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4.5 out of 5 stars
Destry Rides Again
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2005
"Destry Rides Again" is a five star, ten gallon hat of an adventure that casts gangly James Stewart as the unassuming Marshall of a lawless town. At first, Tom Destry's unassuming good nature pegs him as a push over amongst the criminal element in the neighborhood, as well as by the spurious ladies of the evening, fronted by the erotic intercontinental harlot, Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich). However, very soon Destry begins to reassert his power as the law of the land - a pivotal epiphany that leads to violence and death. There's also some great comedy to be had - particularly in a scene in which Destry decides to cool Frenchy off - literally, by soaking her with some ice water. Dietrich's rendition of "See What The Boys In The Backroom'll Have" proves why she was the toast of Berlin cabarets for many years before coming to Hollywood. The forgotten Mischa Auer co-stars as Boris - a simple-minded philanderer in a comedic subplot, who gets his comeuppance in the end. Jack Carson, Una Merkel and Charles Winninger also give credible performances.
THE TRANSFER: The genuine disappointment is that Universal doesn't quite understand they have a winner in this film. The transfer is so terribly marred by fading, age related artifacts and a poorly balanced print that there is very little to recommend this film on DVD. Contrast levels appear under exposed during night scenes and slightly over exposed elsewhere. There's a glaring and distracting amount of film grain present throughout the transfer that really distracts from the visual style and performances. Fine detail is lost in most scenes. Rarely does the quality of this disc surpass mediocrity. The audio is mono and fairly presented, though the critical ear will note distortions present.
EXTRAS: As usual for Universal classics - NONE!
BOTTOM LINE: This film should be seen because it is a gem among westerns - just not in its current condition!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2004
"Destry Rides Again" is a five star, ten gallon hat of an adventure that casts gangly James Stewart as the unassuming Marshall of a lawless town. At first, Tom Destry's unassuming good nature pegs him as a push over amongst the criminal element in the neighborhood, as well as by the spurious ladies of the evening, fronted by the erotic intercontinental harlot, Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich). However, very soon Destry begins to reassert his power as the law of the land - a pivotal epiphany that leads to violence and death. There's also some great comedy to be had - particularly in a scene in which Destry decides to cool Frenchy off - literally, by soaking her with some ice water. Dietrich's rendition of "See What The Boys In The Backroom'll Have" proves why she was the toast of Berlin cabarets for many years before coming to Hollywood. The forgotten Mischa Auer co-stars as Boris - a simple-minded philanderer in a comedic subplot, who gets his comeuppance in the end. Jack Carson, Una Merkel and Charles Winninger also give credible performances.
THE TRANSFER: The genuine disappointment is that Universal doesn't quite understand they have a winner in this film. The transfer is so terribly marred by fading, age related artifacts and a poorly balanced print that there is very little to recommend this film on DVD. Contrast levels appear under exposed during night scenes and slightly over exposed elsewhere. There's a glaring and distracting amount of film grain present throughout the transfer that really distracts from the visual style and performances. Fine detail is lost in most scenes. Rarely does the quality of this disc surpass mediocrity. The audio is mono and fairly presented, though the critical ear will note distortions present.
EXTRAS: As usual for Universal classics - NONE!
BOTTOM LINE: This film should be seen because it is a gem among westerns - just not in its current condition!
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on July 3, 2012
Asgaard and Camelot are the place names of legend. So are Deadwood and Tombstone. From the static, hand-cranked camera of THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, it took Hollywood merely ten years to perfect the art and science of the classic Western myth about the demidivine wanderer who cleans corruption out of the frontier town on the back lot, and then wanders on. By the late '30s, the art form proceeded into caricatures of itself. Destry is a sharp shooter who won't pack a gun; he pacifies Bottleneck by recounting sententious anecdotes.

The usual stock characters are played by an all star cast: Jimmy Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Winniger, Brian Ahern, Jack Carson, Billy Gilbert, and even Mischa Auer as a boffo Russian from the Winter Palace, develop personalities that would delight Dickens. The properties, blocking, and lighting of the crowded saloon scenes in the 4:3 format deserve an Oscar, as do the people who preserved the film.

The story belongs to iconic Frenchy, played by husky throated Fraulein Dietrich as a spitfire chanteuse whose growing love for Destry drives the villain's moll to save the law abiding pacifist's life at the cost of her own.

