6 August 2020 | dglink
The Con Man and the Blonde
Fast talking conman "Candy" Johnson is a kissing cousin to a Rhett Butler without card tricks; oozing charm that disarms men and women alike, Candy arrives in the Western town of Yellow Creek and, through corruption, rises to the top both politically and economically. Made only two years after "Gone with the Wind," "Honky Tonk" has some echoes of the Selznick epic woven into its melodramatic scenario. However, the primary throwback to the Civil War epic is Clark Gable, who not only looks exactly as he did as Butler, but his performance closely tracks the earlier iconic role as well. Cocky and flashing his trademark grin, Gable flirts, cons, and shoots with the best, aided and abetted by Chill Wills as his bewhiskered side-kick, "The Sniper."
The twenty-year age difference between Gable and the film's female lead, Lana Turner, passes without remark, because Gable's charms are understandably ageless. At age 20, Turner is already glamorous and incandescent with her bleached blonde hair and pale flawless skin, which glow in Harold Rosson's crisp black-and-white camera-work. Beyond Wills, the other supporting players are skilled veterans. Sharp and tough, Claire Trevor is always fascinating to watch, and she provides romantic rivalry for Turner and gal-pal friendship for Gable. Frank Morgan as Turner's alcoholic father and Albert Dekker as Gable's rival for power are effective, and Marjorie Main supplies the needed light moments. All told, the stars and cast are the film's primary assets.
Directed by Jack Conway, "Honky Tonk" is a predictable, but entertaining star vehicle for Gable and a showcase for emerging star Lana Turner. As such, fans of Turner will be entranced, while Gable's followers will consider the film essential viewing.