a young French director in charge.

When the poseur learns that all the papers are hidden by Juliana, one-time lover of Jeffrey Aspern (likely Percy Shelley based on details), he is moved to become ruthless in putting his grubby hands on them.

There is a dark secret here, often hinted broadly in flashbacks that Aspern was bisexual—with a Byronic friend—and Juliana.

All this adds to the charades played by each of the characters.

Joely Richardson (Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter) plays her dull, spinster niece here with no pretense of acting out the role of her aunt every night—as the earlier version with Susan Hayward showed. The old lady was likely Mary Shelley’s sister, Claire Claremont, who had “everything” when it comes to memorabilia of dead poets.

You may recognize strands of Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde before it blows into a full-force cliché to end the movie. It is effective, nevertheless. Here too the ring of Jeffrey Aspern, as in the earlier version, plays an intriguing role as the spinster niece puts a deal to the devil publisher if he wants the literary treasure.

Landais gives us a stunner for his full-length first effort, providing us with a controlled tour-de-force that makes us anticipate his next film. Brilliant, complex work.

David: Overexposed Masterpiece

DATELINE: For All the Marbles

David

 Michelangelo’s Boy!

The Private Life of a Masterpiece is a documentary narrated by the late Tim Piggott-Smith a decade ago.

You might not realize what a controversial and interesting history and life that block of marble chiseled by Michelangelo has had over centuries.

Years before the great Renaissance upstart put his talent to the statue, a couple of artists tried and failed to carve out an iconic image. They failed, mainly because the superior marble was only two feet thick in places. It was meant to be one piece, a marvel in itself, and nearly impossible.

David is the height of three men and weighs about the poundage of two dozen. Indeed, David is the real Goliath. He was originally meant to be posed atop a church in Florence, but he was hijacked for political reasons to face the threat of the Medici family, looking southward on palazzo level. After all, he was a killer.

As a result, David has suffered, and his face seems to mirror that. He has been stoned, broken, allowed to be covered in mold, and has lost some detail.

Yet, he remains more than ever the commercial icon of the 20th century, more popular today than ever before: he is the epitome of modern man. From the get-go, he has been a role model and object of love; nearly half of Florentines in the 16th century were likely bisexual men. They adored him.

Like any great work of art, he is subject to interpretation on many levels with each passing era. Surprisingly, he was not appreciated by Victorians unless he was covered with a fig leaf. Yep, they had one ready-made for coverups when required.

Entertaining and educational, this is a one-hour history that you may watch with never-averted eyes.

 

Secrets of the Red Planet

DATELINE: Lies, Rover Photos, & Statistics

Face on Mars  Face on Mars: Don’t Trust NASA!

We give you a real twist on the usual Mars ancient civilization fake documentaries! This is a Russian production, with English subtitles. It drives the less discerning to the remote control off-button. Too much information, and words too.

This is not your usual streaming ancient space civilization films. Secrets of the Red Planet actually has substance.

As you might expect, its science is a cut above what Americans can handle. What’s more difficult for the poorly educated, the subtitles are fast-moving, requiring a level of attention you might find missing in a typical reality TV audience.

The film is short and fascinating, perhaps one of the most sledge-hammer attacks on NASA that we can recall. The Russians pull no punches: they believe that the American space program is pulling a fast one—on the world. Coverup is a term not big enough for the Russian experts.

The contention is that NASA actually puts a red hue on all the Mars rover photos to obfuscate the images. On top of that, the American agency withdraws any picture that seems to spark interest. The Russians contend that NASA is hiding the archeological roots of another civilization, perhaps a Martian world from a billion years ago.

The science may be out there, but it seems on terra firma. One Russian scientist explains his theory on an asteroid about 50 miles in diameter nearly breaking Mars apart when it hit, causing a crater that caused the evaporation of Martian oceans and decimation of any life there.

It certainly makes us pause when they talk about these Near Earth travelers that pass us regularly.

