Tag Archives: Loretta Young

Along Came Jones

Nicholas Chennault ~ May 1, 2014

Along Came Jones—Gary Cooper, Loretta Young, Dan Duryea, William Demarest, Arthur Loft, Ray Teal (1945; Dir. Stuart Heisler)

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Although he was known for westerns earlier in his career, Gary Cooper didn’t make many of them during the 1940s when he was at his peak.  He had won an Oscar as Best Actor for 1941’s Sergeant York.  He was nominated again in 1943 and 1944 for Pride of the Yankees and For Whom the Bell Tolls.  He would win again in 1953 for High Noon, of course.  Loretta Young only made three westerns during her entire career.  By this time, they had both been making movies for almost twenty years, since the days of the silent films.  This was the only time they appeared together.

This comedy is an extended case of mistaken identity.  It doesn’t start out as a comedy; in the opening scene, a stage is robbed by a masked Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea), who shoots both the driver and the shotgun guard.  At least one of them survives to wound Jarrad badly.  Wanted posters go up for Jarrad and his geezer companion Uncle Roscoe.

Cut to a sign outside Payneville (pronounced “painful”), where George Fury (William Demarest) and Melody Jones “out of high Montana” (Gary Cooper) determine that they’ve taken the wrong fork three or four hundred miles back.  In Payneville, the MJ initials on Melody’s gear are taken to mean that he’s Monte Jarrad.  And he spots the beauteous Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young), with whom he is instantly taken.  What he doesn’t know is that Cherry is Jarrad’s childhood pal and now girlfriend.  She’s caring for Jarrad because he can’t ride, due to his wound.

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George Fury (William Demarest), Melody Jones (Gary Cooper) and Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young).

Cherry talks Melody into taking Jarrad’s saddle south so the posse hunting Jarrad will follow him, but he goes back to town.  Now he’s caught between most townsfolk, who think he’s Jarrad, and those who know Jarrad, who think he’s killed Jarrad.  Neither side wishes him any good.  This is complicated by the fact that, although Melody carries a gun like everybody else, he’s not very good with it.  Jarrad is very good indeed, and nasty.

Just as one of Jarrad’s gang is about to shoot Melody, he’s rescued by Cherry.  Meldoy notes, “If there’s anything in the world I like, it’s gettin’ saved from being shot.”  Now Cherry wants him to take back the loot from Jarrad’s robbery, which Jarrad has stashed in an old adobe house.  When they get to the hiding place, the express agent is there and takes them prisoner, until somebody from outside the house shoots him.  They don’t get away quickly enough, and the posse finds them and takes them prisoner again, two or three times.  One almost expects the Marx brothers to show up. 

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Cooper as Jones, Duryea as Jarrad.

Finally, Melody, Cherry and George manage to get away and make their way back to Cherry’s ranch.  George has been shot by Jarrad and left for dead until Cherry rescues him.  Jarrad forces Melody to trade clothes with him, and intends to kill him and destroy his face so everyone will think Jarrad is dead.  The posse descends on the ranch, and there is an extended shootout.  Finally, it appears to be Jones against Jarrad, and the odds are all with Jarrad.  He hits Jones three times, calling it each time (much like Liberty Valance would do, twenty years later), when a Winchester bullet comes from behind Jones and catches Jarrad in the forehead.

Melody spends three weeks in jail while all this is sorted out, and he gets the reward for killing Jarrad.  First he figures that George shot Jarrad, but George says he was too weak to move at the time.  Then he realizes it must have been Cherry, shooting at him but getting Jarrad.  After Cherry demonstrates her marksmanship (“When I aim at something, I hit it, and when I hit something it’s what I aimed at“), Melody decides to stay and put down roots with her.

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Cherry takes a hand in the proceedings, but Melody doesn’t see it.

It’s all pleasant enough stuff.  With its time period, the presence of William Demarest and the fact that it’s a comedy, it is reminiscent of the movies of Preston Sturges.  But the producer was Cooper himself, who wasn’t very good at that end of things.  The leads, Cooper and especially Young, are enormously attractive.  Cooper sings “Old Joe Clark” at various points in the movie, and he’s not much of a singer.  He had problems during filming due to lack of preparation and because he often couldn’t deliver his lines in the rapid-fire manner requested by the director. 

One joke usually isn’t enough for a whole movie, but Cooper manages to bring it off.  Joel McCrea called him “the greatest exponent of the manure kicker school of acting ….  The idea is to scuff around barnyard dirt while muttering some phrase like ‘Aw shucks, Miss Nancy.’”  Of course Cooper conveyed much more than that, but he comes closest to that description in this film.  Cecil B. DeMille, who, like the FBI, seemed to have no sense of humor, told Cooper he shouldn’t mock his heroic image in this fashion.  The movie did well at the box office, though.

