Destry Rides Again Reviews
For "Destry Rides Again," a comedy western released during Hollywood's greatest year, 1939, Stewart is perfect; and, oddly, so is Marlene Dietrich, the premier femme fatale of that decade who is both the film's quasi-villainess and Stewart's would-be love interest. It all sounds like a misfire in the making on paper, akin to one of those failed pictures in which a studio throws star power and a popular genre together hoping for something good. And yet, the film defies any notions that it might, in fact, be a disaster.
"Destry Rides Again" is a delight, plain and simply. It's a crowdpleaser so playful and so deliciously rollicking that it manages to spitefully incur the wrath of the tired claim that, no, studios really don't make them like this anymore (though I could just be bent out of shape over the fact that the Western is basically dead now, and that there will never be anyone quite like Marlene Dietrich).
The film concerns the shaping up of Bottleneck, a hapless Western town doomed by its political corruption and unending acts of violence. The mayor (Samuel S. Hinds) is a selfish crook uncaring of the population's fate; rather than undergo any sort of dirty work himself, the city is mostly run by sleazy saloon owner Kent (Brian Donlevy) and his torch singer girlfriend, Frenchy (Dietrich). As the film opens, we find that Kent has just had the town's sheriff offed for vaguely questioning the saloon's bad habit of hosting rigged poker games. This leads to the appointment of the everlastingly drunken Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winninger) as his successor, which is, seemingly, a smart move on Kent's part.
But because karma always comes back roaring for revenge, it is quickly discovered that Dimsdale has ties to Tom Destry, a famed but deceased lawman renowned for his unconventional methods of peacekeeping. His son (Stewart), who bears his father's name proudly, has all but taken Destry Sr.'s rep as an authority figure not to be messed with. Wanting to see an end to Bottleneck's apparently eternal carnage, Dimsdale calls the man into the city hoping for a solution - and, troubling to the power hungry Kent, Destry is smarmy enough to enforce one.
Always with a twinkle in his eye and a readied one-liner in his mouth to prove his uncrossable confidence, Stewart's Destry is an unfadingly winning Western hero that both solidifies "Destry Rides Again" as a genre picture to be taken seriously and a genre picture to be loved for the friskiness in its heart. Stewart is its straight man and perhaps its most uninteresting character, but only because Dietrich, who gets two awesome song- and-dance numbers in and exploits her own erotically charged persona in the process (memorably through a brutal catfight between her and Una Merkel), and because Donlevy, remarkably detestable and the face of much of the film's cheery chaos, are larger than life.
You'll remember its images and its dopamine enforced aftereffects more than you'll remember its intricacies, but "Destry Rides Again" was never meant to be anything other than a grand old time, which it is. A little over ninety minutes, it's concrete escapism so inspired in its bold pre-productional decisions that its eccentricity immortalizes it.