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Dirty Dingus Magee (1970) is another of Frank Sinatra's half-serious, half-comic Westerns, a mix that threw off so many critics when the film first appeared that it's never quite gained its proper recognition as being a bit ahead of its time.
Dirty Dingus Magee opens with George Kennedy traveling through the wilds of New Mexico. That's where he runs across Frank Sinatra (as Dirty Dingus Magee) and is promptly robbed by him. When Kennedy tries to do the right thing by reporting the robbery to the mayor of a nearby town he discovers not exactly upstanding citizenry: The mayor's profitable sideline is a house of ill repute with a hefty business from a nearby Army fort. A hunt ensues for Sinatra who's fallen in with an attractive Indian maiden while the fort commander has decided he wants to beat Custer to Little Big Horn.
Sinatra had passed on starring in Dirty Harry (1972) so that he could make Dirty Dingus Magee. Several sagebrush specialists contributed to it including director Burt Kennedy who brought a clever, unconventional approach to the several Westerns he'd helmed like The War Wagon (1967) and Support Your Local Sheriff (1969). Also helping out were Western veterans Jack Elam, Harry Carey Jr. and Don "Red" Barry in supporting roles.
Michele Carey (as Anna) was a former model who debuted in Howard Hawks' El Dorado (1967) and then an Elvis picture; her star seemed rising at the time but she never went much further. The script was a product of Frank and Tom Waldman who worked on the Peter Sellers film The Party (1968), Bing Crosby's High Time (1960) and contributed to several Pink Panther films. Helping out oddly enough was novelist Joseph Heller (Catch-22) who rarely worked on Hollywood screenplays.
Director/Producer: Burt Kennedy
Screenplay: David Markson, Tom Waldman, Frank Waldman, Joseph Heller
Cinematography: Harry Stradling Jr.
Editor: William B. Gulick
Art Direction: George W. Davis, J. McMillan Johnson
Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Frank Sinatra (Dingus Magee), George Kennedy ('Hoke' Birdsill), Anne Jackson (Belle Knops), Lois Nettleton (Prudence Frost), Jack Elam (John Wesley Hardin).
by Lang Thompson