Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend, The (1949)

“Never wait too long between shots, or your finger may change its mind.”

Synopsis:
A trigger-happy saloon singer (Betty Grable) accidentally hits a judge (Porter Hall) in his backside while intending to shoot her cheating lover (Cesar Romero). She flees to a small town with her Mexican friend (Olga San Juan), where the pair are mistaken for a schoolteacher and her Indian companion, and Grable makes a play for the mayor’s wealthy son (Rudy Vallee) while trying to avoid detection.

Genres:

Review:
Preston Sturges’ final American comedy was a notorious bust upon its release, but it’s not quite as bad as its reputation would indicate. Indeed, the first 45 minutes or so of this short comedy (just 77 minutes long) are reasonably clever, and full of exactly the type of zany, fast-paced dialogue you’d expect from Sturges; my favorite scenes are those involving Olga San Juan, playing a lower-keyed Carmen Miranda-type with fabulously droll comedic timing (many agree she should have been given more screen-time). Unfortunately, Sturges seems unable to sustain the momentum he’s built, allowing the film to devolve into an interminable slapstick shoot-out and an unrealistic courtroom finale. Other elements of the screenplay don’t quite sit well, either: if Grable’s character is posited (in a cute opening sequence) as a woman trained from birth to have remarkable aim a la Annie Oakley, how is it that she manages to miss her target so widely? Meanwhile, a pair of over-aged “schoolboys” (played by Sterling Holloway and Dan Jackson) are simply ill-conceived, and Grable’s interest in Vallee merely serves to turn our sympathies away from her, given that she’s supposedly in love with Romero, and thus is clearly just gold-digging with poor Vallee. Regardless, fans of Sturges will still be curious to check out his infamous final outing for Hollywood, before all but disappearing from the screen.

NB: Sturges’ last film, made in France (titled The French, They Are a Funny Race, or The Diary of Major Thompson), isn’t listed in Peary’s book.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An amusingly scripted first 45 minutes
  • Olga San Juan as Conchita

Must See?
No, but I do think it’s worth a look during its first half — and Sturges completists will naturally want to have seen it.

Links:

One Response to “Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend, The (1949)”

  1. Not a must.

    It’s true that when Sturges’ films are talked about, this title doesn’t tend to come up much. It’s also true that it’s not really a bad movie. It’s actually a rather pleasant diversion (and I can’t take issue with some of its broader elements, which just seem typical of Sturges). It’s shorter than most of his major films – and, here, that works in the film’s favor; it’s not any longer than its slight premise needs it to be. Sturges’ direction is solid and his timing is sharp.

    As for the cast, they all seem to be on the same page – it’s as if everybody wants to do their best to put this among Sturges’ best work. If it isn’t, it should still probably keep a consistent smile on your face (not a bad thing).

    And, yes, Grable and San Juan do particularly work well together.

    Fave moment (as Sturges skirts vulgarity):

    Vallee: Well, you see, the gold mine having no stairs, you have to be lowered in a bucket.
    Grable: Like the girls in Nantucket. …Excuse me.
    Vallee: How was that?
    Grable: Oh…oh, just a poem.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.