"Each man has a song and this is my song." (Leonard Cohen)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Law and Order (Universal, 1953)



This rather stodgy color remake of the 1932 Walter Huston/Harry Carey film Law and Order stars Ronald Reagan as Frame Johnson, a Wyatt Earp-like figure. It has none of the tension or acting quality of the original and the screenplay is often downright corny.

Reluctant but brilliant lawman Johnson (Ron) turns in his badge and leaves Tombstone to buy a farm near Cottonwood and settle down with Dorothy Malone (my word, how beautiful she was). However, the new town is run by evil Preston Foster (probably the best actor in the picture), and he and Frame 'go back'. Frame’s brother Luther becomes marshal but is killed for his pains. So Frame once again pins on the star and battle commences.

Standard stuff, it must be said.

The color is bright but the locations are very far from Arizon-esque. They look much like some terrain just off Highway 14 in California. That could be because that was where the movie was shot. The Clifford Stine cinematography is OK, though.

For the rest, Reagan is solid. Stolid, if you prefer. I notice that the adjective solid is often applied to Reagan in reviews. Perhaps it's one-up from bland, and two from wooden. Frame Johnson's brothers (Alex Nicol and Russell Johnson) are satisfactory. La Malone is more than OK. I always thought she was great in Westerns. Chubby Johnson has the colorful old-timer role as Denver, the mortician. Jack Kelly and Dennis Weaver are in it, the latter in a Las Vegas-ish powder-blue suit as the bad guy’s brother who shoots Luther Johnson.

The biggest weakness is the writing, credited to Inez Cocke, John Bagni, Gwen Bagni and DD Beauchamp the Great, from the William R Burnett novel. That’s an awful lot of writers to create something so second-rate. There’s even the line, “He don’t look so tough to me!”

There’s a phonograph. There’s no Doc Holliday figure. Nor is there any corral.

When Frame fights, his shirt disintegrates into comic rags, like Robinson Crusoe.

At one point Dorothy Malone says of our future president, “You’re big and you’re ugly and you’re stupid.” Come now, Dorothy.


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