Saturday, August 8, 2009

Arizona (1940)


Guess what I needed to snap me out of my fevered Herbert Marshall blogathon is frenzied Warren William blogathon. Watching Gold Diggers the other day started it off. Next up: Arizona, a western starring Jean Arthur, William Holden and Warren William. Jean Arthur plays Phoebe Titus, a pie-making, stage coach-driving, fast-shooting, other-wise hyphenated lady in leather pants, and the only American woman in Arizona territory. After selling a pie to drifter Peter Mucie (Holden) she determines that he's the man for her, but he has other ideas, namely running off and sitting under a shade tree in California. Meanwhile the Civil War happens and Jefferson Carteret (William) arrives in his dude's beaver top hat to carpet bag the whole territory into his control, while using an unscrupulous local thug as a front for his dirty dealings. By the time Muncie returns to claim his woman, she is already head of her own freighting company and owner of a ranch so big it takes two days to ride across. With the help of government contracts the couple save enough money to buy the largest herd of cattle that's been seen in the territory, but the night before Muncie is to set off for Nebraska to buy the cows, Carteret hires some local hooligans to rob Phoebe's house. Then he loans her own money back to her at 6% interest and plans to foreclose on her as soon as Muncie is sufficiently far afield. In the word's of Carteret, "that's how it's did, puddin' head."

Jean Arthur is always fun and her spunkiness lends itself well to the script that requires a woman of almost supernatural energy to sell the audience on the somewhat far-fetched tale. William Holden doesn't really seem like William Holden. I kept checking IMDB during the movie to make sure, yes, this was William Holden. Maybe he's just younger than I'm used to seeing him. Warren William makes a colorful scoundrel who stops just short of tying the heroine to the railroad tracks (I guess there were no trains in Arizona yet) in his quest to get the better of her. As the most interesting guy in the movie, I was nonetheless rooting for a romance between the two, at least until he started shooting people in the back. It was nice to see such a strong female character and even though she gets married off at the end, there's little indication that she's going to retire to a life entirely devoted to pie making. As she and her husband leave for their honeymoon, one of the town folk notes that she's made of iron from head to toe.

Arizona is a bit overlong, at two hours and ten minutes, but it is nicely filmed by Wesley Ruggles and has the benefit of the director's experience with both westerns and romcoms. The action sequences are all very good and the cow herding scenes are really quite spectacular, especially when Muncie decides to stampede the cattle into a band of attacking Indians.

6 comments:

Juliette. said...

Great analysis-- love your desciption of Jean Arthur. :)

AbbyNormal said...

I guess the only thing Warren William needed was a handlebar mustache that he could stroke while he sneered and laughed menacingly.

I haven't seen this one yet, but you certainly make it sound interesting.

Anne said...

"Meanwhile the Civil War happens..."

This is exactly how I remember learning it in school!

Jennythenipper said...

Anne: Ha, yeah it seems like I was being a bit neutral on the Civil War wasn't I. Wouldn't want to offend any Southern readers. In Arizona, the Civil War happened through a series of long inter titles and newspaper headlines, which was probably the best way to experience it.

Jennythenipper said...

Anne: Ha, yeah it seems like I was being a bit neutral on the Civil War wasn't I. Wouldn't want to offend any Southern readers. In Arizona, the Civil War happened through a series of long inter titles and newspaper headlines, which was probably the best way to experience it.

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