Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Overlooked Movies -- Black Bart

I saw this movie at the drive-in with my parents nearly 70 years ago.  My father liked Dan Duryea, to whom he liked refer as "Dan Diarrhea," and he liked westerns, so that's probably why we went to see this one.  I hadn't seen it since 1948 or 1949, but I had fond, if vague, memories of it, and I was glad when it turned up on cable so I could take another look.  I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it quite a bit.

To begin with, it's beautifully shot in Technicolor.  That's often a plus with me.  And it has a nice script, with a good bit of snappy patter, not at all like the usual Hollywood western of the time.  Yvonne de Carlo as Lola Montez is beautiful and gets to do a couple of dances, one of which is embedded above since there's no trailer available.

Duryea is Black Bart, who's robbing Wells Fargo stages so he can force them to close their Sacramento office, after which he and his partner (played by John McIntire) will open their own bank.  Bart was formerly partners in crime with Jersey Brady (Percy Kilbride) and Lance Hardeen (Jeffrey Lynn), but they parted on unfriendly terms. Jersey and Hardeen turn up in Sacramento, where Hardeen and Bart become rivals for the affections of Montez.  Hardeen and Brady are hired by Wells Fargo, and they decide they want some of the money that Bart's been stealing.  At the end Hardeen and Bart go after the last big shipment together.  This being a Hollywood movie from 1948 and Bart and Hardeen being cheerfully amoral guys, you can probably guess what happens.

The story is told in flashback by Jersey  Brady, and Percy Kilbride is really fun in this role.  There's a little snapper at the end, which I remembered immediately when I saw it, but which I wasn't expecting because I'd forgotten it over the years.  

There is no question in my mind that William Goldman had seen this movie and remembered it when writing BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID.  The final scene in BLACK BART with Bart and Hardeen is the final scene in BUTCH CASSIDY, it seems to me.  I hope someone who's seen it will agree or disagree with me in the comments.  I think there's a small monograph waiting to be written on the subject.

Black Bart is a better-than-average western, and I recommend it.

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