James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich may seem like an incompatible pair at first glance, but the two make do in this romp of a film. Destry Rides Again, directed by George Marshall, gleefully splices together elements of westerns, musicals, and comedies into a mashup to rival any mashup of the classical era. It can be somewhat unfair to look at the rest of the year 1939 with great films like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and even Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, when underrated gems like this still managed to get released and made their way out into the world of cinema.
This film is just flat out fun, plain and simple, both in its making and in its viewing. The film opens and immediately thrusts us into the western spirit, with a rowdy shootout overcoming the streets and a poker game taking place silently inside the doors, with a riled party taking up the rest of the saloon. The film tames itself down somewhat once it sets up the premise and launches into the body of the film, but the playful spirit is still there; there is humor and recurring jokes abound, and that is my personal favorite type of humor, so the film continued to hit all the right notes for me. The only real problem I had was that the film rushed through to the conclusion way too rapidly; the film builds easily enough, but then one major event happens and suddenly we’re barreling toward the resolution without even enough time to wonder why the film dropped any pretense of constructing its story proper. The climax itself was rather rushed and unprepared for as well; still, though, it wasn’t enough to ruin the whole experience for me, but it did bother me enough to warrant mentioning it here.
This film introduced Jimmy Stewart to the western, a genre he would become known for in his later career, and for this we must thank Mr. Marshall and the folks at Universal for putting together such a rowdy good time of a film. Dietrich’s singing is a bit gravelly, but it’s a minor quibble to be had with a film that enjoys what it does so much. I love a film that has as much fun with itself as it does the audience, and this does does that and then some. That said, I know there’ll be some factions of people that won’t take to this sort of fare, but I have a good feeling that a majority of moviegoers will like what this has to offer.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10