Showcasing the mass appeal of her contralto, Marlene's three rousing vocal numbers were testament to the time. 70-80 years ago, almost all music was made live at home; neighbours gathered around the only radio on the block because there were no juke boxes, tape decks, or WALKMANs(c). Once talkies reached the local movie house, a 25 cent weekly ticket provided most people with popular songs; dinnerware was given as prizes on Tuesday nights.

DESTRY RIDES AGAIN is a treat to see a posse of grand old stars in a consummate Western with tragicomedic depth, provided one can accept the cliches of writing and acting that were cutting edge in their decade. The Stewart-Dietrich rendition is the best of the story that merited three more remakes.
Destry Rides AgainDestry Ride Again
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon August 13, 2006
With the help of Frenchy (Marlene Dietrich) a dance hall girl from New Orleans, local ranchers in the town of Bottleneck are being swindled out of there land by the unscrupulous saloon owner Kent (Brian Donlevy).

Sheriff Keogh (Joe King) attempts to correct this and suddenly leaves town without his body.

Judge Slade (Samuel S. Hinds) who is in cahoots with Kent assigned the job of sheriff to the town drunk. Newly assigned Sheriff Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winninger) remembers a previous sheriff named Tom Destry and sends off for the son of Destry, Thomas Jefferson 'Tom' Destry Jr. (James Stewart).

On the day of Destry's arrival with all the crowds are waiting in anticipation. Destry steps out of the coach with a parasol and a bird cage. Sheriff Dimsdale thinks he may have made a mistake.

Only time will tell.

