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The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend. Betty Grable Vaalea villikissa / Västerns vilda blondin. Preston Sturges, US 1949 Print source: Museum of Modern Art, New York Running time: 77 minutes The Nitrate Picture Show (NPS), George Eastman Museum, Dryden Theatre, Rochester, 3 May 2019. NPS: About the print There is very little scratching to mar the bold colors used to create the texture and vividness of this Twentieth-Century Fox production, a beautiful Technicolor print of the late 1940s. Shrinkage: 0.80% About the film “The Beautiful Blonde never aims much higher than the idea that to shoot a man in the posterior is highly hilarious. They do it three times in the picture, on the theory that a good socko situation bears repetition. It’s Betty Grable who is responsible for the rear-guard action. She’s a smart-shooting babe of the Old West, whose romance with a handsome gambler is carried on to sound-track strains of Frankie and Johnny. Forced to skip town, she is taken for a school-teacher and becomes involved in another feud. Eventually, but not soon, Miss Grable wings the same character (a Judge, no less) in the same place, and the picture stops, figuring we are about helpless with laughter by now anyway.” — Herbert Whittaker, The Globe and Mail, June 18, 1949 “After a dubiously ethical, but dramatically effective, opening, in which a small girl is taught by her grandfather that a woman’s best friend is her gun, it relapses into an outrageous and rather cruel fun fair, with all the popinjays of a backwoods town set up to be shot at. Hot Technicolor makes the actors appear to be in a constant fever; strident noise mercifully makes most of the dialogue inaudible. In a rowdy mood, it might be possible to enjoy this screaming hurly-burly, but if you are looking for wit, taste, or adroitness of performance the Odeon, Marble Arch, is hardly the right address.” — C. A. Lejeune, The Observer, March 19, 1950 (NPS) AA: Preston Sturges is one of my favourite directors, but I saw this movie for the first time. Having directed a brilliant satirical cycle of eight films for Paramount (1940–1944) Sturges made a comeback sequel to Harold Lloyd's The Freshman called The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1946) before moving to 20th Century-Fox with his final masterpiece Unfaithfully Yours (1948) ("Can you handle Händel?"). The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend was Sturges's penultimate film as a director before Les Carnets du Major Thompson produced in France (1955). The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, Sturges's second Fox production and last Hollywood movie was his only film in colour. It was an odd departure for Sturges. Until then he had clearly been the auteur of his films. His films had been auteur-driven except the star-driven The Sin of Harold Diddlebock based on the comic character of Harold Lloyd. The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend is a star-driven studio product, a typical 20th Century-Fox Technicolor musical: brash, earthy and unsubtle, in contrast to Sturges's sharp and witty Paramount satires. Sturges was no stranger to loud farce, but at Paramount and in Unfaithfully Yours it was tempered by wit. 20th Century Fox was a studio founded on 31 May 1935 in a merger of Fox Film Corporation and Twentieth Century Pictures. This year, on 20 March 2019, its story ended in a merger with The Walt Disney Company. Among the studio's hallmarks from the beginning to the end of the studio era in the early 1960s were "Fox blondes" such as Alice Faye, Sonja Henie, Betty Grable, June Haver, Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Sheree North, and Stella Stevens. Although they played a variety of characters, typically they were of the girl-next-door / friendly lover / potential mother types. During WWII (Betty Grable as the super pin-up) and after the war (Marilyn Monroe as the biggest superstar) they were love goddesses, symbols of procreation and fertility in a venerable tradition dating back to the Venus of Willendorf , Aphrodite and Venus. They were Venus figures of the baby boom era. Fox blondes were often incarnations or subversions of the "dumb blonde stereotype". The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend plays on expectations of that stereotype and reverses them. In the beginning we witness the protagonist, Winifred (Freddie) Jones being taught to shoot by her grandfather. As C. A Lejeune states in her review quoted above, in this movie "a gun is a girl's best friend". Winifred (Betty Grable) becomes the fastest draw. In this story the woman is dominant. It's a big, loud and violent farce. The Winifred character is to some extent like Mae West, but Mae West only needed wit and sex appeal to dominate. Guns appeared only in bits of dialogue such as "Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" It's a musical comedy, and Betty Grable has an attractive voice in her solo performance of "Everytime I Meet You" and her duet with Rudy Vallee of the hymn "In the Gloaming". The title song "The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend" is sung by a chorus. "Frankie and Johnny", the most recurrent theme, has a Mae West connection: Mae West sang it memorably in her play Diamond Lil filmed as She Done Him Wrong. A glistening vintage Technicolor print with beautiful saturation in the colours. The reds are warm and vivid and the blacks awesomely deep.
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