Thirteen years after Marlene Dietrich lit up the old west and the town of Bottleneck in particular in Destry Rides Again, she got another chance to play an older, but maybe not so much wiser version of Frenchie as Altar Keane in Rancho Notorious.
Apparently at one time Marlene was as notorious a saloon entertainer as Frenchie back in the day. But she's got a new line of work. She's taken her money and got a ranch now that doubles as an outlaw hideout. For a cut in their loot she gives them asylum. The place is called Chuck-a-Luck and its known in the western criminal community.
Enter Arthur Kennedy who is after the man who raped, robbed, and murdered his fiancé, Gloria Henry. He's got a line on the guy who did the deed that he's headed for this mysterious place called Chuck-a-Luck.
Kennedy joins a pantheon of male Fritz Lang protagonists who get terribly wronged and are seeking vengeance. It's a good group, Spencer Tracy in Fury, Glenn Ford in The Big Heat, Henry Fonda in The Return of Frank James. Lang's heroes are looking for vengeance and there's not too much they won't do to get it.
Before Hitler came to power, Fritz Lang was the top German director and Marlene Dietrich their brightest female star. They had not worked together while in Germany, over here they got involved romantically for a bit, but never professionally.
They were friends, but that ended with Rancho Notorious. Lang may have been anti-Nazi, but on the soundstage he was a regular Prussian martinet. Henry Fonda hated working with him on the two films he did and so did Dietrich.
One of the sheltered outlaws is George Reeves, taking a hiatus from Superman. Reeves is a love and leave them type and for a while Kennedy thinks he's the one that killed Henry. He does a very good job in the part and it's tragic to think he was capable of so much more than a kid's television superhero.
Mel Ferrer plays Marlene's boyfriend, a flashy gunman who curiously enough is named Frenchy. He's not a western type by any stretch, but the point is that he is a cut above the usual outlaw bunch at the Marlene hideaway.
Rancho Notorious is not a great western, a great Fritz Lang film, and definitely not one of Marlene's better films. But it's entertaining enough and there ain't no one like Ms. Dietrich as a saloon entertainer.
12 out of 22 found this helpful