This great action Western, Flynn's first, has the intrepid adventurer enter Dodge City, a notorious, wide-open range town, as cattle buyer Wade Hatton. He leads lawmen to rustler Jeff Surrett (Cabot) and his henchmen (Jory and Fowley) before leading a covered wagon train with his pals
(Hale and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams) en route to Dodge City. Attracted to spirited Abbie Irving (de Havilland), he draws only her scorn after she blames him for the death of her brother (Lundigan), a hellion crushed in a stampede he himself started. Once at Dodge City, Wade finds that Surrett now
runs the town and, after being pushed far enough, takes the sheriff's badge and cleans up the hellhole. Although he has a brief flirtation with saloon gal Ruby Gilman (Sheridan), his heart belongs to Abbie, and she soon comes to respect Wade's heroic endeavors.
DODGE CITY is top-flight action directed with verve and invention by Warner Bros. workhorse Curtiz. In a year with plenty of worthy Western competition, this expensively mounted film nevertheless found a wide and appreciative public. Polito's camerawork, highlighted by the rich use of color, is
sweeping and fluid, and Steiner's score is vigorous and effective. A sequence involving a burning runaway train is handled well and the saloon brawl midway through the film, used time and again by the studio as stock footage, is magnificently staged and remains a classic of its kind. Not too
surprisingly, de Havilland hated her rather standardized role, and Sheridan, in a more colorful part, unfortunately doesn't get as much footage as she deserves. This film belongs to the men, especially Flynn, who attacks the part with gusto and suitably adapts his British veneer to the code of the
Old West. Flynn would make seven more Westerns, but DODGE CITY remains his best outing in the genre. The story line for BLAZING SADDLES was taken from this film.
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