I have never liked Westerns – at least not the serious kind of Westerns – but I seem to have developed a taste for comedic Westerns. I enjoyed Destry Rides Again and last night I watched and laughed my way through Along Came Jones, which doesn’t take itself seriously for even a moment.
1945 – Starring Gary Cooper, Loretta Young, Dan Duryea, William Demarest – Directed by Stuart Heisler
I used to hear that women rarely get good roles in westerns, but the more I watch the more I find exceptions. Loretta Young’s Cherry is by far the most competent person in this film…and seems to be the best shot, too.
Gary Cooper is Melody Jones, an easygoing cowpoke who can’t shoot the broad side of a barn and seems to even have difficulty drawing his gun from his holster.
Jones rides into Payneville with his pal, George (Demarest). His monogram, MJ, is immediately taken to stand for Monte Jarrod, an outlaw who just robbed a stagecoach and stole $40,000. The wanted poster says he’s tall, skinny and rides with somebody named Uncle Roscoe. Jones is tall and skinny and nobody seems to know what Uncle Roscoe looks like, so he and George are met with unexpected fear and respect.
Jones, at first, thinks it’s his demeanor, but figures it out when several people in the town try to ambush him and he is rescue by Cherry, who walks up and calls him Monte and takes him to her ranch, where she tells him he should probably leave town.
It turns out that Cherry is hiding Monte and wants Jones to lead the posses away. However, Jones has no intention of leaving. He likes Cherry and and he harbors (admittedly briefly) the idea of taking down Jarrod himself.
The story unfolds in hilarious fashion. George is cantankerous and absolutely disgusted with Meldoy, who continues to do everything that Cherry asks him to do and nearly gets himself killed several times and is constantly being hunted by various people and has to be rescued by Cherry. He says that the one thing he likes best is to be rescued from getting shot.
Meanwhile, the real Monte is running around, played by the wonderful and oft villainous Dan Duryea. Monte is growing concerned that Cherry is falling for Melody while Cherry is discovering that Monte isn’t the wild kid she knew as a child, but a rather mean, murderous crook.
This is one of the few Gary Cooper films I’ve seen so far (I’ve only seen him in one western), but he plays such an appealing character. He may be fairly hapless, but he’s no coward and he’s not quite as dense as Cherry thinks he is. He’s game for most everything and definitely loyal.
Oddly enough, I had never seen Loretta Young in a movie until this year. I’d always heard that she was a devout Catholic and read complaints about how strait-laced she was in film, which affected the kinds of roles she would play. However, I have been hugely impressed with her and thoroughly enjoyed all her films. She may always be a lady (nothing cheap about her) and project grace, but she also always has a quiet, totally not in-your-face competency and good humor that is rare. Morality, in this case, does not equal prim, fainting female in distress.
Notes: Gary Cooper was making fun of his own image. He played his first cowboy in 1929, in The Virginian and would go on to win his second Oscar in High Noon (1952). Cecil B. DeMille did not appreciate the good humor with which Cooper made fun of his own image: silent, folksy, strong, competent, unpretentious. He thought it was a betrayal of Cooper’s image as a hero.
Cooper was also the producer of this film, which was the only time he ever produced a film. He didn’t like it at all and apparently was somewhat taken aback when told that Young’s costumes would cost $175 each, which he couldn’t understand because they were supposed to be simple clothes and he wanted to buy them for $7 at a store.
Along Came Jones can currently be found on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPBIFjXcI4U