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!

The Greatness of Gilda (1946)

What is it about Gilda that makes people return for viewing after viewing? That question had been burning in my mind for a while. You see, a family member of mine would watch this film on repeat. Though at the time I was unable to join them, my intrigue still remained.

Today, I want to share with you what I love about Gilda and my observations while viewing the film in hopes of decoding the mystery from long ago.

the spicy dialogue and one-liners

Image: Public Domain

Wow, is this film chock full of ’em! Ever been bored to death while watching a film and wishing the screenwriters were actually awake when doing their job? Yep, been there done that. Gilda keeps ya going all the way through with double entendres flying through the air. The script is full of spicy repartee, saucy comebacks, and biting sarcasm.

Some of my favorites:

  • “Pardon me, but your husband is showing.”
  • “Oh, I’m sorry, Johnny is such a hard name to remember, and so easy to forget.”
  • “Well, here’s the laundry waiting to be picked up.”

the red hot sizzling chemistry between the leads

Image: Pinterest

Get ready to clear the fog off the windows because this might just be the steamiest movie you’ve seen! Gilda (Rita Hayworth) and Johnny (Glenn Ford) have a love-hate relationship that absolutely smolders with tumultuous passion. It’s clearly painted across Johnny’s face how much he fights between his painful desire and seething hatred for Gilda, and she in turn tantalizes him every chance she can get. The more Johnny resists, the more Gilda’s fuel is fired.

You could cut the tension between them with a knife, but who wants to do that, it’s too much fun to watch.

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uncle pio

Amongst the complex characters who are blinded by their own hate, anger, lust, and greed is Uncle Pio (Steven Geray) – the kind and goodly washroom attendant. He seems to be the only one who can see straight in the smoke ridden casino and offers the two leads what they need most. To Johnny he imparts words of wisdom and to Gilda he offers his friendship and understanding. Uncle Pio calls Gilda “the beautiful one” and “the little one.” Enough said, the guy is adorable and plays a pretty important part in the film’s ending.

the glamour

Image: Pinterest

Gilda is a beautiful film. Each scene positively reeks with glamour and the sets are decked out to the nines. I love the marble, grand staircase in Gilda’s home, the gates outside her home, and the swirling and leaf motifs in the casino. As for the costumes? They were designed by the amazing Jean Louis and fit the bill perfectly.

Image: Pinterest

The cinematography by Rudolph Mate is both stunning and clever. He places characters almost entirely in silhouette, uses creative camera movements, and utilizes soft lighting to give the film its distinct look.

carnival

Who doesn’t love a costume party? With the setting for Gilda being in Argentina, we get the added treat of the characters celebrating Carnival. Like a siren’s call, the music from the streets beckon to Gilda to let go of her hate and embrace her feelings for Johnny. After all, the meaning behind Carnival is to sow your wild oats, and then to reap the consequences. This marks a turning point as Carnival casts its spell over Gilda, leading to one of the most exciting scenes in the film.

rita hayworth

Image: Imdb

The heart and soul of Gilda is Rita Hayworth. Her femme fatale is beautiful, fiery, and spellbinding; yet she makes Gilda believable and relatable, not a woman on a pedestal to be worshipped and treated as a prize possession, but as a woman who needs love and care just as the rest of humanity. I’m reminded of Rita Hayworth’s quote:

“All I wanted was just what everybody else wants, you know, to be loved.”

In Gilda, I believe Rita laid out her raw emotions on the screen, making her performance moving, powerful, and unforgettable.

Image: Pinterest

It is true that Gilda isn’t a perfect film, nor does it need to be. The film raises more questions than it answers, and perhaps that’s part of the allure.

Ripe with interesting and duplicitous characters, an exotic setting, and the production values that one expects when watching a film from the golden era, Gilda is an escape into a world where the dark shadows are always present, the fabulous femme fatale keeps you guessing, and the guy who falls for her is tied up with some rather shady characters while having demons of his own to conquer.

Sound like every other noir you’ve seen? Probably, but I assure you, none have done it quite like Gilda.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!