30 January 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Not an awful lot of beauty sadly
'The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend' could and should have been good. One does indeed expect quite a lot from Preston Sturges, whose prime period was one of the best of any director with particularly the likes of 'The Lady Eve', 'The Miracle of Morgan's Creek', 'Hail the Conquering Hero' and my favourite of his 'Sullivan's Travels'. And from a cast that includes Betty Grable, Cesar Romero and Sterling Holloway.
It is unfortunate that instead 'The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend' was a big disappointment, as an overall film and when you take into account what it had going for it. It is not difficult to see why it was considered a major disappointment with critics at the time, and it is especially a big disappointment by Sturges standards (being the film that was his career death knell somewhat, and of all of the films seen of his, which is nearly all, it does get my pick for his worst). Will agree though with others that 'The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend' is not that awful or that it is that much of a catastrophe (so agree far more with its slightly improved over-time re-appraisal), but it is severely wanting in too many areas and is not a good representation really of all involved.
Despite the disappointment felt watching 'The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend', there are things that make it watchable. The closest the film gets to being beautiful is the production values, with the truly lavish Technicolor, Sturges' first Technicolor film on a side note, being the main reason to see it. The production design and photography are fabulous. The songs may not be exactly memorable, but they are fun and pleasant. Particularly "Every Time I Meet You", which is charming and a welcome lighter moment. "In the Gloaming" is close behind.
A few funny moments here and there, though they are too far and between, particularly with Hugh Herbert and the fantastically nuts finale. The cast generally do well with what they have, with Grable particularly shining followed by suave Cesar Romero and wonderfully daffy Herbert. Margaret Hamilton is also amusing, who also bags one of the funnier moments at the start.
Sterling Holloway however was never more irritating than here, playing one of the Basserman Boys characters, characters so grating and unbearingly over-played that they very nearly single-handedly bring the film down. They don't quite though because there are other things wrong. It is hard to believe that 'The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend' is a Sturges film in direction and writing, his direction is very heavy-handed and suggestive that he was both not interested in the material and struggling to control it, attributes that are not like him at all. The script is little better, the wit, sharpness, bite, sophistication and cynical slyness are barely there and even less so the natural wackiness and daring, instead the dialogue and gags on the most part are far too vulgar, brash and over-time feel so stretched beyond the limit that much of the humour falls flat.
Few amusing and charming moments aside, the story has moments where it is far too slight and then there are other times where one really wishes that the film was longer and had a slower pace. Because much of it is too rushed and the mounting complications get increasingly absurd and confused and it becomes exhausting. The characters were either bland or irritating, and little more than caricatures. Most of the cast have far too little to do, Rudy Vallee especially is wasted.
Concluding, watchable but very underwhelming. 5/10 Bethany Cox