Stand Up and Fight (1939)

Genres - Action, Western  |   Sub-Genres - Traditional Western  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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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.