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  Take Me to Town Showgirl scandalizes small-minded town
Year: 1953
Director: Douglas Sirk
Stars: Ann Sheridan, Sterling Hayden, Phillip Reed, Lee Patrick, Lee Aaker, Harvey Grant, Dusty Henley, Larry Gates, Forrest Lewis, Phyllis Stanley, Dorothy Neumann, Ann Tyrell
Genre: Western, Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Wrongfully arrested, feisty, flame-haired saloon girl Vermillion O'Toole (Ann Sheridan) flees custody to hide in a quiet logging town called Timberline where scrappy urchins Corney (Lee Aaker), Petey (Harvey Grant) and Bucket (Dusty Henley) are looking for a woman to replace their late mother. They decide Vermillion will do nicely. Looking to lay low from the law and unscrupulous former partner Newt (Phillip Reed), she goes along with the plan. Widowed preacher Will Hall (Sterling Hayden) is initially bemused his sons brought home a saloon girl for a nanny, but vivacious Vermillion soon wins him over. However, led by local busybody Edna Stoffer (Phyllis Stanley), the deeply religious townsfolk are all in a tizzy over the presence of this "immoral" woman.

This feather-light comedy western is an atypical early credit for director Douglas Sirk and producer Ross Hunter. Both of whom went on to define the 1950s to a certain extent with their run of glossy, florid melodramas: e.g. Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), Imitation of Life (1959), etc. Hunter credited Ann Sheridan with giving him his big break after the star generously took on the lead his first production here for a fraction of her usual fee. In return the filmmakers fashioned one of Sheridan's better late career roles. Vermillion O’Toole is a great character - whip-smart, vivacious; able to survive the rowdy west by her wits alone - but the film does not really know what to do with her.

Lighter in tone than what classic film fans commonly associate with a Douglas Sirk picture, Take Me to Town (its title comes from a musical number Vermillion performs at the town talent show) has a set-up that anticipates later fish-out-of-water comedies like Overboard (1987). On the run, a sophisticated, headstrong, independent woman is saddled with some unruly kids but inevitably grows to love the little tykes, not to mention the handsome widower, and eventually settles down in domestic bliss. Screenwriter Richard Morris stretches an already thin premise about as far as it can go, adding mildly racy musical numbers (Ann performs "I’m a Flaming Redhead" with no small amount of va-va-voom) and contrived comedy bits like a woodland encounter with an angry bear. Unusually for heroines in these sorts of stories, Vermillion proves tolerant, easygoing and a capable domestic goddess from the get-go. Consequently the story really has nowhere to go beyond a string of cutesy episodes. Which might be why the film branches out into subplots involving the malevolent Newt and dogged U.S. Marshall (Larry Gates) leaving the plot a bit of a mess.

Indeed the bulk of the latter half of the film leans more towards a light satire of small town small-mindedness as local churchgoers go out of their way to make Vermillion feel unwelcome. At least this leads to a genuinely amusing scene where Will beats the tar out of one uppity parishioner then delivers an un-ironic sermon on the importance of brotherly love. Sterling Hayden, who can be great in comedies, is strictly in bland beefcake mode here, saddled with a stuffy, straightforward character. Ann Sheridan shares more chemistry with her trio of young co-stars. Her charisma and commitment supply what little entertainment value Take Me to Town has but the film remains inconsequential.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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