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Along Came Jones
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Beautifully restored and first time on Blu-ray.
"Bronc stomper" Melody Jones rides into the sleepy little hamlet of Paynesville, with his saddle pal George, where the good townsfolk have mistaken Melody for another man with the initials "M.J." The gentleman in question is "Monte Jarrad," a bad hombre with a $1,000 price on his head for a recent stagecoach robbery. Unaware of the peril brought about by their presumed identities, Melody and George get a little help from Cherry De Longpre who's eager to get them out of town ahead of an anxious posse.
Cherry's motives aren't entirely pure, however, as she hopes her scheme will ensure the successful escape of her wounded boyfriend -- none other than the Monte Jarrad himself. But Melody becomes wise to Cherry's plotting and uses the situation to his advantage by trying to capture Jarrad, gain the reward and fame, all the while trying to escape the long arm of the law.
An actor who always rode tall in the saddle, Gary Cooper spoofs his laconic cowpoke image in Along Came Jones, playing an unconventional cowboy who can't even shoot straight! Loretta Young co-stars as Cherry, with William Demarest as Coop's loyal sidekick and Dan Duryea as the villainous Jarrad.
Based on the 1943 novel The Useless Cowboy by Alan Le May, Jones has great fun with the conventional movie Western, bolstered by an amusing script courtesy of Nunnally Johnson (who wrote Cooper's previous Casanova Brown). Directed by Stuart Heisler (The Glass Key), this sprightly comedy-western was the only time the Oscar winning Cooper added "producer" to his lengthy list of classic movie credits.
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A perfect cast that includes the beautiful Loretta Young, Preston Sturges favorite William Demarest, and Dan Duryea all play along in a very enjoyable film full of small chuckles. A case of mistaken identity and a terrific comedic performance from Gary Cooper make for great entertainment out west.
Cooper is Melody Jones, an easygoing cowboy who's been thrown on his hind quarters a little too often by broncs. Melody travels with his pal George (William Demarest) and the two end up on the wrong trail due to Melody's bad sense of direction, which is only one of his deficiencies as a cowboy. One of the others is his inability to handle a gun well. Melody is more apt to throw his gun across the room trying to fast-draw than get a shot off. This small but important fact is constantly brought to his attention by his pal George when they enter the small trail town of Payneville.
Unbeknownst to Melody, a notorious and much feared outlaw named Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea) has just robbed the local stage where a man has been killed. When Melody and George ride into town, the M.J. initials on his saddle leads people to believe he's Monte, and Melody starts enjoying both the "high regard" afforded him and the fear his presence instills in people.
Cooper is hilarious, with his one eye open, one eye closed "dangerous expression" meant to show how tough he is. His droll pal George sees the downside though, knowing Melody couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a big rock, much less his gun! Since there are also a few folks around Payneville who'd like to get rid of the outlaw, and a more dangerous few who'd like to relieve Monte of his money, Melody may need a little help.
In steps pretty Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young). She keeps Melody and his pal George, who is natuarally assumed to be Monte's partner Roscoe, from being killed. She does so to throw suspicion on Melody and continue the charade, so her beau Monte, who is injured, can have time to get away. Melody does have some smarts though, and realizes what she's doing. But he's smitten with the pretty Cherry by this time and he and a reluctant George decide to play along.
The real Monte has turned mean rather than just wild, however, and once Melody plants a kiss on Cherry, her loyalty begins to wane. Cooper is a riot as he takes off his hat, wipes his lips with his sleeve, and plants one on Cherry that rocks her world. It is almost a parody of the exaggerated gestures in some silent films featuring matinee idols.
When George is injured by Monte, Melody decides to have a show-down with him. He's no match for the fast gun and mean spirit of the real Monte Jarred, however, and Cherry comes to his rescue. Melody wonders if she was trying to hit him, and the real show-down might require another one of those kisses!
Cooper is a hoot as the cowpoke out of high Montana who knows hundered of lines to the "round and round" song but can't handle a gun to save his life. Demarest is great as his saddle pal and Duryea plays his typical bad guy role with relish. Loretta Young is every cowboy's dream and prettier than a cool mountain stream to a thirsty man. An unusual and funny western that is great for a lazy weekend.
