Spotlight on Dodge City
As much as I love classic film certain genres are hard for me to get into. Sci-fi, horror and war pictures tend to leave me cold and I have a hard time with westerns. I’ve certainly seen my fair share of the latter. I grew up with a dad who loves John Wayne and his films were always on but they could never draw me in like a musical could. Despite this, there are a few I absolute love. Rio Bravo is one of my favorite films ever and Calamity Jane is the perfect western musical. Then there’s Dodge City, a new favorite that I fell for the first time I watched it. So much so that I decided to spotlight it as part of the The Great Western Blogathon hosted by Thoughts All Sorts.
1939’s Dodge City is a technicolor spectacular starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Haviilland. Already an established screen couple this was their 7th pairing and Flynn’s first Western.
The film, directed by Michael Curtiz, stars Flynn as Wade Hatton, a cowboy who guides wagon trains to the west and De Havilland, as Abbie Irving, is relocating to Dodge City on one of them. When they arrive they find a town awash in lawlessness. Jeff Surrett, played by Bruce Cabot, is the leader of a gang of thieves and murderers who practically runs the town as his own personal playground driving out any lawman. But when the anarchy becomes just too much Flynn steps in as sheriff and starts to bring law and order back to town.
Dodge City is an epic film in every scope. Shot in glorious technicolor it’s filled with beautiful imagery of the old west. A giant cast lead by Flynn, de Havilland and Cabot also features Ann Sheridan and a stalwart bunch of character actors including Henry Travers, Alan Hale and Frank McHugh. I love Frank McHugh. Hes my very favorite character actor and this is my first time seeing him in a western. Playing the honest, hardworking editor of the town newspaper he’s absolutely wonderful.
And then there are the scenes of the film. Filled with quantities of extras everything from the wagon train to a cattle stampede to a barroom brawl is larger than life.
Legend has it that the brawl is actually the largest ever filmed.
Even the film’s premier was epic. Taking place in Dodge City it was a multi-day affair that brought several Warner Bros. stars to the small Kansas town.
It’s no surprise then that Dodge City was a huge hit and led Flynn to star in many more westerns. It’s the kind of move that leads people to wistfully say “they don’t make then like that anymore” and I just l love it.