HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Weathering with You
Rim of the World
Love & Basketball
JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time
Trapped
We Need to Do Something
Falbalas
Vanguard
A-X-L
Injustice
Bigfoot Hunters
Armitage III: Polymatrix
Girls Nite Out
Moxie!
Five Women for the Killer
Dolce Vita, La
Pig
I Am Belmaya
Lodger, The
Show, The
Beta Test, The
Medium, The
John and the Hole
Survivalist, The
Ape Woman, The
Black Widow
Cop Secret
Dark Eyes of London, The
V/H/S/94
Fay Grim
Night of the Animated Dead
Freshman Year
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Anne at 13,000 Ft.
Even Mice Belong in Heaven
Death Screams
Freakscene: The Story of Dinosaur Jr.
Demonia
East, The
Mandabi
   
 
Newest Articles
You Can't Tame What's Meant to Be Wild: The Howling on Blu-ray
Commendably Brief: Short Sharp Shocks Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Super Silents: Early Universal Vol. 2 on Blu-ray
Fable Fear: The Singing Ringing Tree on Blu-ray
Gunsight Eyes: The Sabata Trilogy on Blu-ray
Bloody Bastard Baby: The Monster/I Don't Want to Be Born on Blu-ray
Night of the Animated Dead: Director Jason Axinn Interview
The ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt - Interview with Director/Star Ian Boldsworth
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
Too Much to Bear: Prophecy on Blu-ray
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
   
 
  Belle Starr Gone with the Wind-lite
Year: 1941
Director: Irving Cummings
Stars: Randolph Scott, Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Shepperd Strudwick, Elizabeth Patterson, Chill Wills, Louise Beavers, Olin Howland, Paul E. Burns, Joe Sawyer, Joe Downing, Howard C. Hickman, Charles Trowbridge, James Flavin, Charles Middleton
Genre: Western, Romance, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: At the end of the American Civil War southern beauty Belle Starr (Gene Tierney) welcomes home her brother Ed (Shepperd Strudwick) among the returning soldiers who lost the Confederate cause. Yet while Ed accepts his lot, plucky Belle remains defiant against the Yankee carpetbaggers and new laws telling proud Missourri folk what they can and cannot do. In a show of defiance Belle invites Sam Starr (Randolph Scott), handsome captain of a ragtag group of rebels, into her house for dinner right in front of Union officer Thomas Crail (Dana Andrews). On military orders, in spite of his feelings for Belle, Major Crail has his men burn down her house before arresting Sam. This spurs Belle to spring Sam from jail whereupon she joins his outlaw army and puts her sharpshooting skills to use fighting Yankee invaders.

This sugar-coated biopic does not let a little thing like historical accuracy get in the way of a rattling romantic yarn. For the record the real Belle Starr – or Myra Maybelle Shirley Starr which was her full name – was a notorious outlaw and prostitute in the Old West. She rode with Jesse James, was romantically involved with both Sam Starr (whom she did indeed marry) and Cole Younger and had no real political motivations behind her actions. Needless to say she bore no resemblance whatsoever to the heart-meltingly lovely Gene Tierney. Tierney's mega-wattage movie star charisma goes some way towards making this saccharine tosh palatable although no fan would rate this her finest hour.

Remarkably, Belle Starr was scripted by Lamar Trotti who penned John Ford's superb Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) and the equally laudable The Ox-Bow Incident (1941) along with the original Cheaper By the Dozen (1950). Yet this film serves up a crass, sentimentalized vision of the Old South heavily influenced by Gone with the Wind (1939) with noble plantation owners fighting only to protect their freedom (including the right to enslave other human beings) and inexplicably beloved by their faithful black servants. The film holds up Belle as a heroine somehow emblematic of the Antebellum South, a gusty, defiant proto-feminist who risks all for her cause and her man. Yet it regrettably weds these heroic qualities to some deeply dubious politics. While Belle exhibits nothing but love for her Mammy Lou (Louise Beavers) the film exudes outrage over images of newly-freed slaves whooping it up in the streets and black women wearing pretty frocks once reserved for their white mistresses. Gasp! For a modern audience the casual racism is hard to bear no matter how jokey the tone, whether it is Sam calling Mammy an Ethiopian elephant or Ed's reoccurring monologue (“Did I ever tell you the story of the old darkie...”).

Still, one suspects Trotti's script was heavily altered once Twentieth Century Fox brought on board Irving Cummings, the veteran actor turned producer-director best known for splashy Technicolor musicals involving the likes of Betty Grable, Shirley Temple or Alice Faye, who was actually set to star as Belle until last minute casting changes. Having said that Cummings was Oscar nominated for In Old Arizona (1929), an accomplished western adventure detailing the exploits of O. Henry's the Cisco Kid, and the first talkie filmed outdoors. While Belle's arc is much the same as that of Scarlett O'Hara, transitioning from spoiled, naive rich girl to conscience-stricken heroine, the script does not let her or Sam entirely off the hook. As Ed points out their actions only plunge Missouri deeper into turmoil. When Sam's merry outlaws are joined by the Cole brothers, Belle rightly pegs them as fellows who could not give a hoot for the South and what they are fighting for. Sure enough, tragedy ensues and she is left wondering whether Sam really feels the same way about things. The depiction of how the carpetbaggers' callous destruction of the South sowed seeds of embitterment that endured well into the twentieth century carries a grain of truth but this is not the film that grapples with the complexities underlining such issues. Further Belle Starr movies followed down the years with Jane Russell bringing some va-va-voom to the role in Montana Belle (1952) and Elsa Martinelli no less glamorous in Lina Wertmuller's spaghetti western oddity The Belle Starr Story (1968) but only Pamela Reed got the closest to a relatively accurate portrayal of the lady outlaw in Walter Hill's late western The Long Riders (1980).

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 2960 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Andrew Pragasam
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
   

 

Last Updated: