review for Stand Up and Fight on AllMovie

Stand Up and Fight (1939)
by Craig Butler review

Stand Up and Fight is remembered today, if at all, as being part of MGM's campaign to transition actor Robert Taylor's image away from a "pretty boy" to a "man's man." Overall, it's only a mildly entertaining Western, but it does have some points about it that deserve note. One is that it is, especially for the time, rather progressive in its treatment of African-Americans; at one point, a lynch mob even goes after a white man for killing a black man, something that would have been a rare occurrence indeed. Fight also is noteworthy for the presence of credited co-writer James M. Cain, a master of the hardboiled detective novel, who perhaps is responsible for some of the film's more flavorful dialogue. But on the whole, Fight is kind of a standard issue Western; it's also one in which the creators seem to be nervous to let too much screentime go by without a fight, most likely part of the aforementioned "make Taylor a man" campaign. The fights are quite convincing and exciting; they're just sometimes a bit arbitrary. W.S. Van Dyke's direction is fast, if not always careful; it works well for this kind of flick. Taylor's performance is quite good, and he and the much more overblown Wallace Beery make a fine and entertaining team.