I personally think there is more to this film than the surface story and subplots. It has a good after taste.
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on December 30, 2003
I think the best word to describe this movie is fun. Destry Rides Again is a real treat. Made in 1939, this is both a traditional Hollywood western in some respects, and in others a great spoof of those movies. At heart, it's a comedy but despite this it also throws in the requisite western scenes. Often, however, there's a certain tongue in cheek quality to them.
The story is pure western: the town of Bottleneck (great name!) is all but lawless. There's a nasty land baron trying to seize the necessary lands to complete his control of the area. Once his, he can charge others inflated prices to cross those lands. The town sheriff, trying to impose some law, is shot and killed, his body disposed of in such a way that it won't be found. The corrupt town mayor then appoints the town drunk as sheriff. Now there is no law in Bottleneck. But ... The town drunk sobers up.
He takes his bogus position seriously and therefore sends for Destry (Jimmy Stewart), the son of another famous lawman.
Destry arrives and the fun really gets going. He's not what anyone expects. He's calm, relatively mild-mannered, doesn't wear guns ... doesn't even like guns. And of course, this sets up the final scenes when (as we can expect) he finally is pushed to a point where he does put on guns (a similar situation to Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider).
In the meantime, the filmmakers and the audience have loads of fun, including a cat fight between an angry wife and the town floozy, Marlene Dietrich.
In Destry Rides Again, Jimmy Stewart is perfect - he is so Jimmy Stewart. His famous halting pattern of speech is used comedically to suggest a kind of slyness. It shows the awareness and intelligence behind his character's meek exterior so we know this quality is part of the character's act. As an audience, we realize there is more to him than the meek exterior we see.
Dietrich is also good, though the name Frenchy doesn't quite fit her German accent ... but I suppose that's quibbling.
Unlike some parodies that simply mock a style, films that choose to take a kind of "looking down the nose" approach, Destry Rides Again seems to love westerns and love using the style to have fun. And it works brilliantly. It's a movie that succeeds as a western and as a comedy. Ultimately, it is simply a lot of fun to watch.
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on December 13, 2001
Western fans will enjoy this more than that year of release might indicate, but justplainmovie enthusiasts will dig DESTRY more than anyone. Throughout the latter 30s, Universal was making tentative steps toward competing with the Big Five's stable of A-pictures by essentially dressing up a series of surefire B-properties (such as SEVEN SINNERS, ARABIAN NIGHTS & THE SPOILERS) with deeper 'name' casts & costlier productions than had been their norm. It worked: late-30s/early-40s Universals were generally briskly paced, flavorfully acted, unpretentious entertainment - DESTRY was the first and one of the best, and it gave the studio the huge hit they'd been desperate for. Though most often cited for his brooding 50s work with Mann & Hitchcock, the young, darkhaired James Stewart - intense, soulful & sans his famous stammer - was already a great instinctive actor whose bone-deep rapport with audiences had catapulted him out of Metro's male-ingenue doghouse the year before. His Tom Destry is not a Boys' Life one-dimensional hero but a nicely shaded performance that communicates both the character's decency and his core of strength perfectly. His presence dominates the film, despite the powerhouse cast surrounding him (Dietrich, Winninger, Donlevy, Allen Jenkins, Mischa Auer & the lovely and underrated Una Merkel). Though the picture's purely moonshine (by '39, the milquetoast-with-a-steel-spine plot was wheezing already), its pleasures lie not in the exposition but the exuberant execution. DESTRY RIDES AGAIN plays like a movie made by people convinced they were going to live forever, and I don't know if you can pay a simple genre entertainment higher praise than that.
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on July 1, 2000
It's hard to imagine Marlene Dietrich starring in a Western, but oddly enough it works - and it works well. James Stewart stars as Tom Destry, the son of a famous lawman, who is brought into an out of control town to restore law and order. One look at the tall, gangling boy scout has everyone laughing at the folly of it. Among those laughing is tough saloon singer Dietrich, who's opinion of him soon changes. Destry Rides Again mixes comedy with typical Western action, and does so to good effect. Both Stewart and Dietrich are great in tailor-made roles. Dietrich is famous for singing the "Boys in the Backroom" song, and I must confess I don't understand why her singing is so well remembered, other than to politely say that it is certainly unique. Mischa Auer is very funny in a supporting role as one of Stewart's sidekicks, and Dietrich has a well staged and memorable cat fight with Una Merkel that is a highlight of the film. Fans of the stars or the Western genre will want to check this film out, since it is unusual, well made, and a real classic.
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on May 16, 2000
Most of the peculiar piquancy of this film comes from seeing two unfamiliar figures among all the good old stock types-Marlene Dietrich doing a parody of herself in THE BLUE ANGEL and Jimmy Stewart, a Mr. Smith going to a rough old-time Bret Harte town instead of to Washington. Marlene flounces around with great gusto and sings in that whiskey sublimation of contralto that's more fun than any metropolitan songbird. Stewart is drawly and slow-motioned, and always being bamboozeled, but you know that in the end, he is sure to unleash a streak of cunning and quick action and confound everyone. One of the most unusual pairings in the history of the screen worked like a charm for Dietrich and Stewart. As Frenchy, 38 year-old Dietrich is painted, tough and brazen the role revived Marlene's fading career (the public was tiring of her suffering glamour-puss roles) and it holds up as one her finest moments on film. As Tom Destry, Jr., Steward is polite, shy and awkward and their personalities contrast beautifully. The fight between Frenchy and Lily Belle (Una Merkel) is good fun and there's her classic "See What the Boys in Backroom Will Have" bit - Frenchy's death scene is truly affecting-something which is an attribute to Dietrich's acting ability.
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on September 5, 2001
This movie brought Marlene Dietrich back in a big way in 1939, and it's easy to see why. James Stewart was the nominal star of this movie, but Dietrich is the main attraction. Her cat fight with Una Merckle is the most famous cat fight in film history, and forever altered how the public would view Dietrich. As a strict western, it fails, as a comedy, it passes, but as film entertainment, it has few equals. With equal parts seriousness and fun, the film triumphs. James Stewart is fine as the mild sheriff who doesn't believe in guns brought in to clean up the lawless town of Bottleneck. Dietrich is Frenchy, the gun moll who rules the roost at the local saloon. They strike sparks from the beginning, playing off each other perfectly. The supporting players are well-cast, and the whole production is well-made. This film is well worth watching again and again.
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on June 4, 1999
Well, with a name like "Frenchy," what would you expect? Throwing things, dancing on the bar, throwing more things, and singing is what Frenchy is all about. This movie is famous as Marlene's comeback, and also as the movie in which Marlene lost a little bit of glamour. The big moment comes when Destry literally soaks Frenchy and Lilybelle with water. Lilybelle takes it like a pro, and leaves screaming without her skirt (Frenchy ripped it off.) Frenchy takes it like a woman afflicted with PMS and goes off the deep end, throwing things (bottles, chairs, glasses, a guitar, etc.) and finally falling on the floor. She even rides Destry piggyback, beating him over the head! There's nothing like a good western, and this is one of the best!
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