Spanish aristocrat Don Andrea Baldazar (Alain Delon) is set to marry his sweetheart, southern belle Phoebe Ann Naylor (Rosemary Forsyth), when wedding is crashed by cavalry officers led by Captain Rodney Stimpson (Mission Impossible’s Peter Graves). Evidently, Phoebe Ann was a former girlfriend of Stimpson’s cousin, Lieutenant Yancy Cottle (Stuart Anderson), who attempts to abduct the bride and is accidentally slain by Don Andrea. Don Andrea flees across the border to Texas where cowboy Sam Hollis (Dean Martin) and his Indian sidekick Kronk (Joey Bishop) trick him into helping transport a wagonload of guns to the imperilled settlers at Moccasin Flats. After Don Andrea chivalrously rescues an Indian girl called Loneta (achingly lovely Tina Aumont), the quarrelsome duo are pursued by Comanche Indians. Their relationship is further fraught after the ever-lecherous Sam takes a shine to the newly-arrived Phoebe Ann.
“Just the sound of Texas gets me blue in the solar plexus!” sing the Kingston Trio. Their theme tune stands out amidst the surf guitar and Hammond organ soundtrack composed by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen, which alongside the cartoon credits sets the goofy tone for this amiable comedy western. A typically knockabout romp from the mid-Sixties, this comes from director Michael Gordon, who made film noir thrillers and the original Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) till he fell victim to the Communist blacklist. Producer Ross Hunter lured Gordon into a comeback directing Doris Day classics Pillow Talk (1959) and Move Over Darling (1963) and Texas Across the River is firmly in that tradition of frothy fun. It is mostly amusing, although veers uncomfortably between satirising mid-western ignorance (e.g. the cavalrymen think wealthy aristocrat Don Andrea a “freeloading immigrant”) and indulging in racist jokes. Just count how many times somebody wisecracks “in the dark all redskins look alike.” As well as casting Rat Pack court jester Joey Bishop as the wacky comedy sidekick, most of the Indians here are portrayed as cowardly, lecherous or plain inept. Plus there comes a truly tasteless gag when Sam complains why wasn’t Kronk born a Comanche and he replies: “Mother run too fast.”
Counterbalancing things slightly is the fact it takes Loneta to show white men how to tame a herd of Longhorn cattle, while Don Andrea decently defends her from the townsfolk who try to hand her over and save their own hides. Half-Spanish Tina Aumont (billed here under her then-married name as Tina Marquand) imbues Loneta with a degree of grace and dignity, belying her casting as a sort of flower child love interest, while Rosemary Forsyth’s delicious southern belle gets a fair shake too, given she is who finally proves Don Andrea’s innocence. The sweet romance that gently unfolds between the Spaniard and the Indian girl is more agreeable than Sam’s frequent attempts to cop a feel off Phoebe Ann. While Dean Martin is his usual laid-back, affable self, Alain Delon shines in an all-too rare comic role. This was another of the French icon’s infrequent attempts to kick-start a Hollywood career and, while no more successful than Once a Thief (1965) or Scorpio (1973), he proves a genuine hoot with his propensity for passionately kissing men on the cheek. “If you aim to stay healthy in these parts you better learn to shake hands”, remarks Sam.