Destry Rides Again is a fun, entertaining dive into classic Hollywood cinema. It's especially entertaining if you are a fan of Jimmy Stewart, westerns, black and white movies or, for some bizarre reason, Marlene Dietrich. Now, that might seem like a lot of qualifications but, believe me, they are all completely necessary. Not that I'm saying the movie hasn't aged well, but… no, that is what I'm saying. In its defense we have had a good 70 years filled with westerns to the point of over-saturation.
As far as the story goes, Jimmy Stewart plays a humble, down to earth man whose seemingly simplistic mannerisms and slow drawl lead the antagonists to think they can take advantage of him. But boy, are they wrong. Before they know it, he's uncovered all sorts of shady, crooked dealings in Congress after he tries to pass a bill to establish a boys' camp and gets railroaded by seedy senators… wait… wrong Jimmy Stewart movie.* This humble, down to earth Jimmy Stewart with a slow drawl and simplistic mannerisms happens to be a deputy sheriff and must uncover the shady, crooked dealings of a town in the old west. Although he is called in to clean up the town of Bottleneck, Tom Destry (Jimmy Stewart) has some unconventional methods of enforcing law and order — he doesn't use guns.
So he's a pacifist. No big deal right? Except this is a western — the genre based solely on shooting people. Nevertheless Destry does have one weapon up his sleeve — his overwhelming charm and Jimmy Stewartness. It's almost like the bad guys don't stand a chance.
If good ol' boy Tom Destry can't defeat the bad guys, never fear, for Marlene Dietrich is here! Marlene Dietrich bursts into song no less than three times in the movie and it is excruciating every. Single. Time. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against transvestite singers; after all, I love The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Dead or Alive is one of my favorite ‘80s bands. If that's too subtle, what I'm trying to say is that Marlene Dietrich sounds like a man. A very manly man. Like a lumberjack. The rest of her performance is not mind-numbingly horrific, but why they insisted she sing is beyond me. It is painfully obvious that her character is the inspiration for Madeline Kahn's character Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles.
In fact, most of the movie bears an eerie resemblance to Blazing Saddles. Both are western comedies, but whereas the inconsistencies in Blazing Saddles are because it was a Mel Brooks spoof, the inconsistencies in Destry Rides Again are just odd. The sexual tension between Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich is nonexistent in their first meeting, and then suddenly explodes out of nowhere.
The biggest inconsistency lies in how the movie ends. Remember back when I said Destry doesn't use guns? Well the movie ends with a giant shootout. How does one have a shootout with no guns? It's impossible, that's how. Which means Destry forsakes his no guns policy in order to save the day.
That's right. The moral of Destry Rides Again is that violence is the answer. I felt like I just got punked by the NRA.
*That was the plot to Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.