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For Loretta Young in another good western, see her in Rachel and the Stranger (1947), with William Holden and Robert Mitchum.  Crusty William Demarest makes a fine sidekick; he was good again as the oldest Confederate prisoner in Escape from Fort Bravo.  Duryea could be an excellent villain; see him as Waco Johnnie Dean in Winchester ’73 five years later.  Here he’s unrelievedly nasty.

In an era of singing cowboys, perhaps you could get away with naming one Melody Jones; it wouldn’t work today.  It does seem to be an ironic name, since he can’t sing and shows little talent with a harmonica, either.  The screenwriter was Nunnally Johnson, based on a novel by Alan LeMay (author of the novel The Searchers).  Unusually for a writer, Johnson had enough clout to get his name over the title of the movie in the credits:  Nunnally Johnson’s Along Came Jones.  Norman Rockwell did some of the poster art for the movie.  90 minutes, in black and white.

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Rachel and the Stranger

Nicholas Chennault ~ November 22, 2013

Rachel and the Stranger—William Holden, Robert Mitchum, Loretta Young, Gary Gray (1948; Dir:  Norman Foster)

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Set on the Kentucky-Ohio frontier, either before or shortly after the American Revolution—the exact time is not clear.  David Harvey (William Holden) is a still-bereaved widower with a young son Davey (Gary Gray), isolated on a remote farm.  Prodded by his hunter-friend Jim Fairways (Robert Mitchum), Harvey decides to travel to the stockade and see if he can find a new wife. 

He finds Rachel (Loretta Young), now a bondservant because of her father’s debts, with whom a Mr. Green is willing to part for $18 dollars plus $4 more in the fall, even though that’s a very steep discount from what he paid.  Since it would be inappropriate for the man and woman to live under the same roof otherwise, they are married before leaving the stockade.  The problem is that Harvey is still grief-ridden over his first wife’s death and thinks of Rachel as a bondservant more than as a wife.  He doesn’t try to talk with her much or develop the relationship.  The marriage is not consummated, with the two parties sleeping apart. 

RachelStrangerHome Arriving at her new home.

The plot bears noticeable similarities to Young’s better-known (and more complex) The Bishop’s Wife, in that her husband fails to notice her good points until Fairways returns and finds her interesting.  Whereupon she blossoms; she was always beautiful (being Loretta Young), but it now comes out that she’s educated, has musical talent (she can play the piano) and has taught herself to shoot as well as Harvey’s first wife did, for whom Harvey and Fairways were once romantic rivals.  Pushed by Fairways’ interest, Harvey is more open about his own developing romantic interest, leading to a fight between the two males. 

RachelStrangerYoung Loretta Young as Rachel

Rachel decides to leave, but fate intervenes in the form of a Shawnee war party.  Together the three of them hold off an attack by Shawnees on the homestead and it looks like they’re about to succumb to fire.  We know how all this romantic (or determinedly non-romantic) stuff will turn out; the interest is in how the characters will get there. 

For a similar setting with a more rollicking story, see Many Rivers to Cross.  This is better than that one, and better than average, mostly because of the excellent (if small) cast.  Young really makes it all work by her restraint, although she seems older than the 25 she gives as her age.  (She was 35 at the time.  A year past The Farmer’s Daughter, for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award, she was at her peak.)  There is also a question about whether Fairways is completely serious in his interest; he may just be prodding Harvey to help him out again.  Still, it’s one of those situations where there would be no plot if these people (Harvey and Rachel) would just talk with each other.

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Fairways romancing Rachel with music.

Mitchum comes off as a more attractive character here than Holden, who spends most of the film seeming stiff and grumpy.  Maybe part of that’s how the parts are written.  You could easily see Van Heflin in the Holden part, too.  Mitchum’s singing voice proves to be pleasant enough.  It’s unclear who the stranger of the title is—presumably Fairways?  But Rachel’s new husband is also a stranger to her.  And Rachel is never given a last name, other than “Mrs. Harvey” once she is married.  If you like Loretta Young in this western, try her in the 1945 sort-of-comedy with Gary Cooper, Along Came Jones. She plays a strong woman in that one, too.

Some see similarities to Rebecca, with a new wife living in the shadow of the now-deceased first wife and a conflagration at the end.  There might also be thematic similarities with The Sound of Music.  But that could also be over-analyzing a fairly simple and straightforward film.  Based on a story by Howard Fast; screenplay by Waldo Salt.  In black and white.  Filmed around Eugene, Oregon.  Short, at 83 minutes.  Despite its low budget, the film became RKO’s most successful film of 1948, making over $350,000.  Released briefly on DVD in 2008, it now has very limited availability.

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