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Monday, June 19, 2017

Equal Rights For Bandit Women


Belle Starr (1941) Takes Aim At Jesse James Grosses


20th's valentine to the defeated south, and a bid for more of money showered on Jesse James in 1939. Belle Starr was glamorize of outlawry to a point of silly, but what matter where it was Gene Tierney in embrace of Randolph Scott and Technicolor? Seemed to Fox that bandits had good and sympathetic reason to blow trains and loot banks. In this case, Tierney does neither on screen, even as scenes were shot of her at stealing, then excised as release drew nigh. Code precept demanded Belle die for a finish, as with history and punishment provision of the PCA, but she could look fetching for all of exertions, that the point of memorializing her in the first place. So why watch? For one, there is HD abroad in viewing land, Belle Starr at the moment among freebies to Dish Network subscribers (well, far from free, but part of the package). Even as three-strip elements were deep-sixed decades ago, there is still suggestion of what Belle looked like when new and glorious.






Echoes of Jesse James, and more so, Gone With The Wind, abound. Narrative bumps go strictly in JJ groove. Belle is benign, hates Yankees like Jesse did the railroad, has her plantation burned to the ground for display of attitude, plus hiding of wounded Rebs. Much lore came of earth-scorching the bluecoats did on marches to the sea and elsewhere, not a few still around in '41 who knew the infamous score from family telling or even first-hand. They were sorts who'd gone to see Jesse James because he too fought gov't overreach, if in singular ways, and who cared about means where Yanks were still regarded by many an oppressive force? Reconstruction may have been over on official ledgers, but not in hearts of those who took brunt, and plenty of them saw kindred spirit in Jess and now Belle. Look close at badman cycle of late 30's/early 40's and there are plenty who got a pass for fighting heavy hand of law, even where they faced scuttle at the wind-up. It took all of us united in a world war to finally break up the party. Another year, in fact, and I don't think Belle Starr would have gotten made.


Belle Would Rob Trains For Publicity, But Not In Final Prints Of The Film


Injustice As Inflicted By Yankees --- WWII Would Smooth Regional Differences


"Great New Screen Personality" Gene Tierney is the "relentless champion of right" title character. A part like this, played to hilt and laden with costume, was how stars got made just ahead of December 7 and need for women to carry heavier burden of filling seats for male stars called to duty. Tierney would see her height through these years, as did others who'd please distaff patronage buying most of tickets. Hailed by ads as fighter against injustice, a "new Joan of Arc" of old Missouri, this was no Belle Starr as history recorded her, but movies weren't for clouding such issues, takeaway from Jesse James showing for sure that audience affection was entirely with the outlaw. Still, Belle Starr did but apx. half the business JJ saw, and wouldn't sustain but for a 1948 reissue, being not evergreen as was case for the older pic. Belle Starr is also largely unknown for its so far non-appearance on digital, no DVD or even streaming could I find, other than a couple of Region Two releases, one of which (from France) got a scathing review on Amazon ("Stay Away!").

3 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer speculates on the real-life Belle Starr vs. the Gene Tierney Belle Starr:


Perhaps the most egregious offense against historical accuracy committed by the film is the casting of Gene Tierney as Belle Starr. There are some photographs of the real Belle Starr extant, and they are evocative of nothing so much as the hardship of life on the plains, the apparent scarcity of women in the Wild West, and the inability of the photographic processes employed by itinerant photographers of the time to capture anything approximating feminine beauty. A Belle Starr resembling the luscious Miss Tierney could not have ventured anywhere without a full cavalry escort for protection.

I appreciate, however, that the only history the makers of the film had in mind was how well the recent “Jesse James” release had gone.

2:43 PM  
Blogger Skamdeth said...

Needs a we bit of proofreading. "...glamorize of outlawry to a point of silly"?

2:14 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

That's how I chose to write it. Conventional can be a "we" bit dull at times.

4:53 AM  

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