DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
LET FREEDOM RING (director: Jack Conway; screenwriter: Ben Hecht; cinematographer: Sidney Wagner; editor: Fred Y. Smith; music: Leon Rene/Otis Rene; cast: Nelson Eddy (Steve Logan), Virginia Bruce (Maggie Adams), Victor McLaglen (Chris Mulligan), Lionel Barrymore (Thomas Logan), Edward Arnold (Jim Knox), Guy Kibbee (Judge David Bronson), H.B. Warner (Rutledge), Raymond Walburn (Underwood), Charles Butterworth (The Mackerel), Trevor Bardette (Gagan), Gabby Hayes (Pop Wilkie), C. E. Anderson (Sheriff Hicks); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Henry Rapf; MGM; 1939)

"Cornball but enjoyable patriotic musical western."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Cornball but enjoyable patriotic musical western, that's weakly directed by Jack Conway ("The Unholy Three"/"A Yank At Oxford"/"Boom Town") and written with too much propaganda by Ben Hecht. The filmmakers have an eye on war clouds arising in Europe over the threat of fascism and to promote the American way of life. 

The film is set in 1868. Two-fisted brawler and pretty boy, the Harvard-educated lawyer and singer Steve Logan (Nelson Eddy), returns to his pioneer hometown of Clover City out West and quickly learns the railroad is coming through and his town turned ugly because of the railroad. Steve's father Thomas (Lionel Barrymore) and his longtime decent friends are in an uphill fight against the evil land baron and railroad tycoon Jim Knox (Edward Arnold) and his many henchmen. The villain is a greedy venal capitalist who has bought off the town's crooked sheriff (C. E. Anderson), wormy judge (Guy Kibbee), and slimy newspaper editor (Raymond Walburn), so that there's no justice. Also Knox's henchmen burn the houses of settlers who won't sell their land to him. Knox treats the poor hard-working immigrant railroad workers like scum and cattle, and keeps them loyal by threatening their jobs and with physical harm by the bullying tactics of their immigrant hating lunkhead Irish immigrant field boss Mulligan (Victor McLaglen). The thug, with a yen for Irish music, gets his marching orders from Knox.

Steve schemes to catch Knox off guard as he tricks him into believing that he's reasonable about the railroad and will work with the railroad people, and therefore convinces Knox that he could trust and even hire him. By helping the railroad's crooked boss Steve alienates himself from his dad and the lovely rancher Maggie Adams (Virginia Bruce) he planned to marry on his return. Then Steve teams up with bar character The Mackerel (Charles Butterworth), a guy with an iron jaw, and the two good guys kidnap the corrupt editor of the Weekly Bugle and steal his printing press. Steve then disguises himself as the mysterious Wasp and carries out a crusade against the crooked Knox by printing the paper from a cave in the hills and taking the side of his dad in his campaign against Knox to run the town. Steve's plan is to get all the immigrant railroad workers to vote for his dad and not their despotic boss.

The hokey film climaxes with all the immigrants packed into the local saloon turning their backs on Knox's attempt to control their votes and singing a rousing version of The Star Spangled Banner with Maggie leading them. With his dad's victory, the lawyer son helps clean up the crooked deals of the local railroad chief and shows us how effectively democracy works. Naturally it did a big box-office. Of a curious note, Eddy sings "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" (written in 1912) and "Ten Thousand Cattle Straying" (written in 1904 by Owen Wister). 

REVIEWED ON 8/31/2012       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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