Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Texas Watch: Dallas (1950)

Watched:  07/09/2024
Format:  Amazon 
Viewing:  First
Director:  Stuart Heisler

Full disclosure, I was just looking to see what else Ruth Roman was in, and this came up.  And, as a long-time Texan, I was curious how a movie about Dallas, the most Dallasy city in Texas, was going to work.  Plus, Gary Cooper.  And Steve Cochran in facial hair!

Dallas (1950) takes place shortly after the Civil War, so Dallas is a small, growing western town (it was founded in the early 1840's).  Gary Cooper plays a former Confederate colonel who is sought by the law.  A young Bostonian of means has become a US Marshall to impress his fiance, and come west to prove he's no shrinking violet.  He stumbles across Cooper - a fugitive, and after finding out the situation is not so clear as his orders suggested, he and Cooper ride to Dallas together.  Cooper hears three brothers are there, and he'd like to help take them down.  

There's some frankly unnecessary identity switching as the two enter town, and we learn that the Bostonian is engaged to the daughter of a local Don, which, yes, means Ruth Roman is playing a Mexican-American.   Which...  there's a lot of Hollywood history why this was probably true.  Is Roman, of Jewish-Lithuanian heritage, a good candidate for a Latina?  Uhhhhhhhh...  man, that's a loaded question I asked myself.  

On the flip side, I don't remember too many movies from this era that include Hispanic characters quite like this, shown to be very successful ranchers (or even more so, if these criminals weren't so busy being criminals at them and taking their cattle).

In a lot of ways, this is a pretty typical Western, where some shady dudes are going to take advantage of the lawless nature of the new town/ land and exploit that weakness to steal property and land from others, and the promise of civilization coming is welcomed.  It's also likely an early of an example of the mastermind bad-guy with the loose-canon sibling he's trying to wrangle (Cochran!).  

In the course of events, Roman's character falls for Cooper, who looks old enough to be her father (she's 27-28 and he's probably 49 here).  And, man, Hollywood.  They couldn't stop pairing Cooper with women who look way too young.

There's not much to actually report about this one - other than that the terrain and town look nothing like Dallas or North Texas, which IRL is hilariously flat and so visually uninteresting that Dallas architecture has been weird since the 1970s in an effort to combat this problem.  But this movie is shot in typical ranchland outside of LA, so... behold!  The rolling hill country of Ft. Worth!  The deep valleys outside of Dallas!

If you're looking for more Ruth Roman:  good news.  She's in this.  But I'm not sure this movie is terribly ground-breaking.  It is, however, fairly entertaining and a reminder how cool vaqueros looked in their jackets and on Mexican-style saddles.

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