Thursday, November 24, 2011

Print the Myth

It's interesting to look at Annie Oakley as presented by Barbara Stanwyck in 1935. I wouldn't picture her as a hillbilly type, and her accent doesn't sound much like the Ozarks to me, but I think she sell it.

Oakley starts out as a country girl from a small town who bags quail for a Cincinnati hotel. Her signature is hitting them square in the head, leaving no buckshot to pick out. The hotel manager brings her up to shoot against sharpshooter Preston Walker, and she is so taken by his good looks and smooth manner that she lets him win.

Melvyn Douglas sees her act and hires her on with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, setting up the triangle between her, Walker and Douglas. Now, she's an easy sell - everyone is against the idea of a girl sharpshooter until they meet her. She's just so sweet and charming. Walker on the other hand is pushy, self-promoting and obnoxious. But here's the twist. He confides only to Annie that this is just his show-biz persona. He is going to build up their rivalry to increase her audience.

So, in this version, the sharpshooter that she is in love with is not a jerk, he only pretends to be one. Interesting choice.

In addition to Stanwyck and her beaux, we have Moroni Olsen as a pretty majestic Buffalo Bill, and Chief Thunderbird as Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull is largely a comic foil, but there's a great scene where he spots someone from across a crowded stadium and then chases him across New York. Pretty good for an 80-year-old Indian.

So, all in all, pretty fun. Not Stanwyck's most difficult role. The heartache and melodrama is kept to a minimum, and they run through the mythmaking at a good clip. And I didn't miss the songs at all.

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