You may have to watch this little film twice, but you won’t find such amazing documented pictures and science explanation of the American Mars program anywhere else.

Seeing American scientists translated into Russian, with English subtitles seems redundant, but the American academics used as the spine of this documentary lend credence. This showcase of brilliance is not from your usual cast of fake experts, or discredited journalists. Your Ancient Aliens talking heads are not here.

Highly recommended for discerning minds and thinking brains.

Old Dark House Mates & Inmates

DATELINE: Over-rated Classic

empty house Ate for Dinner .

Your first reaction to this chestnut of horror comedy is shock at the jaw-dropping cast.

Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, and Ernest Thesiger!  You have a round-robin of possible villains and victims. The problem is that they are given nothing significant to perform. Even Karloff uses makeup to look menacing, but his dumb waiter is left hanging.

Yeah, it was a dark and stormy night, but that ain’t enough.

James Whale gathered quite a retinue of talent and gave them an empty script in a drafty house.

Billed as an atmospheric thriller comedy, that’s about all this J.B. Priestly story is. With a marvelous cast, and Whale’s shadows and tricks, like a fun house mirror, the plot is ridiculous, throwing a bunch of ingrates caught in a bad torrential rain into a private household as if it’s a flea-bag hotel. T’aint funny.

Here they find their hosts eccentric (well, Horace Femm is Ernest Thesiger, which says it all) and his odd-ball bully sister.

Charles Laughter as Sir William shows up too with a show biz girlfriend, and he is given little to do. Melvyn Douglas is his trademark self, complete with pipe, and Boris Karloff still is given no dialogue yet again in one of his movies. He just looks menacing as Morgan, the scar-faced butler.

We wanted so much for this film to give us a thrill and become a marvel, but we found it disappointing to the ultimate degree—and in no way does it hold up to the other horror tales of the Universal series. This alleged classic is a let-down from the get-go.

 

Gay Men in the Promised Land of Israel

DATELINE: Zoolander Lives!

lucasMichael Lucas!

This strange documentary might as well have been produced by the Chamber of Commerce of Tel Aviv. It is a love letter to the glittery gay nightlife for Jewish men.

Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land features notable director Eytan Fox among a litany of handsome young men, no one even remotely gray-haired. There are no old gay guys.

However, there is a big problem with this film—and that’s your host and director, Michael Lucas. If you wanted a duplicate of Zoolander, he’s your man. He defies being taken seriously when he puts on his pout and interviews young gay men with flirtatious zeal.

We know that objective journalism is as dead as a cold fish, but this narrator seems to revel in being part of the gay pride of Jewish men.

If you were to go by this documentary, there are no alcohol problems, no drug problems, no elderly gays, no promiscuity and no such thing as HIV. It is a fantasy documentary—which undercuts nearly all of its buoyant optimism.

Michael Lucas in his publicity photos wears a skull on a necklace, but in this film, he wears the Star of David. He is a Russian-born American, who uses every opportunity to find the United States is second-rate compared to Israel. He never mentions the appalling gay repression of his birth country, Russia.

If this film has some intriguing elements, foremost is how well all the Israeli men speak English and their precise vocabularies, in what is clearly a second language for them. It goes without saying they are all beautiful men.

 

 

 

 

 

ABC Murders Agatha Christie

 DATELINE:  New Version of Classic Tale

old Poirot

Amazon Studio has produced a 2019 remake of the ABC Murders by the foremost crime novelist. Alas, this version of the classic story is libel against the author and defamation against Hercule Poirot.

Go back to watch last century’s episode with David Suchet.

This time we have John Malkovich with shaved head and imperial beard. This is not as offensive as the handlebar mustache of Kenneth Branagh recently in Murder on the Orient Express. It is, however, the victim of Just for Men:  yeah, Hercule colors it, sometimes.

This mystery is in three parts that grow increasingly distant from the Christie canon. You may well ask who is meant to be audience for such a tale:  it offends the millions of diehard fans who know what to expect, and it misleads new younger fans from what Christie is all about.

