Wednesday, September 8, 2010

1949 - THE BEAUTIFUL BLONDE FROM BASHFUL BEND, Preston Sturges rides into the sunset

The writer/director Preston Sturges had his run of frantic clever comedies when he worked at Paramount from the early to mid 1940's. By the time he signed with 20th Century Fox his hot streak was pretty much over.

In 1949, he released his western spoof The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend.  The film turned out to be a flop with audiences and critics and was the first flop for Fox's big female star Betty Grable. 

This film has all the usual Sturges stuff, the frantic playing of the slapstick situations, the legendary cast of Sturges character actors going through their goofball antics and the hyper kinetic dialog mostly shouted out by and at the actors.  The garish color in this film makes the studio sets look even more unreal than usual and some of the performances really got on my nerves.  Sterling Holloway, who usually did voice work for Walt Disney cartoons particularly annoys playing some kind of mentally deficient country rube.

Probably the big mistake in this film was casting Betty Grable.  Grable 20th Century Fox's popular female performer known for her all American sexiness was out of her comfort zone.  Grable  an actress with a seriously good figure and a nice pair of legs  usually performed in very inane musicals for Fox.

These silly musicals emphasized her wholesomeness and non threatening sex appeal, the "girl next door" as it were.  In The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend, she played something of a shrewish harpy who was also good with a gun, a major change from her usual bland film roles.  Like Sterling Holloway she also came off equally grating as well and just didn't seem to have any idea how to play this farce.  The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend was just not what the audience expected of their "the girl next door." 

The film  only 77 minutes long  tells me that everyone associated with it must have realized they had a flop on their hands and cut it down to make the film move as fast as possible.  The whole thing comes off as pretty desperate and not funny.

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