After making two successful films together in 1941—the uplifting Meet John Doe and the charming Ball of Fire, it’s surprising Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck didn’t work together again for twelve years.
It was perhaps inevitable that Blowing Wild, their third and final film together, would be a western, as both turn to the genre in the 1950s as they aged out of playing the dashing young hero and ingénue.
As in their previous films, Cooper plays the good guy—the one who insists on playing by the rules and staying on the straight and narrow, while Stanwyck tries to corrupt him.
In this iteration, Cooper plays Jeff Dawson, an American oil wildcatter in South America who’s so broke that bandits can’t find a dime on him or his partner Dutch (Ward Bond) when they try to rob them. For spite, the bandits blow up their single oil well and their best chance at striking it rich.
In desperation, Dutch mugs a man in a dark alley for food money, but it turns out to be their old friend Ward “Paco” Conway (Anthony Quinn). Paco has struck it rich in South America, and has a huge custom-built house, wads of cash, and a dozen oil wells pumping day and night.
Paco’s job offer seems like the answer to their prayers but for one problem: Paco’s wife is Jeff’s ex.
And she’s not just any ex—Marina (Stanwyck) is as predatory as a black widow spider and immediately sets her sights on getting Jeff back.
Jeff knows trouble when he sees it, and figures that taking a job hauling a load of dynamite over bumpy dirt roads while being chased by bandits is less dangerous than being around Marina again.
But Dutch is shot in the leg and hospitalized during the job, and the man who hired them double-crosses them and leaves them as broke as when they started.
Jeff has no choice but to take the job with Paco, who is thrilled to have his buddy working for him again and oblivious to the attraction between Jeff and Marina.
Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck both made some excellent westerns during their careers; sadly, Blowing Wild isn’t among them. It’s not a terrible film—looking at Cooper’s lined face and cowboy walk are never a hardship, and it’s fun to watch Marina scheme and ever murder to get the man she wants—a man she wants mostly because he no longer wants her.
Lauren Bacall turned down the role because she was locked in a power struggle with Jack Warner at the time and rightly felt the role lacked subtlety. Stanwyck probably agreed but relished the opportunity to ride a horse onscreen—Marina recklessly racing her husband’s car on horseback is an inspired scene that illuminates Marina’s character and allows Stanwyck to show off her riding skills.
The film was panned at the time—a year before Cooper and Stanwyck had played better versions of the same roles in High Noon and Clash By Night, and reviewers unfairly described Stanwyck’s character as a cut-rate version of her Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity.
There’s something here for fans of Cooper, Stanwyck, and westerns. But the casual film viewer who wants an introduction or greatest hits of any of the above should look elsewhere.
I suppose you can’t win them all.
That’s a new box on the form. Stanwyck/Cooper dans only. It’s no Ball of Fire, but star power counts for something…what is a cowboy walk? How does one walk like a cowboy?
Hmm….how do I explain the cowboy walk? Sort of bowlegged, legs spread apart, one big step at a time. I guess you know it when you see it!
Gary Cooper does this? Really?
Only when he’s playing a cowboy!!!
Will you be covering this in your lecture?
Not this time, but maybe I should give a future seminar demonstrating the cowboy walk
I would be willing to contribute my own research and theories to any compendium of classic bow legged walks. Just let me know where and when to turn up. Think the public will be interested in my findings.
If you’re planning a trip to America anytime soon, we’ll set it up! Lol
We will make the academic study of bowlegged cowboys our area of academic excellence!
Love it. I can’t imagine a better way to spend one’s life …
We’ll save cinema, one bowlegged walk at a time!
I can come too and take photos or it won’t have happened!
I think Dix might already be au fait with the leg thing, he has horses.
Why am I getting your comments to Melanie? Cowboys walk bow-legged.
I guess you’re just lucky to be able to listen to the enlightening chat of two great cinematic experts?
Hmmm. Well one at least.
Melanie is a genuine expert and a much sought after speaker!
I can never fully pan a Stanwyck film!