Getting back to the Class of ‘39, I now come to a film that is one of my favorites, Jimmy Stewart’s Destry Rides Again. Ten films were nominated for Best Picture, and I’ve already discussed most of those. What many people don’t realize is that Jimmy Stewart almost had his own Best Picture race, all on his lonesome.
In 1939, seven Jimmy Stewart films were released, and three of them were worthy of nomination for Best Picture. Three of these seven films are considered major classics today: Shop Around the Corner, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, and Destry Rides Again. (And, yes, Mr. Smith WAS one of the ten nominated films.)
In Destry Rides Again, Stewart wasn’t the main draw. Yes, he was the leading man, but the big star was the Teutonic Bombshell, Marlene Dietrich. A western, Destry Rides Again is a take on the age-old story of a single good guy taking on corruption, in the Old West. Marlene Dietrich is a dancehall girl, and part of the corruption, and Stewart is a friend of the old bumbling sheriff who called him into help clean up the town.
The twist is that Destry, the son of a famous lawman, doesn’t use guns, disappointing the sheriff mightily. There are many great character actors in the movie, and if you have read my Matinee Mondays, you know that I love my character actors. They may not be leading stars, but they add life to the movies. One of my favorites is the Russian emigre, Mischa Auer. He has another delightful role as a Russian emigre who came to this country to strike it rich in California, and ends up marrying the widow who runs the boarding house. While he wants to be a cowboy, his wife, the widow, runs rough-shod over him throughout the entire picture.
And he’s not the only great. When you watch this trailer, you’ll see Allen Jenkins, Una Merkel, Charles Winnegar, and even the ubiquitious Billy Gilbert. And, if you think that you see an army of women fighting the cowboys in the saloon, in the great fight scene in this trailer, you aren’t seeing things. Destry Rides Again turns things upside-down throughout. Enjoy.