31 July 2017 | TheLittleSongbird
Doris goes west, with her film career going south
The main reason for seeing 'The Ballad of Josie' in the first place for me was Doris Day, having been of late on a completest quest seeing all the films of hers not yet seen.
Despite being one of her lowest rated films here (along with 'Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?' and 'Caprice'), being one of her less well critically received films and being disliked by Day herself, 'The Ballad of Josie' isn't that bad. At least from respectful personal opinion, though it does have a good deal wrong with it and it was made during a rather rocky period of Day's film career. Of course it is among the weaker end of her overall films but it is better than 'Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?', 'Lucky Me', 'Starlift', 'The West Point Story' (aka 'Fine and Dandy') and 'Tunnel of Love', all but one of which rated higher.
As is the case with all her films, even her lesser ones, Day is the reason to see the film in the first place and also the best thing about it. She does a very good job, having a balance of charm and feistiness. 'The Ballad of Josie' is a good-looking film too, not exactly evocative but full of rustic attractive colours and handsomely designed production values shot beautifully.
Regarding the music, it is pretty excellent. It is cleverly orchestrated and rousing. The title song is a lovely and memorable one, though, despite Don Costa singing it well, there was a missed opportunity regarding Day not singing it. Was mixed on the supporting cast but felt that Elizabeth Fraser beguiled the screen whenever she appeared, Andy Devine clearly has fun and brought some much needed authenticity and John Fiedler is amusing.
However, not all the supporting cast come off well, suffering from characters that are not particularly interesting or used well. Peter Graves has a bland uninteresting role and plays it just as much, while George Kennedy's character is underwritten and underused (although it is a kind of role that Kennedy is perfect for and he does his best with what he's given). Having Andrew V. McLaglen on board as director promised a lot, being a veteran of the western genre. The simplicity of the direction is to be admired, but too much of the time it was a case of getting the job done but it comes over as workmanlike.
Sadly the story is often very dull, narratively it is as thin as a thin piece of tissue and in the more less than eventful parts the pace is sluggish. The script is tonally somewhat muddled, with some frequent and too often tiresome attempts at humour that never seems to fit and the more western-oriented parts lack grit. Despite looking good, 'The Ballad of Josie' never looks evocative with a lot of it looking too clean, too nice and too newly fresh.
Overall, a long way from a disaster but Day did much better in her career and deserved better as well. 5/10 Bethany Cox