The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958) and Desperate Search (1952)
The laundry had to get done, so after deciding on the warm cycle, I eased myself onto the fraying couch and watched Raoul Walsh's The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, a laid-back western comedy from 1958. It has a number of things going for it, including CinemaScope, DeLuxe Color, and Jayne Mansfield, a combination rather impossible to muck up. And with old pro Walsh behind the camera, it doesn't. Kenneth More plays Tibbs, a London gentlemen sent to sell his family company's guns over in the Wild West. When he informs the locals of Fractured Jaw that he's in the gun business, they assume he's a gunslinger hired by one of the local ranch gangs. He's soon named Sheriff after he inadvertantly disarms one of the thugs. The comedy comes from the dissonance between languages and cultures - Tibbs asks for extra-dry sherry at the bar (the bartender informs him they have whiskey and water, and they don't serve water). Mansfield operates and, much to my satisfaction, performs in the local dancehall, a no-nonsense tough gal who runs roughnecks out of her joint on a regular basis. She soon falls for Tibbs' gentlemanly charms, but is shocked by his commitment to diplomacy. Instead of engaging in a shootout with Native Americans, he walks over and talks to them - and soon he's adopted as one of their own. As such, it's also a kid-gloves satire of the bloody nature of American politics - at one point, when the two gangs are about to battle, he asks if Americans are always so violent. Anyway, a breezy and fun piece of work.
Earlier in the week, Turner Classic Movies aired Desperate Search, a Joseph H. Lewis cheapie from 1952. The film is as concise as its title. A plane crashes in the wilderness and two children are the sole survivors. Their father and stepmother (Howard Keel and Jane Greer) desperately search for them on a prop plane along with a hastily gathered search party. Among the party is Keel's ex-wife Nora (Patricia Medina) - who happens to rival Keel in terms of flying skill. Tension! And did I mention the kids are being chased by a cougar! It's over in 73 minutes and every scene bubbles with conflict, whether its old jealousies or bared teeth. The child actors are horrendous, but that didn't stop my enjoyment one bit. It also stars Keenan Wynn as a bitter and lovable bastard named "Brandy".