Beautiful Blonde

I love seeing Betty Grable in those great color 20th Century-Fox musicals from the 1940’s.  Although she sings a few songs in Preston Sturges’ “The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend,” a 1949 sendup of westerns, we mostly see her as rowdy, gun- tooting dance hall girl who turns out to be very dangerous.  In a fit of rage, Grable, who plays Freddie, goes after her boyfriend Blackie (Cesar Romero), but accidentally shoots the town judge.  She goes on the lam with her friend Conchita (Olga San Juan) and impersonates a school teacher in a neighboring town.

Betty Grable -- beautiful, blonde and dangerous

Sturges’ brand of humor sometimes employs forced over-the-top performances from veteran character actors, and this movie serves up a lot of that.  The charming Freddie and Conchita deal with delinquents, octogenarian sheriffs, a double-talking Swede and a vengeful cowboy.  Rudy Vallee plays Charles Hingleman, the wealthy owner of a gold mine who woos Freddie (to her obvious delight).  The movie features lots of gun shots and characters coming and going at a fast pace.

Owing to the contrast of the mostly unattractive male characters,  Grable and San Juan appear particularly adorable.  Olga San Juan wisecracks her way through the movie, while Grable makes the most of her many costume changes.  Hugh Herbert, who plays an extremely near-sighted dentist, tones down his “hoo-hoo” routine but still provides a few laughs.  The great thing about Sturges is that all his characters play strongly.  Even the seemingly mild-mannered Charles Hingleman (Rudy Vallee) turns aggressive at a key moment in the town church.

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