Along Came Jones
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Screen legends Gary Cooper (High Noon) and Loretta Young (Lady From Cheyenne) saddle up for an action-packed comedy-western that's "loaded with laughs" (Variety). With inspired performances and lively direction, Along Came Jones hits the bull's-eye for classic western entertainment. Melody Jones (Cooper) is a mild-mannered cowpoke who barely knows the difference between a six-shooter and a carbine rifle, but when he rides into Paynesville, he immediately commands the respect - and fear - of the entire town. The locals believe he's the notorious Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea), a ruthless outlaw who's been terrorizing the frontier with his daring robberies and lightning-fast draw. At first, Jones enjoys his newfound fame, but that quickly ends when he finds himself the target of a bloodthirsty posse, a determined private investigator, Jarrad's double-crossed partners and the most dangerous enemy of all: Jarrad himself!
Along Came Jones is one of the most oddball artifacts from Hollywood's golden age. Gary Cooper (who doubled as producer) plays Melody Jones, a "common ordinary useless bronc-stomper" who moseys into the town of Payneville--or is it Painful?--just after legendary bad ass Monte Jarrad has held up the stagecoach. The townsfolk eyeball the "MJ" on Melody's stirrup, leap to hysterically wrong conclusions, and start giving him a wide berth--in some cases, the better to lie in ambush for "Jarrad" while planning how to spend the bounty money. Now, as it happens--and as his crusty sidekick George (the insuperably irreverent William Demarest) keeps reminding him--Melody can barely get his gun out of the holster without blowing his own kneecap off. All that stands between him and extinction is the quick-thinking intervention of a local maiden, one Cherry de Longpre (Loretta Young). Melody, of course, promptly becomes hogtied with love, not suspecting Cherry's the childhood sweetheart of the real Monte Jarrad (Dan Duryea)....
Stylistically the film is a wild mix, with director Stuart Heisler paying close attention to down-the-gun-barrel point of view in several scenes, yet also sitting still for floaty back-projection photography so egregious that it may bring on motion sickness. Still, Nunnally Johnson's script is droll; Cooper clearly relished the chance to poke fun at his strong-silent stereotype; and he and Preston Sturges stalwart Demarest establish a sardonic comic rapport. --Richard T. Jameson
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The wanted poster offers a $1000 reward for Monte Jarrad, dead or alive for murder and robbery. Wanted poster goes on to describe Jarrad as "tall and skinny, mean tempered, and extra fast with gun, travels with half-wit uncle called Uncle Roscoe something." Melody did come riding in with his cantankerous middle-aged pard (William Demarest). I guess maybe he could pass for a half-wit uncle.
So, there's Melody in a peculiar situation, everyone in Payneville lookin' at him fearful but also like he's a celebrity. Melody finds that he enjoys being kowtowed to. Not that the good sensations last, not once that fine rancher's daughter, Cherry De Longpre (Loretta Young), informs him that he's been mistook for a notorious outlaw and now the peace officer's a'comin'.
Along Came Jones gently spoofs the western genre and also Cooper's iconic image of the strong, silent cowboy. It's not as comically broad or as raucous as, say, Bob Hope's Paleface movies. Much of the humor derives from the realization that Melody Jones, mistook for a notorious outlaw, cannot shoot worth a lick. Observe Melody as he gets into terrible scrapes because he is one stubborn saddle tramp. In short order, he's fallen for Cherry who, come to find out, is the bandit Monte Jarrad's childhood sweetheart. Luckily - or, unluckily, I was never sure - the girl is one uncanny sharpshooter. She bails Melody out of a few pickles, ostensibly as a good samaritan, but, in reality, she's providing a distraction so as to give her crooked man a chance to get away. Melody, it soon dawns on you, isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. The girl ends up brusquely telling him, "Melody, stop trying to think. Do as I say."
But what happens next when the outlaw himself (Dan Duryea, typically rabid) shows up? Which side will the girl back? It's huge fun finding out.
Side note: Along Came Jones was Cooper's first and last try as a producer. He was just too much of an easy-going guy to put up with all the cutthroat decision-making hassles that went with the job.
The movie achieved a sort of immortality in Top 40 pop music. In 1959, "Along Came Jones" became a catchy hit novelty song for the Coasters. And then... And then...
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.