Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jeffrey Rides Again

Great post title or greatest post title? haha

John, dude, I'm right there with you on Destry Rides Again. It's actually very interesting that this is a "revisionist" western so relatively early in film history. Most of the iconic westerns you hear of or the ones that I'm familiar with started after the 1930s (not including Stagecoach from the same year). You can definitely see it as a precursor to films like Blazing Saddles, but also Little Big Man and even Rio Bravo (in terms of wanting to revise High Noon). This film is very much responding to a trend it sensed in western films up to that point.

"You shoot it out with 'em and for some reason or other, I don't know why, they get to look like heroes. But you put 'em behind bars and they look little and cheap, the way they oughta look."

Jimmy Stewart's Destry is a new type of hero. Like you mentioned, he doesn't carry a gun and he'd much rather talk or reason with someone than rough em up. He's a revisionist sheriff coming out of his father's shadow. In the end, he does take up his gun, but only because it seems the story needs to go there to be resolved. Also, you're right, it is the stampede of women that come to the rescue. Destry's influence over the town has worked; the townsfolk are ready to defend themselves against the corruption that has run rampant in their town for too long. I did find the end moving too, at least the point when Destry and the boy share a moment. You sense that Destry will take him under his wing like a son and mold him into a sheriff much like himself and also that he will be able to pass down this new image of a hero that he has created for himself to a younger generation. The boy has someone to look up to and Destry has someone to pass his legacy onto. Perhaps this wasn't exactly what you found moving, but I found it sweet.

What I really like in westerns about Sheriffs dealing with corruption are the Shakespearian themes of order and chaos. Westerns present these highly chaotic, almost lawless settings and the men who try to order or bring some sense/stability to such chaotic forces. That may sound very simple, but to me that's just a cool and actually weighty theme. We are all constantly trying to quell the forces of chaos through various forms of order or stability– dare I say it's part of the human condition? This condition is really put to the test in a place like Shakespeare's drama or a really gnarly western (many other cool places too).
Anyway, that's why westerns are awesome and cool. They play out epically with big themes and big characters.

Enough of the seriousness. Yes, this is a funny film. The comedy is smart and never cheap in a way that reminds me of our pining for the comedy days of old. So much great comedy just out of Destry's interactions with the locals. He's deliberately odd and he shakes everything up. How about that extended fight sequence between Dietrich and the other woman? Or Dietrich and Jimmy Stewart? Good ol' rowdy stuff.

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