• U.S.

Cinema: Unadult Western

2 minute read

Mail Order Bride. This wistful little romantic comedy looks as though it would like to grow up and become a western. It has gunfights, cattle rustlers, painted women and a smoke-filled gambling hall, but all the roaring wickedness is dedicated wholeheartedly to the proposition that a feller (Keir Dullea) needs a girl (Lois Nettleton). Cupid’s leathery old handmaiden is Buddy Ebsen, a family friend who holds the deed to a decrepit ranch left to Dullea by his late father, though Dullea can’t claim it until he simmers down some. One morning Ebsen strides out of the privy with a Monky Ward order book and begins thumbing through the catalogued commodities: wagons, wheat seed, whitewash . . . wives! Off he goes to Kansas City to fetch home for Dullea a scrubbed young widow and her small son.

Despite the predictable foolishness of a plot that further synopsis would condemn, Bride is an amiable featherweight entertainment, mostly because its cast has buoyant appeal. Masquerading as the frontier wilderness of Montana circa 1890, California’s High Sierra country fills the wide screen with some breathtaking acreage that no TV oat opera can duplicate. Actor Ebsen seems an authentic embodiment of covered wagon grit. And though Dullea’s bad boy characterization scarcely conceals that he is easily redeemable—a sort of boor next door—his warm, fresh, quietly persuasive scenes with Actress Nettleton recall his vivid debut in David and Lisa, and enhance both actors’ reputations as a pair of arresting young talents for whom better movies ought to be made.

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