Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland as Wade Hatton & Abbie Irving
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Errol Flynn Filmography

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Dodge City

Warner Brothers pulled out all the stops for Errol Flynn's first western: stampedes, brawls, Technicolor, Olivia De Havilland, AND Ann Sheridan...

Flynn plays Wade Hatton, a wanderer who roams where jobs take him. His current assignment is to deliver cattle safely for auction to DODGE CITY. Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) wants those cattle, even if it means having his henchmen bump off rival bidders.

The local folk are cowered by Surrett's ruthless reign. As a result, Dodge City is a lawless zone of chaos and violence. So Wade decides to take up as new sheriff and clean house. Meanwhile, Abbie Irving and journalist Joe Clemens (Olivia De Havilland and Frank McHugh) work at discrediting Surrett from the literary end.

I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for this, but spectacle and casting are all there really is to this film. I find it drags when there isn't a major sequence (clips of the big saloon brawl were recycled into a few Bugs Bunny cartoons). The plot is one big cliché, and there's a rule in this genre which telegraphed a key scene way ahead of time: If you have a hero reluctant to get involved, and an affectatious kid wandering about being disgustingly cute in a volatile environment, you end up with a sacrificial lamb to turn the plot around. Sorry, but I expected the little feller's demise, and was therefore unmoved.

Also unimpressive was the premise of a dapper Irish gentleman with an English accent. Warner was playing up to its own deceptive PR that Flynn was born in Ireland. But given the cowboy heritage of Australia, it would have made a lot more sense to cast him as his true nationality.

My favourite part of this film is when Alan Hale joins the Pure Prairie League. He's the best comedy relief you're going to find from this era, and Hale certainly delivers. This is also the first of three westerns in which he is paired with Guinn (Big Boy) Williams as sidekicks under Flynn.

Errol Flynn as Wade Hatton, with cohort Alan Hale Sr as sidekick Rusty Hart.

Wait, that's not entirely true. My favourite part of the film is the music. An excellent score composed by Max Steiner (Gone With The Wind), it was to be adapted for future westerns.

Also worth noting is Ann Sheridan, who plays saloon star Ruby. Sheridan became very popular as a result of this role, and she appeared in two more Errol Flynn vehicles.

Dodge City was released in the spring of 1939 amid heavy publicity. The cast even went to Dodge City, Kansas to promote the film. An article distributed by United Press on March 22nd reported a local contest held, in which the winner had Errol over for the weekend. "I hope he likes it at our house," said the winner, "and I hope pa's snoring doesn't keep him awake." It boggles the mind, doesn't it? Wonder how that little visit turned out...

This film is available on video. You may want to check this classic out for yourself by rent or purchase rather than take my review to heart. After all, it rates a four-star movie.

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