Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood are co-hosting this special blogathon. This one is all about the actress Olivia de Havilland, and the actor Errol Flynn. Be sure to visit Phyllis and Crystal’s sites to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.
Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn were one of the most popular film couples of classic era Hollywood. The pair starred together in eight films. I’ve decided to write about Dodge City (1939); this early Technicolor Western is my favourite out of all of their films.
Why do I love this film so much? Well, firstly, I really love the changing relationship between Olivia and Errol’s characters in this one. The relationship has a rocky start, but soon neither one can deny their growing mutual love and affection. As the film goes on their affection for one another becomes harder to deny.
Both Olivia and Errol really make you believe the feelings their characters develop for one another. They are so tender in their shared scenes together and I love watching their relationship progress. They had a chemistry that is so obvious and makes it easy to believe their characters are falling for one another.
Secondly, I enjoy this film very much because it’s a very exciting Western. This one shows us that people lived and died by the gun back then. You had to be careful of what you said or did in case someone took offence and took a shot at you. I especially love the scene in the barber shop, where Wade (Errol Flynn) is cool in the face of intimidation from the local bad guy and his henchman; he calmly stands up and puts on his gun belt (just in case he should have need of it later)and stands his ground. They wanted a fight, but he was smart enough not to let them wind him up and give them an excuse for one. It also shows that life was tough back then and that death was always waiting just around the corner.
I also like how the film shows us the old west changing. The opening scene is very interesting to me as it literally shows the old west being taken over by the new. A train speeds through the open country causing animals to run in terror from the noise. A stagecoach tries to outride the train and fails to match the speed of the locomotive. The trains speed surpasses that of the horse and carriage. In just a short time after this time, the west of the cowboy would vanish; open country would soon be gone as more and more towns and cities were built, and an entire way of life would soon change forever.
This is a film screaming out to seen on the big screen. There are many shots of vast open country. Plenty of scenes are also made extremely vibrant due to the marvel that was Technicolor. Everything about this film is on a big scale.
The film begins with Dodge City being settled, and with the railroad gaining popularity. It is hoped that this will be an extremely civilised place, somewhere to be proud of and hold up as an example to others. Moving forward a few years, we see that Dodge City has become the town we know it as today; it has become a place where morals and ethics are none existent, and killing is as common and natural as talking and eating.
Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn) is a cowboy who helped set up the railroad into Dodge City. Wade soon finds himself facing antagonism and hatred from various people. He leads a cattle drive that is also doubling as a protective escort for several settlers.
Two of these settlers are the young Abbie Irving (Olvia de Havilland)and her brother (William Lundigan). When Abbie’s brother gets drunk and starts firing his gun, the cattle get frightened and Wade tells the younger man to stop; this conversation unfortunately only serves to wind the younger man up and he keeps right on firing. This time the cattle stampede and he is killed. Abbie blames Wade for her brother’s death.
Wade takes up the job of Dodge City sheriff and faces danger from the local big shot, Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot)and his bloodthirsty henchman, Yancey (Victor Jory). Things are further complicated when Abbie comes back into Wades life and her own life becomes endangered. Slowly she cannot deny her growing feelings for him, even though she is still torn apart by her brothers death. Will Wade clean up Dodge City? Can he protect Abbie? Will Wade and Abbie be able to have a happy relationship? Watch this film to find out.
Olivia is utterly luminous in this film, her character is so innocent and pure. Abbie struggles with her love for Wade, she can’t deny her feelings but she tries not to admit them. Abbie can’t get over the tragedy she blames Wade for causing. Olivia tells us much with her eyes in this film – a besotted look here and there indicates her growing attraction to Wade, and her eyes sparkle with the amusement that perhaps doesn’t show on her lips etc. This is one of my favourite films that Olivia ever starred in, she brings so much to each scene.
Errol is at his athletic, heroic and charming best here. He makes Wade a man who knows how to defend himself, but who prefers words as weapons instead of guns; he will and can use weapons if necessary, but often he doesn’t need to as he can defuse a situation in another way.
There’s fine support from Bruce Cabot as a man who won’t get his hands dirty, but is more than happy to order deaths a plenty. Surrett isn’t a man you want to cross, and he is accustomed to getting his own way. Wade isn’t afraid of him, and that makes him angry.
Victor Jory steals every scene he is in, as the vicious, trigger happy Yancey.
Alan Hale is hysterical as Wade’s outgoing, fun loving best friend, Rusty. The scene where Rusty gives in to his desire to join in a barroom brawl, is one of the best remembered scenes in the film.
A young Ann Sheridan has a small role as a sexy saloon singer.
There’s also a welcome appearance from Henry Travers who plays Abbie’s uncle, Dr. Irving.
My favourite scenes are the following. Wade falling down (much to Abbie’s amusement)in the newspaper office. Surrett arriving at the barber shop for a bath, only to find Rusty in there and Wade telling Surrett that he can’t use the bath until Rusty has finished. Wade and Abbie’s first kiss while they are on horseback. The opening sequence. The barroom brawl. Wade telling Abbie that she is stubborn.
As an added bonus, the following are the five films in which I think Olivia and Errol gave their best performances.
1- The Snake Pit
2- The Dark Mirror
3- The Heiress
4- Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte
5- Gone With The Wind
1- Edge of Darkness
2- Santa Fe Trail
3- The Adventures of Robin Hood
4- Dodge City
5- Captain Blood
I still need to see Errol in The Dawn Patrol, which I understand is one of his best performances.
Today sees Olivia celebrating her 101st birthday! Happy birthday Olivia, and thank you for so many wonderful film performances. I hope you have a lovely day on this milestone birthday.
I’d love to read your thoughts on Dodge City. Please leave your comments below. I also welcome any comments about that amazing chemistry between Errol and Olivia. What a pair! I never get tired of watching them.