Friday, 15 November 2013





THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS, screen play by Dwight Mitchell Wiley, based on a play by Harry Segall; directed by Irving Pichel; produced by Seton I. Miller at Paramount Pictures. At the Paramount. 
Sally Warren . . . . . Barbara Stanwyck 
Jeff Warren . . . . . Robert Cummings 
Mary Lou Medford . . . . . Diana Lyn 
Lance Gale . . . . . Patric Knowles 
Grace Apley . . . . . Peggy Wood 
Tod Warren . . . . . Robert Benchley 
Joe . . . . . Willie Best 
Carol Warren . . . . . Natalie Wood 
Johnny Warren . . . . . Gregory Muradian 
Janet Doughton . . . . . Mary Young

As a huge fan of Barbara Stanwyck's, I have been waiting for only a handful of movies of hers to appear either on video or on cable to mark off my list of unseen films. Like another recent title I had been searching for ("Ten Cents a Dance"), I was highly disappointed, yet glad I got to catch it. Barbara is an expert light comic actress when she is given a good script. Look at "The Lady Eve", which is considered one of the classic screwball comedies of all times. The year before this, she was absolutely delightful in the charming "Christmas in Connecticut", which lightened up her reputation after "Double Indemnity" cast her as a murderess. Those two films, in addition to a few other comedies she did ("Red Salute", "Breakfast For Two", "The Mad Miss Manton", even "You Belong to Me") had at least amusing stories with funny characters. A few of them actually were extremely well written. But "The Bride Wore Boots", like a similarly titled comedy she did ("The Bride Walks Out"), is a comedy lacking in laughs.

Like "The Awful Truth", this is a comedy about divorce. It opens at Christmas with Stanwyck introduced as a horse-loving Southern girl whose husband (Robert Cummings) knows absolutely nothing about horses. He's more interested in antiques, which results in her getting him a desk presumably owned by Jefferson Davis. He gets her a horse, which turns out to be a 12-year old well past his prime, too old for horse racing. Cummings, cast as a poor sap who can't seem to do anything right to save his marriage, gets into a sparring match with Stanwyck's old flame, Patric Knowles, while an extremely annoying Southern belle (Diana Lynn) sets her sights on trapping Cummings, which leads Stanwyck to divorce court. Peggy Wood, best known as the Reverand Mother in "The Sound of Music", plays Stanwyck's mother, and is the most amusing supporting character in the film, similar to Lucille Watson's character in "The Women", although more acerbic. Robert Benchley too offers a bit of his dry humour, more than welcome with the presence of Knowles and Lynn around. Natalie Wood is one of Stanwyck and Cumming's children, whom it appears aren't really all that important to their parents in an effort to save their marriage. Natalie is only amusing in one sequence where she is upset when her brother shoots the angel off the Christmas tree, something she had wanted do so herself.

There were more than a dozen comedies about divorce during the heyday of the screwball comedy, so this one (a bit late in the game) doesn't come anywhere near to the quality of those, most notably "The Awful Truth" and "Love Crazy". Stanwyck is lovely, and does her best with a rather mediocre script. It's no wonder with films like this that she concentrated mainly on melodramas and westerns for the remainder of her career. Cummings, who seemed to be alternating with Ray Milland for these types of roles, plays a total wimp here who only gets some spice when he crowns Knowles with a horse's feed bag. Actually, that horse is funnier than most of the actors here, coming back after dumping Cummings off of him during a race to urge him to get back on. The only thing the horse doesn't do is laugh at him, which is probably what he needed to do. Veteran black character actor Willie Best adds a nice touch as the stable boy, embellishing his character with less stereotypical behavior than usually given to actors like himself.