The production values of this modest Independent Pictures production reflect the restrictions imposed by the government on Hollywood during World War II. No movie could boast more than $5-thousand dollars worth of new production materials. Consequently, everything appears just as plain and generic as you can imagine. Nobody has more than a couple of costume changes, and the performers often act in front of back projected landscapes when they hit the trail. This is one of those westerns where you never see a train, the U.S. Calvary, a nation of war whooping Native Americans, or scenic Monument Valley landscapes. In other words, white Anglo-Saxon American Protestants swap bullets with each other over the course of its unhurried 90 minutes. Nevertheless, Cooper's amiable performance and Heisler's restrained helming make "Along Came Jones" a pleasure to watch. Interesting, "Along Came Jones" anticipated John Ford's last great western "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Loretta Young does for Cooper in "Along Came Jones" what John Wayne did for James Stewart in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."
"Along Came Jones" opens with a one-of-its-kind stagecoach hold-up. Monty Jarrad (Dan Duryea of "Ball of Fire") waits in ambush with his Winchester rifle as a six-horse stagecoach trundles along the river road and shoots the coach tongue that holds the horses in harness. The coachman loses control of the vehicle and its rear wheel smashes into the rocks at the side of the trail. Monty wounds the guard, armed with a Winchester instead of a shotgun, and the guy plunges off the swiftly moving vehicle and falls into a tree. The Wells Fargo coach careens to a halt into the side of the mountain, and Monty rides up to it, snatches the money bag from the driver, Ira Waggoner (Walter Sand), and hightails it off down the trail. The guard recovers himself sufficiently to hit the fleeing outlaw and Monty drops his rifle on the road. In a close-up, we can see his name etched onto the long gun: Monty Jarrad. The next shot shows a lawman posting a $1-thousand dollar reward dodger for Jarrad.
Song warbling Melody Jones (Gary Cooper of "Sergeant York") and his sidekick George Fury (William Demarest of "All Through the Night") are riding along when they spot the town of Payneville in the distance (bogus looking back projection again) and Melody realizes that they took a wrong turn at the fork in the road some 400 to 500 miles back. George shakes his head. "Well, it don't surprise me none, I can you tell you that a cowhand that goes in for breaking horses by the times he's your size, he's been hit in the seat of the pants so many times he ain't got any brains anymore--just a kind of yellow oatmeal in his head."
Our heroes mosey into Payneville and the First Chance Saloon barkeeper notices the initials MJ on Melody's chaps and assumes Melody is Monty Jarrad. Melody spots pretty looking Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young of "Ladies Courageous") prancing down the board. He follows her while George enters a saloon. George doesn't understand why everybody refers to him as Uncle Roscoe. Meanwhile, Melody eavesdrops on Ira who observes how "very nice" Cherry walks, and Melody slugs him. Before Ira can pull his six-gun, another citizen points to the chaps on Melody's horse with the initials MJ. Everybody thinks Melody is actually Monty. Melody has never commanded such respect from anybody. All the time this is happening, Melody has no clue why the citizenry are treating him with such latitude. George is infuriated his reception in the saloon. He hates being called Uncle Roscoe, Monty's sidekick. When he rejoins Melody, he complains about the town. Melody explains how to cast a big shadow. "You got to look like you're somebody and act like you're somebody, like you can take care of yourself no matter what happens, and then pretty soon you're somebody."
Eventually, Cherry saves Melody from getting ambushed in town and they ride out to her ranch. The real Monty Jarrad isn't so sure about Cherry's plan to make everybody believe that Melody is him. She explains that she has fixed them up so that the posse will be riding south after Melody while Monty can ride north. In the course of events, Cherry changes her mind about mean-spirited Monty, to the extent that she helps Melody out of several tight scrapes. She leads him to the shack where Monty has stashed the stolen loot and they find themselves up to their necks in one tight spot after another. Heisler keeps the action moving along fast enough so that this hokum never stalls out. "Along Came Jones" turned out to be a genuine crowd pleaser. Everybody who made it seems like they were have a ball. Nunnally Johnson provides some choice lines for everybody and the final shoot-out is a blast. There are enough twists and turns to make "Along Came Jones" more than just an ordinary western.
Unfortunately, the release print of "Along Came Jones" looks as rugged in spots as the frontier where the action occurs. However, this MGM/UA DVD does provide the trailer.