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Jerry and Mike (the comedy team of Wally Brown and Alan Carney), two vaudevillians stranded in San Francisco during the 1849 Sutter's Mill gold rush, strike it rich in a completely unexpected way. They decide to bring a musical revue top-lined by female entertainers to the womanless frontier town of Red Creek, an idea which is quickly endorsed by the local miners who view these shapely recruits as potential mail order brides. Success brings complications, of course, and Jerry and Mike's plans to buy a wagon train and return east to New York are constantly frustrated at every turn by crooked gamblers and assorted varmints though a friendly cowpoke (Robert Mitchum) often bails them out of trouble. In the end, it takes a huge street brawl to set everything right and bring the townspeople together in a united front.
Girl Rush (1944) is not a standard Western by any means - it's a musical comedy - and it's certainly atypical of Robert Mitchum's later work in the genre. Here, he is a mere supporting character, playing second fiddle to Brown and Carney's comedy routines and in one of the plot's more outrageous contrivances, Mitchum even appears in drag, somehow managing to look nonchalant while dressed in a bonnet and gingham dress. Yet, despite his secondary role, Mitchum's relaxed, self-assured screen presence was noted favorably by critics in all the reviews and led to the role that launched his career the following year - The Story of G.I. Joe (1945); he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Lt. Walker.
Prior to Girl Rush, Mitchum was being championed by producer/director Mervyn LeRoy as a lead in the biblical epic, The Robe. When MGM passed on the option, LeRoy persuaded Mitchum's agent to introduce the actor to Ben Piazza, head of talent at RKO. That meeting resulted in Mitchum being offered a seven-year contract with the studio but he almost turned it down. RKO management wanted to change his name to John Mitchell but Mitchum's agent effectively convinced them otherwise and the actor went on to enjoy fifth billing under his own name in Girl Rush. Approximately twenty-two minutes into the film, he makes his first appearance, rising up from a crowded dinner table. Dressed in buckskin with his hands poised on his gun belt, he strikes an iconic pose that made him a natural for Westerns and he went on to make several for the studio - in the starring role; Pursued (1947), Blood on the Moon (1948) and The Lusty Men (1952) are among his more memorable efforts in this genre.
Producer: John H. Auer
Director: Gordon Douglas
Screenplay: Robert E. Kent
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Walter E. Keller
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Editing: W. Duncan Mansfield
Music: Gene Rose
Cast: Wally Brown (Jerry Miles), Alan Carney (Mike Strager), Frances Langford (Flo Daniels), Barbara Jo Allen (Suzie Banks), Robert Mitchum (Jimmy Smith), Paul Hurst (Muley).
BW-65m. Closed captioning.
By Jeff Stafford