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April 11, 2007

Cattle Queen of Montana

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Allan Dwan -1954
VCI Entertainment All Region DVD

I wasn't planning on writing on another western. My DVD viewing is currently based on whatever I get next from the Miami Beach Public Library. Even more coincidental is that this film, like Riding Shotgun, is based on a story by Thomas Blackburn. What inspired me to take a look at Cattle Queen of Montana was thinking about Nathaniel R's Action Heroine Blog-a-thon. The oldest of the films Nathaniel refers to is Alien. I'm sure there are other actresses I am overlooking at this time, but among American screen actresses, Barbara Stanwyck provides a great example of a woman as action heroine.

Especially at a time when demographics determine everything in a Hollywood film, Cattle Queen in retrospect seems almost remarkable as the work of a mature cast and crew. Barbara Stanwyck was 47, and just three years away from the even tougher role in Forty Guns. Allen Dwan was still directing films at age 69. Dwan's directorial debut was in 1911, while his final film came out fifty years later. A film like this helps counter the notion that action films should be restricted to younger filmmakers and actors.

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The only thing truly authentic about this western is that it is indeed shot on location in Montana. The film was made at a time when it was common to cast actors like Lance Fuller, Anthony Caruso and Yvette Dugay as native Americans. Of more interest is seeing a supporting cast that includes Sam Fuller regular Gene Evans, Jack Elam, Morris Ankrum and Burt Mustin. Ronald Reagan manages not to get in the way of the fun. Essentially, if the western is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, than this is a nice, simple, well made hamburger, modest but satisfying.

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The main reason to see Cattle Queen of Montana is to watch the petite Stanwyck jump on and off horses, fight off bad guys with her two little fists, crack a whip or fire a six-shooter. Doing a little bit of online research I came across this pictorial of action heroines and this examination of of "action babes". I am hoping that contributors to Nathaniel's blog-a-thon do more than superficial searching for the films and actresses. While I cannot be positive that Barbara Stanwyck was the first female action star, she set a standard that could challenge actresses far younger and much taller.

Posted by peter at April 11, 2007 06:00 PM

Comments

Yay for Barbara Stanwyck! And an Action Heroine blog-a-thon? Sounds fun!

Weird coincidence, but that blog-a-thon seems to have come to life on the exact same day that I posted a mini review of the new book Super Bitches and Action Babes: The Female Hero in Popular Cinema, 1970-2006 over at Cinedelica.

Posted by: Kimberly at April 11, 2007 09:06 PM

thanks for the shout out though actually the earliest film i referenced was female convict scorpion...

but point taken. I wanted to include character names that people would remember and hence: the modernity. but I'm really hoping that folks like yourself and others will give us a wider range of films covered. so that it's not all lara croft or the grindhouse girls

yay.

Posted by: Nathaniel R at April 12, 2007 12:38 PM

Sorry I forgot about Female Convict Scorpion. One of the Japanese series that I hope appears on DVD stars Junko Fuji as Red Peony. Fuji was the top female Yakuza star in the early 70s.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at April 12, 2007 02:40 PM

Peter, don't apologize for using the library. I do, too, and I find so many great DVDs. If you have a good public library system in your community, it's a real blessing for a film fan on a budget, or one who doesn't want to pay the exorbitant price of movies.

Posted by: the shamus at April 13, 2007 02:30 PM