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  Dirty Dingus Magee Frankly, My Dear, He Don't Give A Damn
Year: 1970
Director: Burt Kennedy
Stars: Frank Sinatra, George Kennedy, Anne Jackson, Lois Nettleton, Jack Elam, Michele Carey, John Dehner, Henry Jones, Harry Carey Jr, Paul Fix, Marya Thomas, Terry Wilson, Willis Bouchey, tom Fadden, Don ‘Red’ Barry
Genre: Western, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dingus Magee (Frank Sinatra) is making money in the Wild West as an ass-breaker, that is a rider who breaks in horses to tame them, but he wishes he could make his money a lot easier, and as luck would have it, after being thrown through a fence by one mighty steed, he spies an old friend who has just arrived by stagecoach. This is Hoke Birdsill (George Kennedy) who has recently come into some cash, not that he is willing to share it with anyone and especially not Magee, who he knows already is a low down, no good, cheating liar and thief, so he sensibly keeps his cache under his derby hat and tells him that all he has is seven dollars in his wallet. But when Magee takes him round the back wall to relieve himself, Hoke realises he has fallen into a trap!

That's right, here’s a movie where Ol' Blue Eyes holds up George Kennedy while he's taking a piss, which was about the level of humour you were in for should you decide to give this a go. It was almost Sinatra's final acting gig since after this he decided he wasn't enjoying filmmaking anymore and opted to concentrate on his concerts; he made brief returns to the silver screen, but this was more or less it as far as his ambitions to thespianism went, and watching this you could well see why. He was about forty years too old for the role of Magee, and sported one of the worst wigs ever to cover his cranium, looking as if he was wearing Johnny Depp's crow headgear from The Lone Ranger decades later.

Maybe Frank's toupee gave Johnny ideas, for the crooner was also slathered in brown makeup, whether to make him appear tanned or ethnic it was difficult to say, what was more definite was how seedy he looked, spending about half the movie, maybe more, dressed in nothing but bright pink long johns and white socks and with a fixed, lecherous grin on his phizog that would send any woman running for the hills (despite that, he did manage to get a girlfriend out of this in the shape of supporting actress Marya Thomas). There was something curiously squirmy about Sinatra here, and given he was playing a rogue he must have twigged some time after the fact, soon after, how terrible he came across here.

As a comedy, it was curiously reminiscent of Carry On Cowboy, with laboured double entendres littered throughout the dialogue, yet not enough to suggest they were truly committed to the concept as just as often the script resorted to broad slapstick where the cast's stunt doubles would fling themselves around for yucks. Even less believably, that script was co-written by Joseph Heller during the brief phase in the nineteen-sixties when he was seeking work as a screenwriter - you would search in vain for anything remotely resembling as witty or off the wall piece of humour as Heller conjured up in Catch-22; that was regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, while Dirty Dingus Magee was barely mentioned as one of the worst comedies or Westerns of the same period.

It wasn't utterly dreadful, but it surely had a dedicated try at being as crass as it could within the parameters of a family entertainment, leaving the biggest mystery as what attracted Sinatra to it in the first place. He showed little flair for delivering the gags, and the most you could say for it was that it bolstered his reputation as a womaniser thanks to the interest the actresses portrayed, even if you could believe they were more interested in the soldiers. With that staple of this era's Westerns, a cat house, and Kennedy trying to romance the madam (Anne Jackson) to get his own back on Magee while securing another fortune, plus comedy Indians played by white performers in brownface, this would have been more at home in a TV revue, though you would have to tone down the dodgier lines ("You forgot your cock!" says a prostitute to a departing soldier, then hands him a chicken). If you could imagine Sinatra as Sid James (and there was a weird facial resemblance here) then you would have an idea of what this was like. No, he didn't even sing the theme tune. Music by Jeff Alexander.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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