One of the last films to be made at RKO Studios, THE FIRST TRAVELING SALESLADY can boast a startling cast but very little else. Its star, Ginger Rogers, was only slightly exaggerating both ways when she said that she'd been there at the studio's beginnings and was there at its end. She's the saleslady of the title, selling barbed wire in Texas in the year 1897 while throwing her voice. I don't believe that they stole this plot idea from anywhere. Carol Channing is Ginger's buddy, a model (of corsets, not barbed wire dresses) who sings the only song in the movie while playing the traditional comic sidekick. James Arness is the villain who's not all that villainy, really, and seems to be having more fun playing the role than he ever did while playing Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke for 20 years. Barry Nelson is around as an automobile inventor and love interest for Ginger, but most attention will go to Clint Eastwood in a small role as a cavalry officer who's smitten by...Carol Channing! With Channing, Rogers and Arness in the cast, genuine idols of stage, screen and television respectively, what audience of 1956 would ever have guessed that Clint Eastwood would wind up the biggest idol of them all? Perhaps Clint himself had an inkling, as he flashes more smiles in his small role than he did in pretty much the rest of his career.
The movie itself is a mild comedy which is pleasant enough for an hour or so before becoming quite tedious during its final half hour. THE FIRST TRAVELING SALESLADY ranks low on everyone's resume though probably not at the bottom of anyone's. It's a harmless way to while away the time, but that's about it.
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