There is no humor, no clever twists, no plot maneuvers. here. By the third episode, you may well drift away. Worse yet, this is an aging Poirot in 1933 who has no Inspector Japp, no Miss Lemon, and no Captain Hastings, to help him.

Indeed, he must deal with a new Scotland Yard detective who is unsympathetic and hostile. Disrespect of a senior who was once glorified for his achievements may be an interesting idea, but not here.

The cast features Eamon Farren who has impressed us in previous roles as a most peculiar bad guy. Here, he is either suffering a brain tumor, or has played NFL football. It’s the 21st century—and you know what excuses murder nowadays.

We had no idea that there was so much kinky-dinky stuff in Agatha Christie, and neither did she.

Also aboard is Rupert Grint, though he has aged worse than Malkovich’s Poirot.

This Poirot is not fastidious, prissy, or clever. One character notes that he walks like he has sore feet, though we never see that foible.

What a disappointment, or do we mean travesty of the original story?

The Captains of Star Trek

DATELINE: No Vanity from Shatner!

man in box

When first we saw that William Shatner had produced, written, and directed a movie documentary about the five captains of the Star Trek franchise, we suspected vanity. He calls it The Captains, putting himself into a stew with the others.

How wrong we were about the ego of Captain Kirk’s acting creator. Shatner’s touching and delightful film shows what an erudite, generous, kind man he is. Each conversation with one of his successors in the Star Trek world is careful and insightful.

He talks to Scott Bakula, Sir Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, and Chris Pine.  He genuinely likes these actors and respects their opinions.

Also around are those who were part of the franchise like Jonathan Frakes (The Next Generation) and even his old friend Christopher Plummer (from The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek VI). Shatner understudied Plummer in Henry V on stage at the beginning of their careers! 

Obvious questions were on Shatner’s mind in a personal way, and he turned it around to find out if playing a Star Fleet captain had an impact on the personal life of the actors. It deals with divorce to mortality. Of course, it is big.

Shatner notes how he might have been embarrassed to leave serious classic acting to do Star Trek, and how often he was denigrated for his work. Yet, talking to the other stars, he becomes more aware of why playing a leader required an attitude.

In the meantime, he shows humor and expresses insight into his own career. There are even clips of him, as a blond in the mid-1950s playing Billy Budd on Canadian TV.

He learns that every star suffered 16-hour work days on the series and movies, and that it had a devastating toll on their personal lives and children.

Yet, this is not a downbeat story: Shatner has come to revel in his role as Captain Kirk, not always something he could claim. Each actor he speaks with shares personal feelings that elicit a growth in Shatner on the screen.

What a marvelous little film, even if you may not have seen some of the Star Trek oeuvre, there is much to savor here.

 

 

Hello, Carol Channing! Goodbye, Dolly!

DATELINE: Showy Biz

Cleopatra, Dolly, Becket  Cleopatra, Dolly, Becket.

Larger than Life is the subtitle of a look at the life of the grand star, Carol Channing.  Having recently died, we were drawn to this streaming video of her life; she was active at 90 and participated in sharing memories and activities when this documentary was made.

Channing seems to have been born big. Like a generation of vaudeville to TV stars, she had a personality that overwhelmed everything—and she was so kind and generous that she became a titan of beloved show biz.

From her days at Bennington College in the 1930s, she was no dumb blonde, but played one on stage constantly. Judy Holliday owed her persona to Carol who was a hit on stage and TV, but never in movies.

It seems the big screen could not contain her. It is reminiscent of Jimmy Durante, who also was too big for the film roles.

She knew everyone—and literally everyone who was someone came backstage to meet her in Hello Dolly—from Al Pacino to Elizabeth Taylor (pictured with Richard Burton).

She was a mimic, a raconteur, and comedian. She could sing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” with originality because she made the song famous on stage in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes—but the movie was always with someone else (Streisand, Monroe, etc.).

