How to Make a High Ridin’ Western in 5 Easy Steps: Go West, Young Lady (1941)

Trouble’s a brewin’ in Headstone…

Accosted mercilessly by unruly outlaw, Killer Pete, the weary townspeople turn to the outside in seeking aid.

A new sheriff, Tex Miller (Glenn Ford), aims to rid the town of its menace. What he doesn’t realize is that Belinda “Bill” Pendergast (Penny Singleton) has plans of her own up her sleeve to restore peace to Headstone.

Unfortunately for Tex, it will take him a few pies in the face before he finally gets the message.

1. Hire Unflappable Leads

Penny Singleton, darling of Columbia’s Blondie franchise, nabs the title role as Belinda “Bill” Pendergast, a gun slingin’, pie throwin’, high kickin’ gal if there ever was one. Bill is unafraid to get her hands dirty, whether performing an impromptu dance number, devising a clever ambush, or marching into enemy territory.

Let’s just say, when trouble comes knocking, you want her on your side.

Columbia Studios had a gold mine with Penny’s Blondie, casting her and Arthur Lake in a series of twenty-eight (!) films from 1938-1950. Go West, Young Lady is one of two films she made apart from the series during that time.

Glenn Ford follows up as Tex Miller, the brave young sheriff willing to save Headstone from its perpetrator.

Ford was just two years into his Columbia contract and fresh as a bright new penny.

Go West, Young Lady was his second western, a genre he loved and would go on to make twenty-six in his long and varied career. His propensity for the great outdoors, grace on a horse, and ability to portray no-nonsense, resolute characters in extraordinary circumstances made Ford a natural for the genre.

Ford’s Sheriff Miller is a reliable man, always on the heels of Killer Pete, and doing what needs to be done for the good of the town. Once he meets Bill he knows she’s the gal for him.

If only she would stay out of his way in capturing Pete, or vice versa!

Faint glimmers of the world weariness that mark Ford’s career come through in his performance. More so, the film gave him the chance to demonstrate his comedic talents which he would return to in the late 50’s and early 60’s.

On screen, Ford and Singleton display a seamless, easy rapport.

Just a year prior to Go West, Young Lady, Ford appeared alongside Singleton in Blondie Plays Cupid. Though that film did not pair them as love interests, it must have helped their working relationship.

In Go West, Young Lady, their sweet and innocent relationship is of an “on again, off again” nature that is absolutely adorable.

2. Stir in a Variety of Crowd-Pleasing Personalities

Filling out our cast is the inimitable Ann Miller as Lola, the saloon girl of the Crystal Palace, Charlie Ruggles as Bill’s trusty Uncle Jim, Allen Jenkins as Hank, Headstone’s scaredy cat deputy, Onslow Stevens as Lola’s tough guy boyfriend, Tom Hannegan, and Jed Prouty as Judge Harmon.

Allen Jenkins

3. Pepper the Story with Plenty of Extras (and a doggie, too!)

Although Go West, Young Lady is not a Blondie film, it bears the same writers (Karen DeWolf and Richard Flournoy), producer (Robert Sparks), and director (Frank R. Strayer).

The shenanigans Bill gets herself in and out of wouldn’t be out of place in a Blondie film. While I can’t entirely see Arthur Lake in Glenn Ford’s role, there are moments that would inescapably fit Dagwood’s character.

Fun bit of trivia: Producer Robert Sparks and Penny Singleton married in 1941, a union which lasted until his death in 1963.

As you can already tell from the title of the movie, the ladies get involved in a big way in this western.

Not only does Bill take matters into her own hands, she dukes it out with Lola in a tough and lengthy catfight, which leads to a great showdown between the women of the town and Killer Pete and his gang.

I’m glad the writers didn’t leave Bill alone in her pursuits. Her companion Waffles the dog has an important involvement in unraveling the plot. I love when writers add animals to the story, don’t you?

4. Don’t Skimp on the Wardrobe

Here’s one name I wasn’t expecting to see on the crew – Walter Plunkett, costume designer extraordinaire (Gone With the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain). Plunkett lends his usual brand of excellence to this gratifying B programmer.

Is it just me or does Penny’s bonnet look awfully familiar? Even the two tone of the ribbon is similar to Scarlett’s hat from Paris.

5. Let It Sing (and Dance)

In between the action, Go West, Young Lady intersperses a few musical numbers. And as to be expected, Ann Miller taps her way across the stage and bar top of the saloon in her impressive, fast as a speeding bullet signature style.

One of the highlights of the film is when Allen Jenkins joins Miller, in spurs, for a comical routine “I Wish I Were a Singing Cowboy.”

Penny Singleton also adds to the musical scene with her singing and dancing talents, while “The King of Western Swing” Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys contribute a charming authenticity and country sound of the Old West with the traditional “Ida Red.”

Conclusion

Don’t go looking for any deep social messages like others of the genre. You won’t find them here. Go West, Young Lady is simply a feel good western of the cozy, amusing variety that wraps up in a quick seventy minutes.

Due to Penny Singleton’s persona and fame at this point in her career and feisty Ann Miller as her foil, Go West, Young Lady offers a female centric western, while the musical interludes and familiar faces add a delightful medley of spices to the tried and true recipe for some good ol’ cowboy stew.

This post is my contribution to The Glenn Ford Blogathon hosted by Hamlette’s Soliloquy and Coffee, Classics and Craziness. Thank you for letting me participate, ladies! Head on over to their blogs to read more about the talented Glenn Ford!