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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Cattle Crossing

Destry Rides Again (1939) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Welcome to Bottleneck” reads the sign. The men are having a good old time firing off their revolvers in the street. Inside the Last Chance Saloon, the crowd has gone wild dancing, some men upstairs are playing serious poker, and saloon girl Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich) is enter­taining them all with a rousing rendition of “Little Joe, the Wrangler.”

Rancher Lem Claggett (Tom Fadden) likes his cards. He keeps raising his bet until his very ranch is at stake. Land speculator Kent (Brian Donlevy), working with Frenchy for a distraction, relieves Claggett of his title. The men restrain Claggett from gun­play until Sheriff Keogh arrives to put an end to Kent's crooked dealing. Two shots are heard upstairs. The town needs a new sheriff.

Downstairs Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winninger) has been boasting, “I was Tom Destry's deputy.” Mayor Slade (Samuel S. Hinds) appoints him the new sheriff (“The reason they made me sheriff here is I was the town drunk.”) Now he has to choose between the bottle and the badge. Dimsdale sends for Tom's son to be his deputy (“Tom cleaned up Tomb­stone. When he gets here, Destry will ride again.”)

Thomas Jefferson Destry, Jr. (Jimmy Stewart) arrives on the Pioneer Stage Line. He is not packing (“I ain't got any guns.”) The crooked town likes this kind of deputy, calling him No-Gun Destry (“I don't believe in them.”) He also doesn't believe in “promiscuous shooting” or in “poker & coffee.” They enroll Russian immigrant, wannabe cowboy, Boris Stavrogin (Mischa Auer) as a second deputy and together they try to right injustice.


royal flushThe opening scenes of the movie devote a good deal of time to the gamblers: betting, passing, raising, examining their cards. Do you recall one of Kenny Rogers's songs concerning a chance meeting with “The Gambler” on a train, who offered the passenger this advice: “Every hand's a winner/ And Every hand's a loser”? The refrain of the song goes:

You've got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

This gambling man's wisdom is old as the hills and was passed on by a raconteur, Agur in Proverbs 30:1, whose four meta­phors offered the same life advice as did Rogers's Gambler. That we find in, (Prov. 30:29-31) “There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; A grey­hound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up.”

We have Agur's “lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any” and we have Rogers's “know[ing] when to hold 'em.” In our movie Boris eventually figures out that he can insist his wife respect him as her current husband and quit calling him by her deceased husband's name Callahan.

We have Agur's “king, against whom there is no rising up,” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to fold 'em” A king who knows when to give in to his subjects doesn't experience any uprising. Destry does his job unarmed (Psalm 44:3), so nobody comes fighting him or shooting him in the back.

We have Agur's “he goat also” and we have Rogers's “Know[ing] when to walk away.” In the movie Sophie Claggett (Virginia Brissac) is advised to pack up and move out rather than defend her ranch, because Kent for now owns the legal deed to it.

We have Agur's “greyhound” and Rogers's “Know[ing] when to run.” When Boris lost his pants in a card game, he high­tailed it out of the saloon in his britches. Like­wise did Lily Belle (Una Merkel) after losing some of her outer garments in a cat fight with Frenchy.

The gambler gave the advice:

You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Claggett was a bit premature counting his winnings, and so was Kent for that matter not knowing what the new sheriff's deputy was going to do. Historian T. Harry Williams et al has written: (147)

… after 1865. Various factors enabled the cattle industry to spread over the West—the suppression of the Indians, the elimin­ation of the buffalo, the laxity of the land laws—but the most important were the open range and the rail­roads. The open range, that is, the unclaimed grass­lands of the public domain, provided a huge area where cattle­men could graze their herds free of charge and unre­stricted by the boundaries that would have existed in a farming economy.

Kent acquired land in a bottleneck that the driven herds had to traverse on their way to market. His fee of 25¢ per head stood to net him (and his accomplice Frenchy) a sizable take. Much of the town was in on it making a challenge for law enforcement.

Production Values

This comedic western, “” (1939) was directed by George Marshall. Its screen­play was written by Felix Jackson and Gertrude Purcell based on the novel, Destry Rides Again by Max Brand. It stars Marlene Dietrich, James Stewart, and Mischa Auer. The cast did a good job fleshing out a comedy from a western that pushes the envelope of credulity. Some of the actors being comedians it was right up their alley. Charles Winninger was memorable as the town drunk become sheriff. This was a come­back film for Marlene Dietrich whose next two years of star­dom made her an icon.

In the United States its TV rating is TVPG. The musical score was composed by Frank Skinner. Marlene Dietrich favored us with the ballad, “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have” and a couple others.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This brilliant spoof of the early American Western was played straight and was oh, so funny. The cinema­tog­raphy and editing are sharp, the sets are routine authentic and the costumes beautiful to behold. The rousing music complements the mood like it belongs. The story is not the best feature but it's still enter­taining. The cast couldn't have been better. If you're in the mood for a comedic western, this one won't disappoint.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Rogers, Kenny. Songwriter Don Schlitz. “The Gambler.” Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Pub. LLC. WEB.

Williams, T. Harry, Richard N. Current, and Frank Freidel. A History of the United States [since 1865]. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1960. Print.