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Dodge City (1939 movie)

Dodge City is a western starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Directed by Hungarian-turned-Hollywood filmmaker Michael Curtiz and based on a story by Robert Buckner[?], it was filmed in early Technicolor. As a classic western, Dodge City contains -- with the possible exception of an attack by hostile Red Indians[?] -- all the stock ingredients and clichés the genre has usually been associated with. It chronicles the rise, after the end of the Civil War, of the small frontier post of Dodge City, Kansas to civilized and respectable town and trading place for cattle. In the process, Dodge City has to get rid of the baddies terrorizing the citizens, and it takes a new sheriff and his deputy to clean up the town and introduce law and order.

Cast:

Errol Flynn .............. Wade Hatton
Olivia de Havilland ... Abbie Irving
Bruce Cabot[?] ........... Jeff Surrett
Alan Hale[?] ............... Rusty
Victor Jory[?] ............. Yancy

The action of the film starts with Colonel Dodge arriving on the first train and subsequently opening the new railroad line that links Dodge City with the rest of the world. A few years later, Dodge City has turned into the "longhorn cattle[?] center of the world and wide-open babylon of the American frontier, packed with settlers, thieves and gunmen -- the town that knew no ethics but cash and killing". In particular, it is Jeff Surrett and his gang who kill, steal, cheat and, generally, control life in Dodge City without ever being brought to justice. As Surrett has installed one of his puppets as sheriff, the other citizens' hands are tied when it comes to arresting any of the evildoers.

Wade Hatton, a lone cowboy who was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Dodge City, is now on his way to the town leading a trek of settlers from the East coast. At Hatton's side is his old companion Rusty, who is prepared to stay with him through thick and thin. Among the settlers are beautiful Abbie Irving and her irresponsible brother, who, drunk, causes a stampede[?] and is shot by Hatton in self-defense. When the group arrive in Dodge City, Hatton is confronted with the full extent of the anarchy which is dictating everyday life there. Asked by anxious citizens -- Abbie's uncle among them -- to be the new sheriff, Hatton politely declines, saying he is not cut out for this kind of job.

Hatton changes his mind when, during a school outing, a young boy is inadvertently killed by Surrett and his men. The new sheriff and his deputy -- Rusty of course -- have a hard time not just fighting the criminals but also convincing all the farmers who have been wronged by Surrett that mob rule ("Come on, boys, let's take 'em out to the plaza") is out of the question: When Yancy, one of Surrett's thugs, is in jail, Hatton has to protect him against the furious men outside who, not caring for Yancy's right to a fair trial, want to take the law into their own hands and lynch him right then and there.

In the end Hatton succeeds in both overwhelming and catching the baddies and winning Abbie's heart. Everything has been prepared for a quiet family life in newly civilized Dodge City when news reaches Hatton of another town farther West which also desperately needs cleaning up. Obedient and so much in love, Abbie agrees to her husband's change of plan and is willing to join him and Rusty on their new mission.

Memorable scenes:

  • The railroad as a symbol of progress: a race between the Iron Horse and the old stagecoach which has served Dodge City for decades but whose time is now over
  • Rusty attending a meeting of the "Pure Prairie League of Dodge City", a gathering of elderly women strongly associated with the temperance movement
  • A saloon brawl, triggered by a party of Confederate veterans[?] ("My Heart Turns Back to Dixie") -- the North against the South, a decade after the end of the Civil War
  • The editor of the Dodge City Star, trying to be brave and publishing an exposé about Surrett and his evil machinations, being murdered by Yancy -- investigative journalism[?] and its bitter consequences
  • A speeding train on fire -- the final shoot-out.

External link:

Dodge City -- early history (http://www.americanwest.com/pages/dodge.htm)



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