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HIGH, WIDE AND HANDSOME

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Jan. 2, 2015

The musical "High, Wide and Handsome" (1937, b/w) was quickly forgotten in the shadow of "Show Boat" the year before, which had songs by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, and starred Irene Dunne.

"High, Wide and Handsome" also stars Dunne and has songs by Kern and Hammerstein, and as it makes its home-video debut on the manufacture-on-demand label Universal Vault Series, the film proves to be a vibrant Western musical in its own right, though the plotting certainly owes something to "Show Boat."

In the late 1800s, Doc Watterson's (Raymond Walburn) traveling medicine show stops in a small town in Pennsylvania but then a fire leaves Doc and his daughter Sally (Dunne) stranded there.

    

This leads to their meeting local oilman Peter Cortlandt (Randolph Scott), who is hoping to strike it rich. And naturally, Peter and Sally fall in love.

Eventually, Peter does find that oil-rich reserve he's been drilling for and it promises to make him and his neighbors quite wealthy — until a railroad tycoon (Alan Hale) schemes to steal it away.

Intermingled with the action and romance are numerous subplots, and, of course, the songs, which include two that became quite famous in their time, "The Folks Who Live On the Hill" and "Can I Forget You?"

There are also novelty tunes and some comic relief provided by the medicine show's faux Indian (William Frawley, eventually to play Fred Mertz in "I Love Lucy").

Dorothy Lamour is also here, impressing in only her fourth movie, and she gets a lovely solo, along with a duet with Dunne, who does most of the heavy lifting in the music department.

Scott doesn't sing but lends his usual air of confident authority. Charles Bickford is also in the supporting cast.