A classic satirical action-comedy Western, Destry Rides Again pits mild-mannered sheriff’s deputy Jimmy Stewart — a reverse type of the typical John-Wayne two-fisted straight-shooting cowboy hero — against a lawless town full of swindlers and murderers where sheriffs tend to wind up dead.
The son of a much-feared sharpshooter, Destry quickly becomes the laughingstock of Bottleneck when he steps off the stagecoach holding a parasol and canary cage for a female passenger. But he bides his time and chooses his battles, and it’s not long before this unconventional deputy begins to make a different impression on the wild and woolly town.
The conceit of the seeming milksop who’s actually tougher than the hooligans was already a cliché when the movie was made, but Destry has a few twists to keep things interesting. Destry believes firmly in going by the letter of the law, and at times this puts him at odds with the old sheriff (Charles Winninger) who just wants to get the bad guys. Marlene Dietrich stars as that other cliché, the bad girl with a heart of gold who just needs a man to treat her with respect so she can respect herself. The climax is pure hokum but enjoyably so, and only slightly anticlimactic.
James Garner brings a variation on his "Maverick" persona to this classic satirical Western that, even more than Destry Rides Again, does for Westerns what The Princess Bride did for fairy-tale fantasy, at once spoofing and honoring the genre’s conventions and clichés.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.