Frontier Gal (1945)

Genres - Action, Comedy, Romance, Western  |   Release Date - Dec 14, 1945 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 84 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Bruce Eder

Frontier Gal had a fairly convoluted pre-production history. It was originally intended as a vehicle forMaria Montez, who balked at doing the movie because of the plot -- she dreaded having to share scenes with a child actress, believing that the moppet would inevitably steal all of their scenes. When Montez declined to do the movie, the studio decided to avail itself of its latest discovery -- 23-year-old, Canadian-born Yvonne De Carlo, who, after spending the previous three years playing bit roles, had just broken through to a starring role in Salome Where She Danced a few months earlier. De Carlo got cast in the role of spitfire temptress Lorena Dumont, and cast opposite her was her fellow Canadian Rod Cameron, a dozen years her senior and an ex-stunt man and serial actor, who had been her co-star in Salome. The pairing was fortuitous; neither was a great actor at that point, but the two seemed to throw themselves into their roles with no holds barred, which meant that their verbal and physical sparring had an energy that carried the picture past its sillier plot convolutions and predictable elements. Above all in its own time, Frontier Gal was a fun movie when the two leads are going at it like Maggie and Jiggs, or when supporting players Andy Devine and Fuzzy Knight are engaging in some kind of comic relief. Coupled with Technicolor filming, which would have been a major part of its appeal in 1945, Frontier Gal was a nice light comedy-Western with serious undertones. Perhaps the only element that doesn't quite work is Sheldon Leonard's villainy, which is a little too nasty at times. Ideally, Frontier Gal should have tried to match the tone of, say, My Little Chickadee, and it's at its best when it doesn't get any more serious than that. Director Charles W. Lamont, who was ideal for the films of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, was just a little out of his depth, but not fatally so, with this script. As it is, elements of the latter resemble and anticipate Andrew V. McLaglen's McLintock!, a John Wayne/Maureen O'Hara comic Western slugfest (coincidentally co-starring De Carlo) that was made 18 years later. Also notable, for those who notice the scoring of films, is the music attributed largely to Frank Skinner. It's often risky with pre-'60s Universal titles, whose scores were often a pastiche of various composers' work, to ascribe any music to a single composer, but parts of the score for Frontier Gal credited to Skinner subsequently turned up in the background score of Anthony Mann's Winchester '73, a much darker and more serious Western.