Formerly titled Arizona Mahoney, based on a character in the movie, this classic Western is unique in that it incorporates a lot of humor into its plot. Sure, it still features lots of shoot-‘em-up action, but it incorporates a funny elephant from a circus not to mention some comedic characters. It also has Buster Crabbe, Flash Gordon, from this period when the movie was filmed, as a foreman named Kirby Talbot, who starts off bad but then turns good.
The movie kicks off in high gear, with a stagecoach carrying passengers and a money box. Suddenly some trees come rolling down in front of the stagecoach, and then robbers show up. As one of the drivers says to the other, “Don’t try to pull a gun. They’ve got the drop on us.” The thieves not only want the money box, but they even take candy from a lady passenger!
The robbers make the drivers take off the wheels from the coach before they flee with their stolen goods. One man says, “If I wasn’t a Christian, I’d cuss.” The other man replies, “Well, I’m not one. I’ll do the cussing for the two of us.” He is obviously very unhappy at being robbed.
Soon after several people show up with an elephant and riding toward the town of Shasta. The circus is coming to town! In the group is the ring master, Mahoney (Joe Cook), and Phil Randall (Robert Cummings), who winds up falling for a local lady rancher, Sue Bixby (June Martel).
Mahoney, providing some comic relief, claims he’s a crack shot, but then misses when attempting to shoot a bird from its perch. “Why, you don’t think I’d shoot a poor, defenseless bird?” he asks after missing the shot. In another funny moment, Mahoney is searching for someone to be shot out of a cannon. A woman volunteers, saying she wants to wear tights and be shot out of the cannon. Unfortunately, she’s a bit wide. Mahoney says, “In all the world, there isn’t such a cannon!” When he’s invited to supper, he is told what time the lady wants him there and he replies, “A Mahoney has never been known to disappoint a lady, or to be late for supper!”
In another comedic moment, Phil is hit by a bullet during an exchange of gunfire, and comments, “It’s the first time I’ve ever been hit, and I don’t think I like it!” Foreman Kirby admits his past mistakes to Sue Bixby, who trusts him for his candor. Soon Kirby is after the latest cattle rustlers who have stolen from Bixby’s ranch.
Mahoney is grabbed and placed behind a locked door when he learns some things that the bad guys don’t want him to share. But soon he calls on his trusty elephant to back into a wooden wall to free him.
The film features some fights and shooting scenes, with a few characters meeting their demise. It also contains a couple of scenes of cigar smoking. It has merited our Dove seal for Ages 12+. It incorporates the themes of changing bad behavior, loyalty, and the importance of keeping a sense of humor.
The Dove Take
This classic Western still has charm, humor, and plenty of action for today’s audience and viewers!