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Calamity Jane (1953)

The biggest tomboy in the West tries to become a real woman and get her man.

Directed by:

David Butler

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 97 minutes

UK Certificate: U

On DVD

Country: United States

Doris Day stars as Calamity Jane, a hard-riding, gun-toting, tomboyish woman in buckskins who lives in Deadwood where she is just one of the guys. She has a fondness for army officer Lt. Danny Gilmartin (Philip Carey), but he doesn't seem to consider her to be his type. She also has an ongoing friendly rivalry with Wild Bill Hickok. 'Calam' just can't resist boasting, even though most of her endeavours are a little disastrous. When a crowd of her male friends are disappointed by the appearance of a drag queen rather than an actress at the local theatre, she prevents a riot by promising to go to Chicago in order to bring back famous actress Adelaid Adams (Gale Robbins) to appear on stage in Deadwood.

As good as her word, Calam goes to Chicago and tracks down the theatre where Adelaid Adams is appearing. However, when she makes her way backstage, she mistakes the actress's maid Katie Brown (Allyn McLerie) for the actress herself. Katie has ambitions to be an actress and decides not to tell Calam who she really is, so Calam escorts 'Adelaid' back to Deadwood. It is not long before Katie's secret comes out, but the townsfolk decide they want her to stay anyway, and Wild Bill Hickok is completely smitten by her. However, problems arise when Danny and Katie fall for each other while Bill and Calam are left on the sidelines.

This is a fine musical from an age of great musicals, which makes no pretence at being in any way historically accurate and concentrates instead on being good entertainment. Her outing as Calam may have been Doris Day's finest performance - and certainly her most energetic. Howard Keel is a charming, if unlikely, Wild Bill. Although the plot is a simple one, the action never flags right up until the happy ending. All the songs are outstanding, not just the Oscar-winning 'Secret Love', and are performed with great joy and verve. 'Calamity Jane' is pure unadulterated fun.

It's Got: Doris Day in buckskins and at her very best.

It Needs: To be viewed with no expectations of historical accuracy.

DVD Extras Its always nice to see an effort made to include extras with a film of this age. Extras: Western Style newsreel, Photo Play newsreel, Theatrical trailer, Awards. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Annie Get Your Gun, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Harvey Girls.

Summary

This is a cheerful western musical with bags of energy and optimism, and plenty of great songs. Timeless.

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2 Comments

  1. John L
    Posted January 14, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a great review of this film. In summing up you said this film was ‘timeless,’ and it truely is.
    The story has been well described above, but as we all know a musical stands or falls by the quality of the songs. It is hard to express how good the songs are in this show.
    Lets start by saying that it won the Oscar for Best Song that year (Secret Love). However, I wouldn’t even consider it the best song in this music. It would go in at number 4 for me, after The Deadwood Stage (Whip Crack Away), I Just Blew in from the Windy City and the beautiful, My Love is Higher than a Hawk.
    There are at least three more songs which are excellent.
    Doris Day is just fantastic in this movie and Howard Keel is a great foil.
    The reviewer was right to say that its not historically accurate, and thanks godness it isn’t. This is a musical not a documentary.
    It you watch this film which an open heart then you will love it.

  2. Vicki
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    OMG! Easiest the BEST musical ever!!! I love the songs and the storyline. Doris Day is amazin!

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