As a walking hyperbole, she was subject to female impersonation by drag queens. Once, with Rich Little, she was approached by a man who marveled at the best impersonation of Channing he had ever seen. He asked what he did in real life: never one to miss a beat, Carol said: “I’m a truck driver from Toledo, Ohio.”

Her first movie costar was Clint Eastwood! It was his first movie too, and they had a love scene which they rehearsed endlessly but was so bad that it ended up on the editing room floor.

This amazing documentary is filled with show biz nuggets and stunning old TV and stage clips. She missed one half of one stage performance in her entire life. Astounding lady.

Son of Frankenstein, Reel History

DATELINE:  Consenting Monsters?

consenting monsters Love after Death.

In the days before cable TV, let alone streaming movies, we last saw the Monster in Son of Frankenstein from 1939. So, we jumped at the chance to look at the star-studded horror classic.

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes fits in well as Colin Clive’s son 25 years later, indignant that the small-town minds refer to the monster by his distinguished family name. He is bemused when Igor notes the Monster is his half-brother.

Bela Lugosi, as a Dracula clone, returns as the undead Igor. Yes, he was hanged, declared dead, and came back to life. It gives him a special aura, not to mention the hideous makeup that Jack Pierce laid on him.

Boris Karloff returned to play the Monster one last time. His wardrobe has changed enough that he now wears a sleeveless sheepskin pullover. Not to point out the obvious: he is a wolf monster in lambskin clothing.

One of the bigger surprises is Lionel Atwill as the inspector of the small town with his creaky fake arm that he postures in salute or to hold a cigarette. Our favorite scene is when he puts his darts on the forearm before throwing them. Mel Brooks, where are you? The best scenes in the picture are when master scene stealers Rathbone and Atwill lock wits.

The story has an insipid subplot featuring the good doctor’s toddler son, an American like his mother, and both are point killers.

We loved the moment when the son (Rathbone as Sherlock) deduces that Lugosi has a hypnotic effect on the monster. “Elemental, my dear Benson,” he notes.

If there is any shockeroo, it is that Igor and the Monster seem to be gayly consenting adults. Igor can’t keep his hands off the Karloff creature, and they are clearly soulmates.

 

 

Discovering Bigfoot: Standing Off

DATELINE: Devotee Snares Academic

meldrum Dr. Jeff Meldrum.

We are all for intriguing documentaries about conspiracy theory and crypto-zoology.  And, we love it when our favorite academics, like Ph.D., Dr. Jeff Meldrum of Idaho, decides to partake of the antics.

In this case, the highly respected scientist and expert on Sasquatch seems to have been roped into Todd Standing’s self-promotion, self-directed, vanity project.

Standing may not have much academic standing, but that does not let him think any the less of himself. Indeed, we admire his courage to spend time out in the Northwest wilderness and be harassed by mysterious howling creatures in the night.

He stands alone in the dark whilst rocks are hurled at him and nine-foot tall things that go bump in the night threaten to bump into him. What courage!

He has even photographed these figures up close, and it is pretty amazing stuff. No wonder a bigwig like Doc Meldrum was drawn in. Alas, he must listen to the prattle and pushy stream of verbiage from his host. Standing cannot stand still, nor keep quiet.

He presses again and again to have his obsession validated.

We admire Meldrum’s self-control in face of the director’s out of control energy. Everything is kept in check by some of the strange videos presented. Watching apples disappear in the dark by unknown hands hardly proves it was Bigfoot.

There are also the large structures created by some force with superhuman strength. Whether these are signposts, religious totems, or warnings from Bigfoot, director Standing has the answer. Don’t contradict him.

We think this is a sincere effort to prove something is out there, and it is not extra-terrestrials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monster Magic Maker: Jack Pierce

DATELINE: Unsung Creative Force!

jack with lon jr Wolf Man Credit!

