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Barbary Coast Gent

Barbary Coast Gent(1944)

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Barbary Coast Gent (1944)

MGM was simply playing the percentages by having Wallace Beery play yet another irascible boomtown rogue in Barbary Coast Gent (1944), a tale of Old West hijinks not far removed from Beery's earlier Wyoming (1940) and Jackass Mail (1942). Based on the exploits of gentleman thief Charles E. Bolton, aka "Black Bart," who penned poetry at the scene of his crimes, Barbary Coast Gent went into production as The Honest Thief with Beery playing a reformed highwayman who assumes the identity of another man in a mining town on the rise. The actor's regular leading lady during this phase of his career, Marjorie Main, is conspicuous in her absence but ably subbed by younger actress Binnie Barnes, as Beery's saloon owner paramour. The Bolger, California, locations offer genuine prairie flavor while John Carradine chews the scenery as Beery's vindictive former partner; memorable also in supporting roles are Ray Collins, Donald Meek, Chill Wills, Paul Hurst, and Louise Beavers. Helmed by Roy Del Ruth, a former gag writer for Mack Sennett who had made his reputation with a run of pre-Code crime films (Blonde Crazy and Lady Killer) for Warner Brothers). Barbary Coast Gent was another popular hit that drew the begrudging praise of New York Times critic Alexander Woollcott, who allowed that "Mr. Beery's elephantine coyness and rasping basso fit this vehicle like the tarpaulin on a prairie schooner."

By Richard Harland Smith

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