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|JUBILEE TRAIL (director: Joseph Kane; screenwriters: Bruce Manning/based on the novel by Gwen Bristow; cinematographer: Jack Marta; editor: Richard L. Van Enger; music: Victor Young; cast: Joan Leslie (Garnet Hale), Vera Ralston (Florinda Grove, aka Julie Latour), Forrest Tucker (John Ives), John Russell (Oliver Hale), Ray Middleton (Charles Hale), Pat O'Brien (Ernest 'Texas' Conway), Buddy Baer (Nicolai Gregorovitch Karakozeff 'Handsome Brute'), Jim Davis (Silky, L.A. Saloon owner), Barton MacLane (Deacon Bartlett), Richard Webb (Capt. Brown), James Millican (Rinaldi, Hale gunman), Jack Elam (Whitey, Hale gunman), Pilar Del Rey (Carmelita Velasco), Martin Garralaga (Don Rafael Velasco); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph Kane; Republic; 1954)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
B-movie filmmaker Joseph Kane ("The Man Who Died Twice"/"The Last Stagecoach West"/"Duel at Apache Wells") efficiently directs this overlong and uninspiring Western, that stars Republic studio head Herbert J. Yates' untalented and forty years younger Czechoslovakian-born wife Vera Ralston. This alone ensured the expansive film would stumble, though it did a moderate business in the box office. The heavily-accented Ralston plays a dance hall singer with a heart of gold, who belts out a few songs including a French ditty. Yates advertised the film as a GWTW epic, which never materialized for the B-movie with an A-movie budget. It was based on the novel by Gwen Bristow and is written by Bruce Manning.
In New Orleans, in 1845, worldly dance hall queen Julie Latour (Vera Ralston), who prefers to be called Florinda, befriends the genteel Eastern bride Garnet Hale (Joan Leslie) after the ladies each help each other out of a scrap. Then Garnet convinces her grizzled hunky trader husband Oliver (John Russell) to go one step further and to help Florinda escape by riverboat from a New York City detective who says she's wanted for murdering her husband. While traveling the Jubilee Trail in a wagon train to Old California, Florinda catches up again with the newlyweds in Santa Fe, where she works as a housekeeper for a depraved deacon (Barton MacLane).
The bumpy covered wagon ride on the trail deals with murder, jealousy and Garnet coming to terms with her reformed hubby's past indiscretions (like before he married he got a Spanish girl pregnant, whose wealthy father owns a large land tract that his greedy and sadistic bother Charles-Ray Middleton-covets).
Oliver is killed for not going through with the arranged marriage and is blamed by the family that the intended bride committed suicide with her child. Garnet, also a mother, must raise her baby son alone. The villainous Charles falsely claims custody of the baby. But, in a bit part, Pat O'Brien as a discharged drunken Army doctor steals the pic as he does the most to help the vulnerable Garnet by killing Charles.
John Ives (Forrest Tucker), Oliver's rowdy friend who Garnet falls for, then acts as her protector and in the end realizes he loves her, as the film winds down for a happy ending for both Garnet and Florinda (after the gold strike at Sutter's Mill she opens a restaurant there with her new new lover-Buddy Baer).
Eventually the Republic stockholders rebelled against Yates casting the unpopular Ralston in starring roles and ousted him as studio head. In the same year, the former ice skater also became the former actress.
REVIEWED ON 9/21/2009 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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