What a delicious untold story!  A Greek immigrant boy comes to Hollywood and his creative juices give us the most famous monster makeup creatures of 20th century movies. Check out Jack Pierce: Maker of Monsters.

Like all the people who came to Hollywood in its infancy, they were self-made and their artistic sense was equally applied to their own lives. Jack Pierce did it all—from stunts, to camera operator, to director, but found his niche in applying makeup to the stars.

When Lon Chaney bailed on playing Dracula, Jack was thwarted by Bela Lugosi who had his own ideas. However, it was on Frankenstein that he grew into legend, spending months researching how the creature should look. It led to a plethora of famous monsters: The Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Bride of Frankenstein, but he was head of Universal and worked on making beautiful women more stunning.

The Mummy makeup took 8 hours to apply and another hour to remove. If Karloff was uncomplaining, no wonder a friendship between them developed.

Pierce’s makeup effects often terrified the naïve audiences of the 1930s. He was Universal Studio’s master: responsible for all the horrors up to 1947. When they were about to gather all the monsters for a comedy, Abbot and Costello meet, Jack was fired, but his makeup style was maintained.

Later, a myth grew around Frankenstein that James Whale, director, created the face: not true. Karloff always gave credit to his friend, Pierce. You can thank the movie and book Gods and Monsters for the misinfo.

Always an actor at heart, Jack wore a lab coat in the makeup room, which certainly intimidated Elsa Lanchester, who was the Bride of the monster. She recalled it thirty years later in less than happy terms. Jack did Lon Chaney, Jr., as Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein, over the years. That too was not a good relationship.

If they needed a star to age from 30 to 80, Jack Pierce could make it happen for a generation. One of his last makeup jobs was for Mr. Ed, the talking horse, hired by his friend from Universal, Arthur Lubin.

When Jack died in 1969, almost no one from the movie world came to his funeral. Fascinating bio of a nearly forgotten figure of film history.

 

 

 

John Wayne in a Woman’s Picture?

 DATELINE: Duke Takes on Shane’s Girlfriend

not a chance Witless Comedy.

Well, at least John Wayne is not yet in women’s lingerie in 1943. A Lady Takes a Chance is not exactly High Noon. We hate to say it, but don’t leave this film to chance. Just leave it alone.

Jean Arthur was a big star, and John Wayne wanted to be a big star. Despite his accolades and sensational performance in Stagecoach, Duke Wayne needed to cross-over to become super big. So, he even drives a car.

Someone at the studio figured that he needed to widen his audience to include adult women who admired working-class heroine Jean Arthur, the everyday spunky girl of America.

How would John Wayne do with spunky women? You have an early answer here. He treats them like horses. If we recall our Hollywood history: they shoot horses, don’t they?

Among the pallid jokes is to have Duke don an apron, or to watch Jean Arthur try to sleep uncomfortably under the prairie stars.

Yes, this was a time when you went west on a bus. Jean Arthur must ultimately choose between bookish Hans Conreid, paunchy Grady Sutton, or virile John Wayne! Some choice.

Someone failed to plug this movie. Pull the plug, please.

This early misuse of John Wayne is absolutely fascinating as a studio-system miscalculation. Or was it? Then again, we like disaster movies too. We wanted to see Phil Silvers (Sergeant Bilko) with the classic military cowboy.

The only other time we saw John Wayne in a woman’s comedy, he did a guest star role in the 1970s on Maude with the high-shootin’ Bea Arthur. It was a real showdown. Yeah, he outdrew that Golden Girl of cynical womanhood.

Jean Arthur is the queen bee/big star here, hypocritical with her multiple boyfriends in New York, but indignant that Duke Wayne has a few girlfriends from the rodeo circuit. She treated Alan Ladd just as badly in her next Western, Shane, as Brandon de Wilde’s mother.

If producers were aiming for frothy, as in beer suds, most of it stuck to Jean Arthur’s upper lip. Literally.